It goes without saying that all of us have things we’re proud of and things we regret. For me, turning eighteen sparked a lot of changes. I had started living on my own a few months before my eighteenth birthday, which meant experiencing a taste of real adulthood while, truthfully, not knowing much about it. I’ve learnt so much about myself since then and especially over the course of my university experience so far, and feel that there are so many valuable life lessons that are learnt only through experience. Recently I’ve been wondering what I’d say to myself if I was able to go back in time, but because I can’t, I’ve compiled a list of three things I think many of us – people entering adulthood – would benefit from knowing.
1) Friends come and go, but that’s not a bad thing.
My mum was actually the first person to tell me this, and I think it’s an extremely valuable statement to live by. Whenever I had lost a friend I would jump to blame myself for things that were, in reality, way out of my control. Instead of that, I’ve now learnt the importance of letting things go to focus on maintaining quality friendships. It took me a long time to finally feel comfortable having only a few close friends, but I’ve learnt just how important it is to maintain mutually-reciprocal friendships with people I love and trust. Equally important, I think, is to always try and understand where a friend is coming from if they’re the one ending things with you. Being accepting of truthful, yet hurtful criticism is one of the most important skills you’ll need, especially as an adult. The less grudges you hold in life, the more content you will be. Here’s one of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes that summarises what I mean:
2) Learn how to live on your own before you actually do.
Heading to university was hard enough as it was – moving to a country without family or friends around to help you if you ever needed it is certainly tough! Having to juggle your social, academic, and work life as well as your physical and mental health at the same time is already challenging enough. On top of that, learning how to live on your own without knowing basic cooking skills, how to do your laundry, where the nearest grocery store or pharmacy is, applying for internships or part-time jobs, and so many others are essential skills that would ease so many burdens in the first few months of living in a new country on your own. I often wonder why I have less energy now than I did during high school, but I think we all take it for granted how our chores were done for us before, and just how much discipline you need to maintain all your responsibilities while keeping healthy. I highly recommend learning skills that would be valuable to you when living on your own before you enter adulthood, and gradually building upon your ability to be independent rather than diving into it headfirst.
3) Avoid pressuring yourself.
I think a lot of us, especially during high school, felt self-conscious and insecure about many different things, and self-blame can often be the root of many of those insecurities. There’s an immense sense of urgency – to get to university, to get a job, to be successful, to be liked – in our lives, especially seeing as competition has been growing rapidly over the past couple decades. There’s no harm in taking a gap year to pursue other interests if you need to, because prioritising your needs is what’s most important. Equally, having one bad interview or one bad grade doesn’t define anyone’s intelligence, and turning negative situations into learning experiences makes much more of a productive change than resorting to guilt or self-blame. I also wanted to highlight the importance of maintaining your values amongst people who might dislike or disagree on them, but being confident in your own beliefs doesn’t exclude keeping an open mind to having them changed by someone else. Knowing when you’re right and when you’re wrong – and being able to admit when you are – is key to strengthening your character.
If you’re heading to university for the first time and find it daunting, know that there are many other people in the same boat as you. Being able to rely on others and, more importantly, yourself will make adjusting a lot easier, and knowing that other people are with you on this journey might make for great, trustworthy friendships. Ultimately, part of maturity is learning through experience, which means making mistakes sometimes and being reflective about how you can learn from them. Transitioning into adulthood is tough, but it’s a meaningful journey regardless, and experiencing both good and bad situations creates so many opportunities for personal growth.