Tomorrow is your 18thbirthday and I’ve spent months fretting over the perfect gift for this occasion, something that would symbolize how much you mean to me and how proud I am of the woman you’ve become. It would need to be a gift that would adequately thank you for all you’ve given me (what a privilege it’s been to be your mom!) and also send you into the next phase of your life properly. But somehow, despite exhaustive searches, I have come up short.
So I have decided instead of buying you a gift I will offer you something practical to use as you begin adulting (which I’m sorry to report is not as glamorous as it seems.)
Here’s a collection of 18 of the most useful things I know, words of wisdom I’ve gathered from spiritual teachers I’ve encountered during my own 46 revolutions around the sun. I think you’ve already learned some of these lessons along the way, wise one, but here’s a reminder just in case.
18 Life Lessons That Will Help You Be a Better Human
1. Get to know people who don’t look, live, or believe like you. Listen to their stories. These will become some of your greatest teachers and friends.
2. Be kind to everyone you meet, especially assholes. They’re the ones who need kindness most though they’re the ones you’ll least want to offer it to. I know it’s crazy but trust me on this one.
3. You are no better than anyone else, regardless of what you drive or how much money you have. Stay humble.
4. Don’t take crap from people who try to belittle or control you. These people don’t want the best for you.
5. There will always be mean girls whether you’re 18 or 80. Refuse to get sucked into their drama (see #4).
6. You have a gift to offer the world and when you find your calling you will know, but please be patient with yourself if it takes a while to figure it out. Life is not a competition or a race.
7. “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” (Oscar Wilde) You are worthy of being loved just the way you are. You don’t have to change to fit anyone’s expectations. The people who genuinely love you will accept the real you; those who try to change you don’t love you unconditionally so don’t be afraid to let them go.
8. Find your own spiritual path. Seek until you can understand your creator in a way that makes sense to you and cultivate a relationship with him or her. It will be the source of peace, comfort, and direction in your life.
9. Let it be. You can’t always be in control. Life has a way of moving in unexpected directions to teach you the lessons you’re meant to learn. Trust the process.
10. Your body belongs to YOU.
11. Forgive everyone for everything. Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. (p.s. don’t forget to extend forgiveness to yourself, too. You’re gonna screw up eventually!)
12. Fill your life with experiences, not things. Spend your money on travel and concerts and sporting events and theater. You may not have the latest designer shoes or fanciest home but you won’t regret it, I promise.
13. Be honest, always. The truth may hurt but it will also set you free.
14. Pay attention to the world and notice injustice around you. Speak up for those who don’t have a voice. And always, always vote.
15. Trust your gut in all situations. You know who you are and you know what to do.
16. Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.” If you’re in a position to help someone you should do it. That’s the only reason we’re here.
17. When faced with two choices don’t pick the safe one. Pick the one that scares you. Scary things will change your life.
18. Question everything…except whether your mama loves you. Happy birthday, pumpkin.
Melissa Roy is an educator and mom of two teenagers living in Central Florida. She spends way too much time offering unsolicited advice to her students, children, and their friends (which they may or may not refer to as “nagging.”) Her favorite companions are two French Bulldogs named Tyrion and Theo, who never talk back and are always happy to see her.