8 Things I Learned By The Time I Turned 18
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8 Things I Learned By The Time I Turned 18

I'm finally as old as Rapunzel!

8 Things I Learned By The Time I Turned 18
Flickr/Sean Yu

Last week, I turned 18. That means I can vote, drive without restrictions, and buy myself a drink in the UK (don’t worry, Mom and Dad, I don’t even have my passport). Most importantly, though, I’m able to look back on all the years of my life so far from an entirely different perspective. I’m more aware now of the fact that I have a past, even if it’s not a long one just yet. As dramatic as it sounds, I think it’s beneficial for any young person to look back on their lives, not for the purpose of dwelling on the past but for the purpose of preparing for the future. In doing this, I’ve learned 8 essential things:

1.You are not defined by any one trait.

Growing up, I always thought that my life was defined by various identities, when in reality those only made up a part of who I am. It sounds way cliché, but it’s true: You can be more than one thing at the same time, and none of those things need to define you if you don’t want them to. Your bank account may not be very full, but that does not mean you are not a full, happy, successful person. Your gender may be one thing, but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to express it in a way that’s contrary to typical gender roles. You can be introverted and also someone who absolutely loves people. Who you are is allowed to be complex, because everyone is. Letting yourself be complex and even seemingly contradictory is just being real.

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2. Age matters, but not down to the number.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it at some points in my life, age does matter. Teachers and professors have more life experience than you, as much as you want to deny that. So do your parents. This doesn’t mean that every older person is always right, but we can learn from them, whether it be their wisdom or their mistakes. Still, age differences of one or two years don’t end up meaning much in the grand scheme of things. It’s pretty rare that, as an 18-year-old, I feel any different from my 20-year-old classmates. Two years can make a difference in terms of life experience and your personality, but overall, you’re on a pretty level playing field with people who are only slightly older than you.

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3. Passions don’t have an age.

This can apply to anything, but I’ll use my personal favorite example. My whole life I’ve been an avid lover of Disney, whether it’s the parks or the movies or even the channel (you may be laughing now, but talk to me after you’ve watched the first season of Girl Meets World on Netflix). I had always assumed it was because I’m generally younger than my peers, but as I grow up I’m realizing I’ll always love Disney this way.

That’s because it’s a part of my personality, and while you can outgrow some aspects of that, you don’t have to shed all of them as you get older. I’m still lifted by the nighttime castle lights and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad voice-over and meeting the princesses the same way I was five years ago, and honestly, I see that as me being lucky, not immature. That goes for any passion that may stay with you your whole life.

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4. Not being true to yourself is never worth it.

It’s difficult to express yourself the way you want 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week, but you owe it to yourself not to think there’s anything wrong with who you truly are. Do your best to put yourself in groups where you don’t have to hide. No matter what benefits you think you might gain by being around people who don’t love you for you, I can promise it won’t be worth it.

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5. You will make massive mistakes, and when they happen, you have to move on.

It’s true that everybody makes mistakes. I’m only 18, and even I can think back on many times in my life where I really messed up. I’ve burned bridges and I’ve said harsh, hurtful things in moments of weakness and anger. But you know what? So has everybody else. When these mistakes start adding up, all you can do is take a step back, fix your behavior, and move on. It doesn’t make you an inherently bad person; it makes you human. The thing that would make you a not-so-great individual is the refusal to apologize and recognize your mistakes. Once you’ve done those things, though, you have no choice but to tie it to a balloon and let it go.

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6. Life is never guaranteed, so live with no regrets.

I know, I know, straight out of the inspirational quote book that your mom gave you when you graduated high school. But this means more than cliff-diving on tropical vacations and asking out that girl you like. It means absorbing the most out of every moment you’re in. Even if you’re just sitting with your friends at a mandatory school assembly, enjoy it. Make a joke, make a memory. Take pictures. Just because you may not be doing a ton of “daring” things doesn’t mean you’re not getting the most out of life. The way to make the most out of life is to take everything in that you can.

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7. …but that doesn’t mean you need to be in a hurry 24/7.

A lot of people, especially college students, seem to think that life needs to be rushed. Days are made up of moving from one task to another, rather than enjoying that day as a whole. So far, I’ve learned that all this does is make you further from your spiritual center and less aware of the way you are treating yourself and others. Take a deep breath; that’s more important than feeling busy.

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8. Find a new dream every day.

Like Flynn tells Rapunzel in Tangled when she’s worried about what she will do after her dream comes true, each day comes with an opportunity to “find a new dream”. It’s good to be goal-driven, and in general, we all should be. But what happens when you get so focused on that goal that you forget your life has other aspects, too?

When you get that dream career, you’ll want a good life surrounding it. When you find the love of your life, you’ll want to have inner peace, too. There are a lot of things available to dream about, and don’t be afraid if your dream changes altogether. That’s what life is about, after all.

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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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