What I Would Tell My Eighteen-Year-Old Self, with a Little Help from My Friends

Madison Loughlin

October 28th, 2020

Being an eighteen-year-old—on the cusp of adulthood—is no easy feat. Eighteen is balancing a newfound sense of independence and grounding your core identity. Eighteen is exploring the real world’s complexities—learning how to articulate your essence of heart and preserve your individuality among social pressures. It is experiencing heartbreak, thrill, nostalgia, and failure: elements that allow us to reassess our morals and assert our self-confidence. Inspired by this New York Times article, I asked women of different ages to share candid advice for their eighteen-year-old selves.


“Be yourself no matter what anybody else thinks. Book knowledge is great, but common sense goes a long way in your career. Choose a career that you love. Save your money for the future.” - Cindy Maltese, a retired Estée Lauder executive


“Being open to hearing what other people are saying isn’t a sign of being weak-willed. It’s a sign of strength; being able to hold onto your beliefs while being fundamentally flexible and accommodating—being willing to acknowledge a lack of knowledge—is maybe the most important skill to have. Less seriously, getting involved is good! Being at the center of a group is fun! Cynicism about other people doesn’t pay off; optimism and joy do. And finally, more concretely: learn to do taxes, learn to invest, and learn another language. Learn early. We live in a complicated, corrupt world, and learning how to manage the bureaucracy and the multiplicity of it is a key skill.” - Emma King, Ph.D. student


“Pursue what you love and what you are interested in, no matter how unique or unpopular it is, because you don’t know where that passion will take you. - Kira Wong, architect


“Just do it! Don’t let fear get in the way!” - Saige Subick, attorney


“Always say yes to trips and experiences--you have your whole life to work, and you always make back the money you spend, but you can’t get time back. You don’t have to have the same friends forever. Some are just there for a short time and purpose.” - Samantha Duke, fashion and jewelry buyer


“It's not the time to worry about the things you can't control or change. Work hard and diligently to prepare for a successful future. Stay in touch with close friends and family. Don’t worry about partners who consume too much of your energy or time, as they won't be part of your future. Spend more money on traveling and less on materialistic items. Memories are far more valuable. And last but not least, life is short and not promised to anyone. Say how you feel and do what makes you happy. Anything that doesn't make your heart feel good doesn't have a place in your life.” - Maryann Trealor, office manager


“Don’t get hung up on standards. Love yourself for who you are, imperfections and all. Those imperfections will be perfection in the eyes of someone who truly loves and deserves you.” - Josephine Riccardi


“We all want to be right. We are all right, but we bring different perspectives to the table. What is right? Understand that everyone brings their personal history to the table. There really are two sides to every story, whether we like the other side or not. Understand that we cannot always agree on the outcome of personal histories. Read history. Read history critically. Always ask why the story is presented this way, even if you agree or disagree. Find common ground, even amongst people you disagree with. Break bread. I have always been in awe that my friends on both sides of the Middle East conflict all eat the same food. Love who you love. We are all in this together. Food is universal.” - Finola Keyes, travel agent


“Learn to be comfortable with your unique qualities, and if anything, use them to your advantage. What you perceive to be cursed can be a blessing, you just don’t know it yet. Don’t worry about what you think you should do or what you think other people think you should do, just do. It’s okay to not have a plan and to have none of the answers. Not having a plan will take you to exciting places and allow you to live in ways you didn’t expect.” - Tanzina Islam, energy and environmental specialist


“The way people treat you almost always has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their issues (so stop caring what they think about you). Practice living at the present moment, get good at it, work at it. Everyone will tell you how fast time goes, and you won’t believe it, but it’s so very true. If you live in the present, you won’t waste any of that precious time.” - Sarah-Mai Miller, project manager


“It’s okay to make mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes then you can’t grow and learn from them.” - Erin Peterson, a senior document processor


“Practice self-care. It’s not selfish to take care of your mind, emotions, and body.” - Pamela Stetson, realtor


“Be patient with yourself, even if you don’t have the answers. Trust the process. Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people is so important. Some of my most beautiful experiences resulted from times I deviated from what I felt was expected of me. And in fact, some of my most painful learning experiences were times I felt I had to stick through things simply because that was expected of me. There certainly is power in knowing you don’t have to stay in situations that aren’t right for you. Sticking through something and walking away both require strength, and it can take time and experience to understand how to make those decisions. We are always so much stronger than we know. My 18-year-old self had no idea just how strong I could be.” - Cassie Wangsness, speech and language pathologist


“Sit still long enough to hear your own voice. I remember having so many other people’s opinions taking up space in my head, that I’m not sure I could recognize my own when she was trying to get my attention.” - Doreen Cronin, author


“Making lots of detailed plans doesn’t mean they’re going to work out. Making plans only guarantees you have a plan, not that it will work when implemented. But if it all goes wrong, it isn’t over and you can make a new plan. College may take more than 4 years. Grad school may take twice as long too. And then you’ll fall into a great job opportunity because you didn’t finish at the ‘right time.’ Or you will spend a year looking for a new job, and when the world shuts down because of a pandemic, you could start a new job that same day. The bigger picture is too hard to see when you’re in it. Just trust it’s happening. Don’t wait for the next thing to live your life. Finishing school, getting the next job, finding a partner, or buying the next apartment: these are events to celebrate. But wake up every day and live the life you have in the moment and be grateful. If you keep waiting for the next thing, you will miss out on the amazing everyday adventures you could be having. And learn how to budget before you move out.” - Margaret Gagliano, speech and language pathologist


“Take school seriously. As a person who wound up dropping out of college after one semester and then went back a few years later, it took me forever to finish and I had to work and go at night. It would have been a better experience to have gone when the rest of my friends did. But I thought I knew it all and didn't need college. Boy, was I wrong.” - Dina Amatore, office manager


“When a person does something to show you who they are, believe it, and don’t give them the benefit of the doubt.” - Leah Rivera


“Take things one step at a time and don’t stress over things you cannot control. When I was in college, I would constantly get overwhelmed by reading a syllabus at the start of a semester. I had no clue how my professors expected to complete the abundance of work on the syllabus. Let alone do it for multiple classes simultaneously. My response was usually to freak out and cry at the start of the semester. Looking back, I would tell myself that everything will get done one step at a time. I would tell myself to not look at the work as a whole and to take things week by week. The same advice can be given socially. I would tell myself to not freak out and cry as a first response. Although I understand this now, I believe this advice can still be relevant to myself today as I occasionally still struggle through situations I cannot control.” - Marina Karpman, speech and language pathologist


“Be kind. Always. Be open to respecting everyone’s views and opinions, even if those views are different than yours.” - Teresa Mattioli-Collings, teacher


“Don’t rush into adulthood. Be a kid. Have fun with your friends. Don’t worry about anything that won’t matter in five years for more than five minutes. Just enjoy life.” - Tricia Loughlin

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highlyindy@gmail.com, New York City

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