Thoughts on turning 18

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My sister, Yasmin. Photo: Hutch.

My little sister turns 18 today. An arbitrary number, but so significant. She’s making the transition into adulthood. She’ll be able to vote, to drive, to make her own choices. But the number also brings with it much responsibility, not only to others but also to herself.

As a tribute to fresh-faced 18-year-olds everywhere, and as a birthday nod to Yasmin, these are the things I wish I knew when I was 18.

It is okay to say no sometimes. Don’t do things you don’t feel right doing just because saying yes is easier. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and grief if you learn to, politely but assertively, say no.

Take care of your family. They will be there for you when things fall apart, when nobody else is. You should do the same for them.

Take care of your friends. Don’t expect them to be there for you when you need them to unless you do.

-A smile, and manners, go a long way. Whether you need to grab a waiter’s attention, or if a salesgirl is being mean to you; whether a teacher scolds you for something you didn’t do, or you are having a fight with a friend, violence and bad words will not help your case. Smile instead, and be polite. If nothing else, it will guilt the other party into doing the same. If they don’t, it’s okay to walk away.

Take photos of everything. Everything! That time you went out for ice cream with your best friend. That time your parents took you out for lunch. That time you got a new haircut. That cute cat in the park. Everything. You will regret not having done so.

Pay attention in school. And make sure you try to enjoy your lessons. Be excited about learning new things. If there is something you do not understand, look it up. Participate in discussions and ask questions. That’s what your teachers are there for.

-READ! Even if it’s just chick-lit. It doesn’t matter what you read, just do it. A page or two every night before bed will suffice. It will widen your vocabulary and you’ll be able to converse on plenty of subjects comfortably. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself wanting to read more complex things, different genres, new subjects.

-Know your limit. Collapsed in front of the loo, hoping you manage to let out all the alcohol you just drank is not a good look for anybody.

The ‘perfect body’ does not exist. Your own body is good enough without you having to starve yourself or spend hours at the gym.

-Eat healthily and move around. I promise I’m not contradicting myself. Respecting your body means taking care of it. Make sure fruits and vegetables are included in your diet. Take a dance class. Or kickboxing. Even fencing. Whatever helps you blow off some steam.

Moisturise. I don’t believe in hour-long daily beauty routines either, but the least you can do is moisturise every day. Your skin will love you for it.

What tips would you give an 18-year-old?

  • Giselle
    September 15, 2010

    I like your list. It’s so true that we look back and think ‘oh if only I knew that then’. In fact I’m currently trying not to let the past invade my present.

    I think I’d recommend that all 18-year-olds get a job – whatever it is. It helps one make new contacts of various ages, understand the value of money and hopefully mature.

    P.S. Coincidentally I saw your sister yesterday cos I was near your parents’ house :)

    • admin
      September 15, 2010

      Agreed – a job is a great way to gain contacts and will also make you a bit more responsible with cash.

  • clare
    September 15, 2010

    Such an excellent post!

    Can’t believe little Yasmin is turning 18!

    • admin
      September 15, 2010

      Thanks, Kle.
      I know! I still think I’m 18 sometimes. Can’t believe it’s been five years =/

      • kle
        September 16, 2010

        Don’t get me started – I’m looking at double that soon!! *gulp*

  • Gel
    September 15, 2010

    HAPPY 18th BIRTHDAY YAZMIN – wishing you love, fun, joy and good health today and always! xxx

    ps) you are clearly well-loved and have a pillar to lean on in your sister…

    • admin
      September 15, 2010


  • Rachel
    September 15, 2010

    Awesome post! Should show this to the Brother because he just turned 16 and the advice pretty much applies. One more thing I would add would be not to limit yourself. One type of music, one genre of movie, one idea of what ‘friends’ look like. Setting these invisible boundaries just makes life less interesting; branch out and you might be pleasantly surprised. And if you’re not, at least you can say you tried.

    • admin
      September 15, 2010

      That’s real good advice. Explore things beyond your niche and areas of interest.

  • Pete
    September 15, 2010

    Very nice Dav.

    My tips to an 18 year old – first of all, I think we (most of us) learn by experience. You can listen to the wisest and kindest people, but at the end of the day it’s the things you live through that leave a lasting impression. Having said that, I heard some excellent advice recently from Declan Donnellan (random…) and I’m going to pass it on. There was a long story attached to it which I can’t really remember but it was something about his cousin, who owns a lot of land somewhere in Scotland and breeds sheep (no, this isn’t one of those stories).

    His cousin realised early on that whenever the sheep decided to scatter and run around, it became impossible to herd them all together by himself. He didn’t want to use a dog because of the risks involved (he’s more of a recreational shepherd anyway) and getting all the sheep to flock is nearly impossible because sheep are, by their nature, very sweet but also very stupid. They enjoy getting lost and falling off hills and things like that. So the only way to secure a sheep long enough to shear it, or vaccinate it or whatever is to focus ALL your attention on one single sheep. All other sheep are forgotten so the job can get done.

    Anyway. Forget the story and just remember that it’s sometimes better to follow one dream, to see one journey through to the end. Soul searching is fine, but there should be a destination. I always thought that there would be plenty of time to do as many things as possible, and it’s scary to let go of all the ‘could’ve beens’ in life because everything is interesting and everything can have value. But at the end of the day we’ve got to discover what has most value to us, the one thing that will make us truly happy – and that’s the sheep we’ve got to hold on to.

    • admin
      September 15, 2010

      You’re so right on this one. It’s okay to look at other sheep, or even to let go of the sheep that no longer needs us, but focus on one thing at a time is some good advice.

  • Hannah
    September 15, 2010

    You forgot one Dav :

    – Have fun and do the opposite to all that Dav said at least once heehee =D Except the photos and moisturise tips… thems are good ‘uns (;

    Come on, you know it’s fun to look back on those times your head was hanging in the loo and you said you would never drink again lol

    • admin
      September 15, 2010

      Hehe true, dat. Though after that one time at Naasha and after Teo’s 22nd birthday, I promised myself I wouldn’t get that drunk again. And I have. At a wedding =/

      • Hannah
        September 15, 2010

        And I’m sure there will be many more times to come (;

  • Macs
    September 16, 2010

    There are a couple I’d like to add :)

    – Experience is an essential part of life, we wouldn’t have anything without it. No matter what the experience is, try to take something positive away from it, something good you’ve learned, and while regrets are to be expected don’t let them turn into ugly things that prevent you from living your life the way you want to. I suppose the point here is, forgive yourself your mistakes.

    – Get into the habit of putting money aside – even if it’s just a little. There’s no such thing as worthless savings ;)

    – Don’t ever be afraid to be yourself, it’s the only self you have!

    – When you do something embarrassing or god-awfully stupid, laugh at yourself. You’ll feel better, and other people will a. find it refreshing, b. not make as much fun of you for the stupid thing, c. not affect you when they DO make fun of you for it cos you’ll be too busy laughing at your own silly ass ;)

    – Pride: 1. Don’t ever let this get in the way of asking for help when you need it. 2. Take pride in the things you do well.

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