18 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 18…18 Years Ago

It’s been 18 years since I was 18. Unlike the young people turning up at 18th birthday parties this year, there’s no big celebration for those of us who entered the adult population the year most of the high schoolers in the Class of 2015 entered Earth.

After two laps around the 18-year life track, I have been running long enough to have some things to share with the youngest Millennials. And so, in no particular order, here are 18 thoughts for the new 18-year olds:

1) You know those friends who you don’t see as much as you want to? The friends who you’re so connected to that you can go a year without seeing each other and still pick right back up where you left off without any awkwardness? Cherish them. Hold on to them.

2)  Drink more water.

3) You’re at one of the rare and beautiful moments in life when you’ll have many opportunities to meet new people from all walks of life. While you’re meeting all these new and different people, have more than an open mind…have an imaginative one. Imagine doing more than simply hanging around people who are basically like the people you grew up with. Imagine building more than a social network of people who see the world the same way you do.

4) Care for your Self. Learn to fully see your Self…nothing filtered, nothing fake. Commit to the work of understanding what it means for you to love your Self.

5) Travel. Often. Anywhere. Everywhere.

6) Learn to budget, plan, save and invest your money. Start while you’re broke (it makes the math easier). Start while your money is still coming from adults who care about your well-being. Start while the only person you have to feed, clothe and house is you.

7) People > Things.

8) Every now and then, intentionally put yourself in spaces where your race, class, religion, culture, and/or language are not in the majority. If you need a “safe” place to start, look for spaces where good food & good music are the main attractions.

9) Eat more fruits & vegetables.

10) We all carry baggage with us from our families and our childhoods. Take the time to examine the mental, psychological, emotional, and cultural bags you’re holding on to from the people & places that raised you. If those bags have become unhealthy, are no longer of use to you, and have become harmful to those around you…have the courage to free yourself and put those bags down.

11) Every season, find at least one book to read that is not a school or job-related assignment. Once that becomes a habit, try finding at least two books to read.

12) Learn to cook at least 5 dishes…and master them…then try to learn to cook at least one new dish a year from then on. By the time you hit 30, your home kitchen will be getting 5-star reviews!

13) Love authentically.

14) Talk to your parents and/or grandparents at least once a week. If that’s not possible, build a relationship with some elders in your community and try to connect with them at least once a week.

15) More likely than not, at some point in your life things will not go the way that you planned. Chances are good that there will be at least one moment when life will knock you down and it will feel like you may not be able to get back up.

16) Now that you’ve been warned, you should also know that you can get back up. It may not be easy. It may not be pretty. It may hurt. It may cost you a lot. It may be embarrassing. But if you don’t remember anything else, remember that you can get back up.

17) Our culture has spent the last 18 years telling you to follow your heart, do what you love, etc. A little Real Talk though, there’s a chance that the thing you love to do… the thing that you’re the most passionate about…may not end up being the thing you do to pay your bills. This doesn’t mean you should give up what you love. Protect your passions. Leave time in your life to find & build spaces where you can explore and create…whether or not it brings you a round of applause and a sum of money.

18) Today a man who had both of his legs amputated entered the subway car I was in, pushing himself in a wheelchair. A young couple sat near him as he began his speech asking passengers to help him by giving money.

The young couple listened, and the husband began to dig in his pocket for coins as the gentleman in the wheelchair made his way to the other side of the subway car. By the time the husband had gathered his coins to donate, the gentleman was all the way on the other side of the car. The husband waved once to get the gentleman’s attention. The gentleman didn’t see him. The husband waved again…and again…with no luck.

The subway arrived at its stop. Its doors opened. The gentleman in the wheelchair exited. The husband put the coins back in his pocket. This scene I observed felt like the perfect metaphor for what happens in so many aspects of the “real world” you have just joined. Strive to be the person who gets up and walks over to meet people in need where they are.

That’s all I’ve got…everything else is on the web somewhere!

– Day G.

Host, Class of Hope & Change