10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

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I recently wrote about some of the ways I was actually wiser at 18 than I was when I supposedly “grew up”. But don’t be fooled, there were plenty of things that I’d like to go back and tell that carefree 18-year-old. I could probably come up with 100, but since I’m not actually speaking to my 18-year-old self, I’ll hold myself to 10. That makes me only twice as foolish at 18 as I was wise and I’m comfortable with that.

  1. You are so beautiful. I was an awkward-looking pre-teen. I hit 5’7” at 11 and gained some puppy fat around the same time, making me feel like a lumbering bear next to my tiny, skinny cute friends. The self-image I formed then lingered long after the facts no longer supported it.  At 18, I still honestly believed I was the ugly friend and now, looking back at pictures of myself with my friends, I see a young beautiful girl surrounded by young beautiful girls. We were all so young and pretty and I bet none of us knew it.
  2. 115 is not a realistic goal weight for a normal 5’8” girl. Models were shorter then, which actually wasn’t a good thing for me. If they had looked like 6’0 Elle Macpherson, who came along just a few years later, I would have immediately considered that look unattainable and not even tried, but Christie Brinkley is 5’9” and so trying to look like her seemed, at the time, like a reasonable goal. I had pictures of her all over my wall and would regularly try to make “model” weight, but my body didn’t want to go that low. I have a pretty athletic body and that’s not a reasonable weight for me. I weighed 125 for God’s sake and thought my life would be perfect if I just lost 10 more pounds.
  3. Learn to cook and eat healthy. In my last post, I talked about my guilt-free eating and I wouldn’t change that for the world, but the truth is I mostly ate like crap until well into my 40s. Raised by a traditional southern cook who believed a vegetable wasn’t cooked until it had been boiled so long it hung limp and submissive over your fork, I mistakenly believed most vegetables were bland and disgusting (and correctly believed fried chicken was invented by God to show us we were loved.) It took me years to retrain my taste buds and to learn how to cook things like roasted brussel sprouts (also invented by the Lord, it turns out.) I would have loved to have gotten a jump on that process.
  4. Save 10% of your paycheck and don’t touch it. I also talked in my last post about the joys of being broke because you spent all your paycheck on that awesome concert. Well, I also know the pain of the broken down car that you don’t have the money to fix. And the misery of the credit card debt that you can’t pay off. And the envy when your friends start buying houses and you still live in a shitty apartment. Moderation is a good thing, people.
  5. Don’t let others define you. I was my parent’s daughter, but I didn’t have to live my life according to their expectations. Or according to the expectations of any of the many people in my life at the time who thought they knew what was best for me. I honestly did not know this then and this is my biggest regret.
  6. Figure out what you want. Why would I bother thinking about what I want out of life when the vision of how my life should be seemed to be so clear to the other people around me? But maybe if I’d spent a bit more time thinking about just what I wanted out of life without filtering it through the eyes of the people around me, I would have had more strength to follow my own path.
  7. Stop caring so much about other people think about you, but start caring more about other people. Whenever I spoke with another person, all I thought about was what that person was thinking about me. Do they like my hair? Do they think I’m fat? Am I’m being witty? Do they like me? It wasn’t until I was much older that I ever took the time to really look at the person I was talking with and wonder if they were hurting or if they were having fun or how their day had been. The moment I started doing that my conversations became so much richer and satisfying.
  8. You are never too old to try something new and you’re definitely not at 18! In my senior year of high school, I took Beginning Ballet classes with my friend but quit because I thought it was “too late for me”. And I suppose it was too late for me to dream of becoming Misty Copeland. But, the truth is I quit ballet because it was uncomfortable and hard and I didn’t like feeling bad at something. Thank God I’ve gotten over that; I’m happily bad at many things now.
  9. Wear a bikini. In my lifetime, I’ve owned exactly two bikinis. Once, when I actually hit 115 for about two weeks one summer and once in my 40s when I had a “fuck you I’m going to finally wear a bikini” moment. If I could do it over again, I would wear only bikinis. They are so much easier!
  10. Don’t perm your hair. Hair perms are the ultimate bad boyfriend. Every time you think it’s going to be different and this time things will work out, but it’s never true. Don’t believe the lie of the perm.

How about you? What would you like to tell your younger self?

Katy Kozee | Midlife Rambler

Hi! I'm Katy. I started Midlife Rambler when my youngest child was a senior in high school. I was staring at the coming empty nest and wondering what was next for me.

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15 thoughts on “10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 18-Year-Old Self”

  1. oh yes….”the lie of the perm” – so many hopeful perm jobs and so many disappointments! But it was such a reflection of the era and you can date a photo by the perm. Lucky we were young enough to still look good – even with those curls that were never the “spirals” they promised! Great post :)

    • So true. You’ll notice that’s the one thing that’s never come back – I predict we’ll never see the return of the perm. The photo in the heading is from my attempts at Farah Fawcett hair – it took a full hour every morning but at least it looked good.

  2. Fantastic! I would tell myself everything here, in addition to – do what YOU love/want to do, not what your parents are pushing you to do. I wish I had stood up for myself and majored in what I wanted to in college, instead of what they wanted and followed my career dream. That is a HUGE regret in my life.

  3. No 5 and 6 are so important. All too often people are living the life someone else wants them to live or living by accident – and that is a hell of a gamble to take with your one and only life.

  4. All such good advice. I just recently had a eureka moment on ‘feeling good’ about yourself: It occurred to me that I look FABULOUS right now compared to what I’m probably going to like in the future so I think I’ll be grateful for the here and now instead of lamenting about my youthful beauty. I would never be her again! She was such a know-it-all. The older I get the more stupid I’m certain I am. Ha! LOVE THE POST btw.

    • I’ll be honest – it was hard making the header for this post. Putting a picture of myself aged 54 next a picture of myself aged 18 was humbling. But you’re right, in the future, I should grateful for the here and now and for the wisdom I’ve gained over the years rather than lamenting my youth. When I was 18, I wanted to be 25. At some point, it’s time to be at peace in the moment.

  5. These are perfect. I so wish I would have been more confident when I was younger. But, I guess that’s what makes midlife so glorious, I finally get to say “f**k it” – I don’t care what anyone else thinks!
    They all resonate with me except maybe #10 . . . I would have had a hard time getting through the 80s without a perm!! :)

    • You’re so right – I’m infinitely more confident now. It takes a lifetime of experience to gain that I guess. I wish I could go back and inject it into all young girls though.

    • I’m finding that out I guess! I’m loving the comments I’m reading on Facebook too. But even now it’s so easy to fall into the trap of meeting expectations.

  6. Hi Katy. Nice to meet you. I hopped over from Elena’s linky blog party and I love this post. I can say that much of what you wrote sounds oh so familiar, especially the part about looking at our younger selves in photos. We always hate our own pictures and then boom, 20 or so years have passed, we revisit a photo and then recognize the beauty and pine back for those days. :)

    • So right Debbie. I’m trying to remember that right now as I look at a picture of 54 year old me next to 18 year old me and fight the urge to immediately book an eye job. :-) Nice to meet you too!


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