7 things I'd say to my 18 year old self
10 years ago I turned 18 years old and if I could go back in time and tell that younger version of myself 7 things, this is what I would say:
1. You've just come through what you'll remember as being one of the worst years of your life so far. Being 17 was horrible. You felt lost because you didn't know who you were yet and you were trying to be someone else. Its okay now, you'll be fine and all the hours you forced yourself to study will pay off because you won't spend much of your 18th year studying.
2. On the night of your 18th birthday you will be caught in huge thunderstorm in Venice and will feel like you are about to die because of all the lightning and water. You'll get lost and be separated from your friends. Then you'll sit down on a doorstep, crumbling map in hand, and wonder how you ended up alone and drowning in a strange city at 3am. A kind teacher will find you, run you a hot shower and put you to bed. You are not alone.
3. You are about to make some very big life decisions. Very soon you'll decide to move out of home and start renting a flat with a group of friends who like having parties. This will be greatly distracting as you try to complete your A-Levels but you will have SO MUCH FUN. You won't get the grades you hoped for but that will be the best thing that ever happened to you. Bless those days working in Starbucks and nights throwing house parties, days smoking down the drift and mornings lying hungover on the sofa in the class 13 hut. You will go to your second choice of university and never look back.
4. You'll know exactly what you want to do but it will be years before you know why. You go to India, read Shantaram and it changes your life. You dance on the beach under the stars, drink Old Monk Rum, play cards every day, risk your life more than once and wonder how you'll every fit back into "normal" society. You'll also get food poisoning on a train, travel across the Himalayas on top of a bus and accidentally set fire to a hotel room in Pokhara. Live these moments fully and stop thinking one step ahead.
5. When you first arrive at Uni you will fall in love with the first guy you meet. This young man will become your boyfriend for most of your time at Leeds. He will teach you many things and you will learn a lot about yourself. Together you will meet some of the most interesting people in the world who will become your best friends. You'll look back and realise you were very young and he was just a boy on his way to adulthood so don't take it all so seriously.
6. During your third year of uni you will experience a kind of free-falling adrenaline that comes from working at the top end of your capacity. You will feel like you could conquer any profession you set your mind to so you'll aim for applying to the foreign office. This will be the first of many job rejections. Get used to it. You are not that special. The year after you graduate will be terrible. You'll move to London and you won't have any money. You'll accept a job to pay your rent but it won't be what you wanted. I'm sorry, but the next few years will be tough as you figure out how to thrive in the working world. You'll question yourself a lot and you'll spend hundreds of hours on night busses crawling through London because Uber won't have been invented yet. You'll also dance on rooftops, discover Opera and read voraciously.
7. The obstacle is the way. When bad things happen it will almost always turn out to be a good thing. Keep shooting for the moon, expect to fall and fail and be heartened when you do because you will be about to learn a very important lesson that will make you a better person.