Hello 18 Year Old Self


Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

Every once in a while someone writes a letter to their 18 year old self and the post goes viral. But why do other people share these letters? Would they have written the exact same words if they wrote a letter to their 18 year old self? Shouldn’t everyone’s list be unique?

There’s no way to go back in time but I do have the opportunity to know what my 18 year old self was saying because I wrote a daily dairy over a period of four years. Also, when I was 17 my friends and I decided that we would write out predictions about what life would be like in the future.  We wrote about ourselves and wrote about each other.  What age did we project ourselves into in the future?  The ripe old age of 27!

Here I am well beyond age 27.

In the spirit of not being annoying to my past self, I thought I’d write out tips based on what I’ve learned, combined with insight stemming from some regrets. Hopefully it won’t sound too preachy. Why I’m leading with sunscreen, I can’t tell you. 

But you’re not off the hook either. (More later on that.)

Dear 18 year old me,

Use sunscreen every day – especially on your face.  

Wear a hat on sunny days. Or use a sun umbrella.

Don’t smoke, and don’t eat sugar or drink excessively.

Find ways to exercise that you enjoy, and keep at it.

Friends will come and go in your life for many reasons. This is a normal part of life. Avoid drama. Don’t worry too much about the process. New friends will come along.

Keep walking away from relationships that aren’t working out well for you. Especially romantic ones.  If you’ve given it your best go, your situation isn’t getting better, and may even be getting worse, it’s time to move on.

Listen to elders talk about cooking, gardening and other self care and life skill activities.  Write down their ideas. Ask for copies of their recipes.

Listen to the stories of elders, ask questions and write down what you hear.  Some day these elders won’t be around to share their stories anymore.

As you travel down the path of life, collect the stories of  people who are the Philosopher Leaders of our society.  These are the people who are spending time thinking about our planet, the people who live on it and the deeper issues. 

Have friends of all ages and from many different backgrounds in your life.

Live within your means but travel when you can.

Volunteer in your community whenever and wherever you can.

Seek out the quiet ones.

Listen to the wisdom of children.

Work on becoming a better animal whisperer.

It will seem like many of your friends are more successful than you in some way.  Keep focusing on your own goals and wish your friends well. Your time will come.

Appreciate the friends who are an active presence in your life.  Focus less on the ones that are rarely present.

Learn to enjoy your own company. Go to movies by yourself. Dine out by yourself.  Travel the world by yourself.  

Keep studying. Keep learning. Keep reading. Keep asking questions. Keep wondering.

Have more sparkle and less snark in your life. Avoid sarcasm and cynicism.

Don’t load yourself down with too many material goods. Traveling light gives you more options.

Keep developing your spiritual life – whether it’s connected to a religious belief or thoughts that are more secular.

Don’t be obsessed with the physical. (Your looks and affairs of the bedroom.)

Don’t be obsessed with the spiritual either.

Find a balance between the two.

Apply to jobs if you have a minimum of 60% of the required skills. Do not wait until you have close to 100%.

Make sure that you are being paid the same rate as other people in your organization who have the same job description and have the same responsibilities as you do. Don’t agree to being paid less while doing the same work.

It becomes harder to get pregnant after age 35.  If you’re not ready to have a baby by age 35 but want to start a family in the not so distant future, think about freezing your eggs for a plan B, or be open to the possibility of adopting. (Something that you might be wanting to do at any rate.)

Protect your job while you are on maternity leave. Keep up on the office gossip and politics. Monitor for changes in the organizational plan or distribution of work. Check in with your superiors and your colleagues. Keep one finger in the pie. Watch for signs of maternity leave discrimination which might leave you unemployed.

Put as much thought and care into the role of being an aunty to your sibling’s and friend’s children as you do to parenting your own children. Don’t be an absentee and disinterested aunty.

If opportunity isn’t knocking on your door, create your own opportunities.

Try to be at the front end when it comes to using and learning about technological changes.

Time passes quickly.  A few weeks blip by. There goes a few months and then it’s one year gone by.  This process keeps clipping along and before you know it you’ll be 40.

Society is obsessed with being young. You will need to come to terms with this obsession as the years go by.  Live according to your own beliefs about aging. Surround yourself with youthful minds belonging to people of all ages.

Write a message to your future self when you are 18, describing your goals, values and perspectives. Give some advice to your future self at age 30, 40, 50, 60 and older.  

Write a diary.  You will forget more about your 18 year old life than you will remember. You will enjoy and appreciate reading it when you get older. Keep track of its location.

Be kind to yourself. You matter and you have much to offer the world.


Now it’s your turn. What would you say to your 18 year old self. Write a letter now and save it to read at a future date. You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!