Advice To My 18 Year Old Self

Advice to a college student, advice to a recent grad, life lessons, quarter life crisis, how to be an adult, adulting

It’s my birthday! Unlike last year, where I shared life lessons from the previous year, this year I wanted to switch things up. I am officially 28 years old. That’s a decade of adulting! While I certainly had to grow up quicker than most, it still feels like I am a kid in so many ways, caught between the two worlds. I wanted to take this time to share what advice I would’ve told my 18-year-old self.

In honor of all the recent high school graduates and being an adult for 10 years, here are the 15 nuggets of advice I would’ve told my 18 years old self:

*Also stay tuned to the bottom of the post for a reader survey! Or do it now by clicking here!*

the breakers graduation day

The day I graduated High School

 

1. Keep your eyes open and breathe.

These next few years are going to be hard. Harder than you can even imagine right now. As much as you want to hold your breath and close your eyes, keep them open and breathe. While this is the scariest time in your life, and probably will always be, feel it all. Witness it all. Soak in every ounce of the joy and the pain. Life is going to hit you over the head these next few years over and over again. When you think it can’t get worse, it will. But it will be okay. You will be happy someday.

[RELATED] How To Cope With Anxiety In Real Life

2. Ground yourself in dignity and grace.

You won’t know what this phrase means for almost another five years. But when you do, it will be your anchor. Life will always happen, whether you’re participating in it or not. You already know you have a propensity for making a bigger mess than you intended. So you have a choice. Keep dragging your feet, kicking and screaming, or you can become a woman of dignity and grace.

millennial blog rachel ritlop talbot island beach jacksonville

Photo Cred: BrookeImages.com

3. Let go of expectations.

Let go of your standards and expectations of others now before it becomes even more painful than these next few years. People will always disappoint you if you don’t. The greatest disappointments of your life haven’t even happened yet, so brace yourself. Know you have everything you need in life within you. You don’t need to rely on anyone. That’s a luxury you won’t always be afforded, but that’s okay because you can handle this.

Know you have everything you need in life within you.Click To Tweet

4. You will always know how to make a buck.

Don’t worry about money. Keep doing what you’ve been doing. Don’t spend more than you have. Take that humbling job when you need to and enjoy it. Those jobs are always with the funnest people. You will constantly surprise yourself in your working life, so keep one foot in front of the other. The bills will get paid, so do what makes you happy.

[RELATED] 6 Money Lessons To Learn Before You’re 30

5. Quit That Job

You’ve never been a quitter. Hear me when I say, quitting does not equal failure. It’s advocating for yourself. Staying in that job you hate will only drive you crazier. You will question your self worth and doubt yourself. You will do more harm than good. What are you trying to prove?

[RELATED] Hate Your Job? 5 Bad Reasons To Stay

6. You will always be a drifter.

… and that’s okay. These last four years weren’t a phase. Those friendships shaped you. They defined you in an unimaginable way. It’s going to be hard for you to let people in. You’ll never find the friendships you dreamt about while watching Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, or Gossip Girl. You will become your own best friend. While having people is nice, and you will certainly need people at times, don’t ever put more hope on a relationship than it being there for the season (read: #3).

7. You will need people.

I know that I just said you don’t need to rely on anyone, but you will need to be supported by others. You will need more help than you know. That shoulder to cry on, that ride to the grocery store. You will need that laugh and those people who have your back through the turbulence. While they won’t always be there, they will leave a lasting impact on you. A reminder that humanity still exists.

8. Listen. Listen. Listen.

Less than 10% of the American population have gone through what you did. You are about to meet some of the scariest and most interesting people of your life. Every single one of them has something to teach you. Forget where you came from and learn where they came from. Because we are all the same at the core. The injustices in our society will become more apparent than ever. Remember all their faces. Remember all their stories. Remember you are blessed when you’re having a pity party. You will be free.

9. Never stop writing.

You’ve started and stopped for so many years. You’ll keep starting and stopping for so many more years. But commit to it when the time is right. Be consistent with it. Don’t wait any longer because the memories will fade. Piecemealing it together will get confusing. It’s your history and it’s what will be passed down.

rachel ritlop the confused millennial

10. Take care of your body.

Stop everything you are doing to it. Stop it now. You need to take care of yourself. You need to eat healthy well balanced meals and exercise. You need to find a way to connect to the skin you’re in. It’s the only way you will feel grounded again.

Find a way to connect to the skin you're in.Click To Tweet

11. Put your dukes down.

Stop fighting. You’re too old for this now. You’ve been doing it for the last 18 years and you can’t keep going this way. Let the anger go. It’s only getting turnt inward. Look to your left, and to your right, who is left?ย You are only hurting yourself now. If you feel the anger rising, remember anger is a secondary emotion, it’s easier to feel than the hurt underneath it. You can’t shift blame, you need to feel the hurt and take responsibility for how you got there. Mend those fences before it’s too lateย ๐Ÿ’—.

 

12. Let yourself relax.

Simultaneously, you’ve worked two jobs, joined two sports teams, and done harder coursework than most teenagers. You can’t be the best at everything, you are not perfect. You can’t control everything. Nor should you ever want to. Let yourself relax. You will get your first rejection letter when you apply to a doctoral program after graduating in only three years. That master’s degree, you’ll barely use so stop stressing about it. You will take the path that is the biggest disappointment to your mother. But that’s all okay. Because you will be happy.

[RELATED] How To Deal With Major Life Transitions

13. Let your mother go.

The two of you have been through the unimaginable. But you haven’t even seen the worst of it yet. You will be trauma bonded. You won’t even know who the victim or the abuser is at points. But know that you are not the same. Discover where she ends and you begin. Listen to Roger when he tells you that you two are different. Believe him when he says you are better. See his hurt and don’t do that to others. Break the cycle.

[RELATED] 5 Ways My Wedding Was Different Than I Imagined

14. Be Present

On the note of listening to Roger, be present with him. I know it’s hard to get out of your own head right now, but he is sicker than you know. You only have one more year with him. You’ll call him everyday this next year, multiple times a day. Enjoy those calls, be present on those calls. Listen to his stories, trust his wisdom. Write him a letter, you know how much he loves to get mail. He has shaped you for the better.

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15. Let love in.

You’ve always had good taste in boyfriends, don’t lower those standards. You deserve the best, even when it won’t feel like it these next few years. Listen to yourself and break up with that boy when it’s not working any more. It will only cause you more pain to wait. Let yourself make that bad mistake, it was a choice you needed to get out of your system.

When you see his face you will know. He is your partner in life. The one who will communicate with you better than anyone has ever in your life. The one that will support you through the darkness. He will push you to articulate what’s happening internally. He will challenge you to be better and to take responsibility, to let go of expectations on others, to take care of yourself.

rachel ritlop eric dresdale wedding

More than with men though, let love in for yourself. You will feel worthless, like an animal, like a monster during these next few years. Who am I kidding, you already feel this way. It will just be mirrored back to you in the most inhumane ways. Know that your angels are watching over you. You are not cursed and you will survive this all. You will have “blessings” but it will only be because you find the strength to do the right thing time and time again. Stay the course because things do get better. You will be happy.

believe in your selfie

Reader Survey!

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  • 1- HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHICA!!!! So glad blogging and BLOGUAD brought us together!! (:

    2- Seriously some of these points feel like you’re talking directly to me! Definitely what I need to hear right now!

    Enjoy your birthday girly!

    • Rachel Ritlop

      Thanks my love!! Happy they resonated!!! <3 I think I know which ones they were ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Samantha

    Happy birthday!!!! That’s a lot of adulting and learning to do in just ten years, but you’ve done it so well! I hope you have an AMAZING and very happy year!

    • Rachel Ritlop

      Thank you so much Samantha!

  • Wow! The part about your mom and your dad are heart-wrenching. I’m really sorry for the pain you’ve been through, and proud of you for working to overcome. Love you friend!
    Also, happy birthday! I hope you have an amazing time at Blog Her and give Elizabeth a big hug for me!

    • Rachel Ritlop

      Thanks Kristin <3 Love you!!! And I totally will!

  • Neely

    I love posts like this! I love what you said about being a drifter. Happiest of birthdays!

    • Rachel Ritlop

      Thank you!

  • Ayanna

    Love this!! These are definitely a lot of things I think a lot of 18 year olds should embrace. I wish I would have embraced #2 more, because staying grounded in grace and dignity would have definitely kept me from making some bad decisions. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! ๐ŸŽ‰

    • Rachel Ritlop

      Thank you!! And I’m with you! But those bad decisions shaped us, so it’s not all bad ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • HAPPY BIRTHDAY pretty lady! I love all of these!!

    • Rachel Ritlop

      thank you!

  • You never cease to amaze me. Beautiful work, and thank you for the advice! I’m 21 but honestly feel like I’m 18 because I barely have scraped the surface. Happy Birthday darling!

    • Rachel Ritlop

      Awe thank you so much!! <3 <3

  • Shannon @ Lady’s Little Loves

    I love the “Put your dukes down” and “take care of your body.” I wish I would have done better at those as an 18 year old!

    • Rachel Ritlop

      I’m with you <3

  • Lee Anne Benjamin

    Happiest of birthdays babe! Love this list!

    XO

    Lee Anne

    http://www.lifebylee.com

    • Rachel Ritlop

      Thank you

  • Miss ALK

    I thought recently about doing a post like this! It’s so interesting to look back on life lessons and reflections from high school to present. ๐Ÿ™‚ What a good way to celebrate your birthday!

    xoxo A
    http://www.southernbelleintraining.com

    • Rachel Ritlop

      Totally agree!

  • I would have to my 18 year old self to “Listen, listen, listen” and “You will need people” too. This is an awesome post! And Happy Birthday!

    • Rachel Ritlop

      Thank you so much!

  • Marcie

    I would definitely tell myself to quit the jobs that had bosses that didn’t respect me. It would have saved me years of second guessing every move I made.

    • Rachel Ritlop

      YES! So sorry you had to go through that too, but oddly comforted in that I’m not alone. I seriously got to a point where I would ask, “am I crazy or is she?”

  • Samantha Carter

    Happy birthday! I love how raw and open you were in this list. I think it can be incredibly empowering to look back at how much we have grown. I hope that today, and every day, you feel just that – empowered.

    • Awe thank you so much Samantha <3 and I totally agree, it can be so empowering to look at how far we've come!

  • Elizabeth Johnson

    This is such a great post! As I read through each point I found myself nodding my head and saying yes!!! Especially on the last point. Let love in. So vital. It seriously made me tear up! Happy birthday friend! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anna Hubbard

    Great post girl, and happy birthday! There are sooooo many things I wish I could tell my 18 year old self too! I filled out your survey ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I really really loved this! It’s amazing how when you get older you realize how much grace saves you! I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

  • Such great ideas about gracefully aging into adulthood! It’s rarely ever how we imagine but life is a fantastic journey that teaches you so much along the way.

  • Christa Stull

    Great tips, happy birthday!

  • This was an awesome post, Rachel! These are some of my all-time faves. I totally thought you were closer to my age (24)! Happy Birthday, lovely!

  • Love this post, Rachel! This advice is spot on.

  • Audrey Knizek

    Such a beautiful post Rachel! So many great pieces of advice. I’m only 21, and this is absolutely the scariest and most exciting time in my life. Loved reading your thoughts.

  • 1. Happy Birthday!!
    2. This was beautiful. There’s so many things I would tell my 18 year old self. Only if we could go back in time and change things.

  • mckenna bleu

    I love all of these! This is so great for younger people to read and even still now!

  • Lynzy

    OMG – Happy Birthday! But also this post is seriously SOOOOOOOOO good. I think like 90% of the points were totally talking directly to me, and I love looking back and seeing how we all grow. I hope you have an amazing birthday.

  • Survey done! I loved this post! Sometimes I wish I could go back and tell myself many things. Your pictures are adorable! And Happy Birthday!

    xx, Melissa
    https://elephantontheroad.com

  • Casey

    This post was so awesome and it is relatable! I really enjoyed it and I’m going to read some of your related posts

  • Kayla Cruz

    Happy birthday, girlfriend! Absolutely loved this post. So much growth takes place in the 10 years after high school, but you’re obviously kicking ass! xoxox!

  • Take care of yourself is so important. I’ve really been focusing on eating well, working out, self care time, getting good sleep, etc. And it has So many benefits! It’s amazing what happens when you take care of yourself.

  • Jordyn Upchurch

    Oh how I loved this post-so beautifully written! I wish I could tell my 18 year old self so many similar things, I would’ve saved myself so much heartache!

    xoxo, SS

    Southern And Style

  • Happy birthday! Welcome to the 28-year-old club! You have some really great advice to your 18-year-old self. You can tell how much you’ve grown in the last 10 years. This is some brave advice, particularly as it relates to how you get along with others.

  • What a touching post! Loved seeing your photos throughout the years, and your wedding photo is absolutely incredible! Thanks for sharing <3

  • Happy Birthday!! I love looking back and seeing others look back and talk about the things they wish they could tell their future self. I did a post similar to this a few years ago. I’ll have to find it to see the things I wrote ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Colleen Berry

    Love this post. Don’t we all wish we could rewind and tell our younger selves that everything will turn out just fine. The teenage years are tough but really shape who we are today.

  • Jennifer Schmidt

    I just wrote a post and loved to read yours! Writing these types of posts is freeing. Being able to remind yourself how far I have come made me appreciate all of the rough patches in life. We have a lot of similarities and this post made me realize how much more I could tell my younger self.
    Jenn
    joyfuliowan.com

  • Happy Birthday! This was such a beautiful and real post. Hope you have a fabulous day celebrating YOU!

  • Aw, I love when bloggers do this. It’s sweet when they share content that gives a glimpse of who they are as people. I’m sorry for the trauma you’ve experienced but I’m glad you’ve found a way to heal through it and turn it into something beautiful. ::Hugs::

  • Ashley Stephenson

    This is a wonderful post! There are so many things that I wish I had known when I was younger, but that is how we learn things. Happy Birthday!

  • What a honest and beautiful post! Like others, I found myself nodding along. Another thing I would have told myself is not to let others choose your path for you. No one else knows what is best for you. There will be disapproval and there will be hurt, but you have to put your own happiness above all else.

  • Talisa – That New Girl

    Awww happy 28th!! I’m almost there too! So nervous about it!

    “Let go of your standards and expectations of others now before it becomes even more painful than these next few years. People will always disappoint you if you donโ€™t.” My mom told me this just a few days ago, that I need to manage my expectations of people, even my closest friends, or their (not-so-pleasant) actions will always surprise me & hurt me. It’s a tough pill to swallow but it’s so true.

  • Kristen Rodriguez

    Yas girl!! I seriously had cold chills throughout your entire post! The quitting your job point–that one got me good! I quit my job out of the blue and it was the best decision I ever made! Hope you had an amazing birthday! <3

  • Corey Wheeland

    Such an awesome post, Rachel! It also appears that you haven’t aged a day!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy Birthday!

  • Taylor Mobley

    I love this post so so much! I love the part about writing, that is something I’m trying to improve on here in my early twenties!

  • This was so heartwarming to read! Happy birthday!

  • For me, the biggest thing I’d tell my 18 year old self is to learn to love her skin and to take care of her body! I struggled for so long wanting to take care of it because I felt so ashamed of my scars and so betrayed by it, but I’m glad I’m learning how to look beyond those things now!

  • Happy belated birthday and I love these pieces of advice. I’m only 23, but I felt myself agreeing to so many of these!

  • This was such a special post and I loved all the throwback pictures!! Also, HAPPY {belated} BIRTHDAY and congrats on 10, I would say pretty successful years of adulting!!
    xo, G
    theswirlblog.com

  • I so loved reading through this post and found myself agreeing with SO many of your points. Happy birthday!!

  • Nikki Leigh

    I loved this. It’s prompted me to reflect on what I wished I could tell my 18 year old self. The biggest thing I can think of is “Don’t sign up for those credit cards to get a free pizza.” Happy birthday!

  • You and I are similar with the whole mother thing. I am actually tearing up now as I write this. You and I are three months apart in age and right now I am not speaking to my mother. It is a horrible feeling and we have been at it since I was 12. You said it best when you wrote, “But know that you are not the same. Discover where she ends and you begin.” I hope you have found more peace than I have. xx thank you for this.

  • Adriana

    Letting go of expectations is HUGE!! I love this post, there’s so many things I wish I could have told myself back then too. Love this!

  • Lisa

    Happy birthday and great advice!

  • Naga Lakshmi Bhagavatula

    This is one of the nicest posts i have read in the recent times. I simply love the idea of the blog post!!

  • Happy happy birthday!

  • This is so beautiful! I can also relate to so many points. Happy Birthday and live your life to the fullest girl! xo

  • Happy belated birthday Rachel! I loved this post! There are so many life lessons we learn in our twenties and these are all spot on. Especially taking care of yourself – this is so important yet many of us don’t take the time for ourselves enough. I’ve been working on taking care of myself more, it’s definitely a balance!

  • Carly Ned

    Wow! This is an amazing post! I wish I knew a lot of these things at 18 as well. Happy Birthday!

  • This was such a sweet post- if I could tell my 18 year old self something, it would also be to not lower my taste in boyfriends. It may lower your dating prospects at stage in life, but it’s SO worth it in the long run!

  • Alicia Marie

    Happy Birthday! I will be 28 in September and I can honestly say most of these hit. I too feel lost in limbo sometimes, but I love that you tell yourself to let things go and be true to yourself!

  • Sydney Power

    These are so lovely, I would love to do this for myself, I mean I am only 20 but I think it is so cool to do!

  • thesophiadiaries

    These are some great tips that I totally wish I had when I was 18!!

  • Taylor Smith

    Did you know that you looked like a fairy princess and you husband looked like a straight up prince charming in your wedding picture? Ok good. That aside — I love this post. I love how raw and emotional and REAL it is. LOVE YOU.

  • Bailey

    Grace and dignity. That would make an amazing life motto!

  • I love this post! I remember back to when I was 18 and how many of these things you listed meant the world to me but I’ve moved past it now. Oh teenage years!

  • Oh I LOVE this! Such a beautiful post. Staying grounded is so important and so underrated. And YES! Those “low income” jobs truly were with the most fun coworkers. I have the best memories and stories from working in grocery, maid services, retail, etc… Not only were many of those people fun, they were also genuinely caring. Something you don’t see as much in the corporate world.

  • AMEN AMEN AMEN – every single tidbit is so good. Also so relevant to your journey. This year is going to be your best yet!!!

  • Happy belated 28th birthday Rachel! I totally agree with everything you said โ€“ beautifully written post!

  • This was such an awesome post!! I love how vulnerable this was. I always read these and get the typical like “have fun in college!” advice. Love how in-depth you wrote this with lessons that really apply to all ages.

  • Happy Birthday Rachel! I love the way you wrote this post. I connect with you on so many of these points and I really love the personal posts that you share. They inspire me and give me so much hope.

  • Loved this post! Thank you for once again being so transparent. It’s one of the reasons I come to your blog several times a week. Keep it up! And I’m happy you did let love in, because if you hadn’t we wouldn’t have gotten to see those AH-MAZ-ING wedding photos, lol. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Happy Birthday! I loved this post. Such a sweet idea. xo

  • Tiffany Campbell

    I’m trying so hard to work up enough courage to quit my job and blog full time, but it’s been hard for me!

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