18 Lessons You Learn By The Time You're 18
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18 Lessons You Learn By The Time You're 18

Just as important as what 18 brings is what you gain on the journey there.

18 Lessons You Learn By The Time You're 18

Turning 18 is a milestone. You are officially a legal adult, and also have abilities that you did not have before: you can now vote, buy cigarettes in most states (although you shouldn't because your lungs are kind of important), get a tattoo, sign your own consent forms, and buy cold medicine in all stores (which, if you are a 17-year-old in college, you will quickly learn is an unfortunate rule when you are almost too sick to function). These are just a few of the many abilities of adulthood that 18 brings. Just as important as what 18 brings, however, is what you gain on the journey to becoming 18. I turned 18 this past week and took some time to reflect on what I and others learn by that point, and these are 18 of those many lessons.

1. Sleep is not overrated.

You might have gotten through high school skipping out on sleep, but you soon realize that inadequate sleep not only makes it harder to concentrate and makes you physically unrefreshed, but also can detrimentally impact your mood and your emotional/mental health. By 18, you have witnessed that once you start getting a proper night's sleep, you realize just how impactful sleep truly is.

2. Pulling others down doesn’t bring you up.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. By the time you turn 18, you have realized that life is not a zero-sum game, and that contrary to the notion that others' success is your failure, helping other people up tends to pull you and everyone else up too. This is applicable to anything from your career as a whole to simply not talking badly about other people. You know not to do it; there's simply no point.

3. Dogs can cure almost anything.

Regardless of whether you have a dog or not, by 18 you have probably realized just how true the science behind dogs bringing happiness is. If you do have a dog, then you definitely know this to be true: if you are sad, your dog often senses it and comes and comforts you. If you are happy, your dog will escalate it even further. If you are stressed, petting your dog or even just looking into her or his eyes calms you down. By the time you turn 18, your dog has gotten you through a number of ups and downs, and you are so thankful for it.

4. Everyone is going through something.

Whether it is someone you pass by on the street without taking a second glance at or the person you see at school every day who seems to have a perfect life, by 18, you realize how complex humans really are and that everyone actually is going through something. You realize that every single person around you has their own full lives, their own stories— and that inevitably involves some level of struggle in some area of their life. Some people, of course, go through far more than others, but everyone is still going through something, no matter how perfect they seem. On that note...

5. Hannah Montana was right: nobody’s perfect.

Just as everyone is going through something, everyone also has their own flaws and insecurities. By 18, you realize that no matter how perfect a person seems, they aren't actually, and that there is no point in envying someone else for their "perfection" because it does not exist. The grass just always seems greener on the other side. Certain flaws and insecurities may be more visible than others, but everyone has them and that's okay! After all, it is our imperfections that distinguish us and make us who we are— so by 18, you have also learned to embrace your imperfections, even if you are only partially on your way to having completely embraced them.

6. Common sense isn’t all that common.

This mildly amusing yet often unfortunate truth certainly becomes clear by the time you turn 18, whether through your own daily interactions or, most unfortunately, through watching our supposed leaders be less than competent. You learn a lot about not only individuals, but people and humanity as a whole, through interactions that are sometimes less than ideal in what seems like the most basic ways. It's okay though, because these lessons teach you how to work with all people more effectively, and that is a lesson that you know to be critical.

7. It’s okay to ask for help.

If you have made it to 18, I would bet that you have asked for help at some point in your life. You have also realized that asking for help is in no way a sign of weakness or any other negative association, because, as said above, everyone is going through something and nobody is perfect. We all need help sometimes, and you know that there is no shame in asking for it.

8. Voting is important.

Especially if you were not 18 for this past presidential election, you know that casting your ballot is a privilege of adulthood. If you are younger than your friends, you were probably jealous of all of them being able to vote and be part of democracy at its most fundamental level, especially this past year when so much was at stake. Now that you are finally 18, you will keep in mind the importance of voting when election day rolls around— or at least I hope you will! This goes for not only larger federal or presidential elections, but also local and state ones—after all, so much of what directly impacts us is done at a level lower than national positions.

9. You and your siblings truly love each other.

If you and your siblings are anything like mine, your childhood was probably characterized with a ton of fighting, teasing, and yelling "Mooooom, look at what ____ did!!!" As you get older, however, you get closer as you realize that you're in this together and start to actually talk and relate more. You still fight a ton, but by 18 you know that you will always be there for each other when it really matters.

10. Writing things out helps.

Whether it be to exert your emotions or just flesh out an idea, you know that writing things out truly does help by the time you turn 18 and get through all the ups and downs along the way. Articulating your thoughts helps clear your mind because writing them down moves them from your head to the paper. It may not solve every issue, but it does often make things clearer or at least relaxes you for the moment.

11. High school goes by much faster than expected.

If you are turning 18, you are most likely a senior in high school or could even be in college already. As a result, you realize that high school and grade school zips by: while everyone in the grades below you is counting down until they can "get out of there," you are simultaneously excited and sad to be leaving, and want to tell them all to cherish every moment because it will be over before they know it.

12. Smiling is contagious.

You have probably heard this a lot in different contexts, but by 18, you know it to be true from experience. Often times, we absorb the vibes from those around us, the best of which are arguably joy and smiling. Simply lifting the corners of your lips upward has been shown to improve your mood, so even if you are having a rough day, forcing yourself to smile can be beneficial to both you and the people around you.

13. It is truly possible to fake it till you make it.

Just as the fact that you can lift your lips even if you are not actually feeling it and still tangibly improve your mood shows, faking it till you make it is completely possible. In the first 18 years of your life, you have more likely than not gotten through situations where you were just faking it or getting by, but by the end, it became real.

14. Confidence is key.

Confidence is definitely an aspect that comes to mind when thinking about the notion of faking it until you make it. Confidence in who you are and what you are doing is so vital—and really shows, too—but even if you haven't reached that level of confidence yet, fake it, until you internalize and absorb it. Confidence can make all the difference in just about any area of our lives in terms of the way we present ourselves and hold ourselves, so building that level of self-knowledge and comfort is a smart investment.

15. You are never too old for cartoons.

Kids all-too-often seem in such a rush to grow up, but by the time you turn 18 and cross over to ever-idolized adulthood, you realize that there are many aspects (like cartoons) of being a child that are so much more valuable than you realized. The good news is that you are never too old for watching cartoons, even if you are kicking yourself for taking them for granted back when they were socially-expected. Go ahead and watch some of your favorite cartoons every now and again; you will love yourself for it later.

16. Not everyone is worth your time/trust.

By 18, you have been in countless relationships with other human beings, from your waiter at a café to your childhood best friend. Not all of these relationships work out, and through the ones that don't, you learn that not everyone is worth your time or trust. That said, you still learn a lot from every relationship you are in, even if it ends badly: you reflect and learn more about yourself, and you also learn to remove people who do not deserve your time and trust from your life.

17. Learning to forgive is important.

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." That is a Buddhist saying that I find very powerful, and true. By 18, you have learned the importance of valuing yourself and refusing to be treated as less than you deserve. That said, it is just as important to find a balance between valuing yourself and forgiving because, by now, you have seen how exhausting anger can be. Forgiveness does not always need to be paired with forgetting, and forgiving someone else can do wonders in freeing you, yourself.

18. Life does go on.

By the time you turn 18, you have gone through unforgettable embarrassment, unlivable heartbreak, and insurmountable failure. Yet every time, it was eventually forgotten, lived through, and surmounted. Most of us have had moments when we did not think we would ever be able to go on, yet here we are today, still alive, still fighting, still going on. That is one of the most hopeful thoughts I keep with me: just think, if you had given up back then, you never would have experienced all the wonderful things you have in your years to turning 18. If you somehow made it through all those other seemingly end-of-the-world moments, you can make it through those of the future. The sun will always rise, and life does go on—you are proof of that.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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