There’s nothing like being 18; the feeling of just graduating high school, not a worry or care in the world, your whole life ahead of you, and barely legal, but old enough. 

For many of us, it was a time of growth and self-discovery. For the very first time, we were no longer carefully protected within the confines of our high schools, or our parents’ ideology.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

For me, life became more than just summer, and friends, and parties, and guys. Upon entering college, it became a time where I began to experience life’s harshest realities; I lost friends, got my heart broken, and began to truly understand who I was, and what I deserved. 

But that was just the beginning. 

In honor of turning 23, I traveled 5 years back in time to ask myself what it was I would tell my 18 year old self,

Here’s what I came up with:

1. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time

One of the harshest realities for me at the time was coming to terms with the fact that sometimes, people will hurt you, and they won’t care

When I was 18, I spent a lot of time around people who very loudly and clearly let me know that they didn’t value me. I stuck around anyway because of things like potential and good intentions.

But trying to see the best in people who had already shown me who they were, only proved to leave me hurt and  betrayed in the long run.

So if I had advice to my younger self, I would tell her to not put up with anyone’s BS, and this goes for people, places, and things (you know, all the nouns). Don’t waste your love and effort bending backwards for people and places that you’re disposable to.

If they haven’t gotten it together yet, they most likely never will. The best thing I ever did was learn when to let go. 

2. Enjoy being young

Oh to be 18 again! Life was so simple then. Not to say that it isn’t now, but being 18 didn’t come with the complications of knowing the things I know now about the world, while simultaneously trying to figure out how and where I fit in it. We were able to just be.

So my advice to my younger self would be to not waste time. Although it may feel like you have plenty of time, you will find that 5 years has passed in the blink of an eye.

So follow your dreams, the sky is literally the limit, and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Live with your parents, or at the campus dorms, and use that time to save.

And finally, go out, and have as much fun as possible (responsibly please). If you’re single, go out on dates and take trips with your friends, if you have a significant other, travel and explore together.

Take risks, and go out and learn about yourself, because you will never be as young and free of responsibilities as you are now.

3. Surround yourself with good people

I’ve mentioned this in blog posts so many times, but I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, is the importance of surrounding yourself with like-minded people who uplift you. 

Luckily, I found the perfect boyfriend my sophomore year of college, but it wasn’t until my senior year that I found friends that I felt compatible with, and that truly valued me.

From this, I learned that you shouldn’t have to chase or beg people to treat you how you deserve to be treated. Having shitty friends and dating toxic people is not normal or healthy.

The right partner will love you the right way, and the right friends won’t feel like a burden, but a blessing.

4. Choose yourself first

When I was younger, I often found myself taking on other people’s problems as my own, forgiving people who have wronged me, and staying in situations that I knew weren’t good for me for the sake of others.

But the moment I learned how to set boundaries, I became a powerful woman. I soon learned that there was nothing more important to me than protecting my peace, and ever since, that has been a #1 priority for me. 

So advice to my younger self would be to take care of yourself first. If something or someone is draining you, decide for yourself if it’s worth it and set boundaries accordingly. 

If it’s a person, consider distancing yourself. If it’s school/work/life balance, consider lessening your load. If it’s a place or establishment, consider finding something or somewhere new.

At the end of the day, your life is your own, and you’re in charge of what you will and will not let disrupt your energy.

5. You don’t know what you don’t know

Last but not least, the biggest lesson I’ve learned since being 18, is that I don’t actually know anything at all. There are no limits to what this world is capable of, and there is endless knowledge to know and understand.

Despite how you feel at 18, you can’t actually know everything, and if you did, it would really screw you up.

For now, observe everything, and take it all with a grain of salt. The best advice that my 23 year old brain can give you, is keep learning, keep growing, and stay humble.

With love, 

Sabria Sparrow