A Letter To My 18-Year-Old Self On My 28th Birthday

I have turned 28 today. I can’t help but feel overwhelmed at the thought that I have spent ten years of my adult life already! Somehow, today I distinctly remember myself at my 18th birthday. It was the first year of college. I was wearing a pink top and blue jeans. I had tied my hair up that day, in an attempt to change my look. I always had my hair down, so this was the unique birthday thing. My friends had gifted me a light brown lip gloss. Smoky kohled eyes and natural lips was in at that time.

I reminisce that day so well because I thought it was a big milestone in my life. How important and mature I felt at that time! At that age, we have so many dreams to be chased – to change the world, to conquer it. We feel so powerful!

Hum hain naye, andaz kyun ho purana…”

Yahaan ke hum sikandar, chahe to kar lein sabko apni jeb ke andar..”

Magar yeh toh, koi na jaane, ki meri manzil hai kahaa…”

I want to talk to that vibrant ten years younger self of mine, on her 18th birthday – to the girl in the pink top blowing the candles, or her friend who is handing over the present , or the guy in the back happily capturing the moment in his camera phone.

I want to tell you all, on the verge of your adulthood, ten things I wish all of you knew. I am sure you have a beautiful vision for your future, but there are things that nobody may have told you, or maybe they did, but you failed to ponder on.

Take it from me, I am you, yet ten years ahead of you.

1. You have turned 18, you are technically an adult.

You argue with your parents, elder sisters/ brothers with the misconception that you are a grown up now. But you are still a kid and very immature. You don’t have innocence anymore. Your ignorance was a bliss but your half knowledge is dangerous!

2. The world will make you feel like this is the most important year of your life.

Whether it is cracking the CA exams, or the IIT entrance, they will tell you that you need to work very hard and your whole life and future happiness depends upon it. The very thought would be very pressurizing for you.

Yes, you need to work hard. But you would need to work hard all your life. Cracking the CA entrance will just be a starting point. Not making it to IIT will not be the end of the world.

3. Speaking of career, I think you are at a very young age to have the sense to determine one.

What do you know, you are barely out of school. Two years back your gamut of choices was dissected into three limited streams – Science, Arts and Commerce. You did not like physics, and found history boring. You always hated your Math teacher who made you feel dumb.

Your career choice, was probably made through the process of elimination.

4. Studies have nothing to do with what job you get.

Years ahead, you may realize that the studies that consumed the time and energy of your youth does not give you any happiness, and it has no connection whatsoever with the job that you end up in.

You will find your calling and passion in something else. Don’t regret it then. Be thankful that you finally found in this lifetime, whatever it is that gives you happiness and fulfillment.

5. You will not look the same as you did today for the rest of your life.

You will put on weight. Or maybe lose it. You hairstyle is bound to change. The curls that you flaunted in college will become unmanageable as you start working and managing a household. You may fall for straight hair. You would have 100 different looks.

Enjoy every part of it – the chubby look, the skinny look, the pierced nose, the salwar kamiz days at work, or the short black dress you will repeat at all parties. Years ahead, you would look at all those photographs fondly.

6. You want your independence.

You see a lot of your friends have moved out and live in hostels, PGs, shared apartments and what not. They seem like they are having so much fun! You feel like you are missing out. You crave that opportunity.

Let me warn you, the only place where you will ever feel at home, and peaceful is your parents’ home, whereas the stress of adulthood would rob you of your sleep at your own house. You may have your place, the one you cherish so much with your hard earned EMI. But you know what, all your life, in your dreams you will always dream of mom and dad’s house as your home, the one where you grew up. Your subconscious mind will not accept anything else as your abode, ever.

7. You may feel that your parents are the ones in this whole wide world who do not understand you.

You would confide in random friends and give in to peer pressure. But you are blatantly wrong! Your parents are the only ones who will love you unconditionally all your life. Nobody else will. Love them. Respect them.

8. Speaking of family, spend time with your grandparents.

You are lucky to have them. Cherish them. They may not be around 10 years later. Even if they are, they could become weak, frail and may even forget you or remember bits or pieces of you.

Make sure you don’t forget them before the cruel ageing process makes them forget you.

9. Be kind.

I know you are at that age when you are discovering yourself. Your personality is shaping up very strongly. I know you want to tell everybody that you won’t take nonsense from them. You can speak up for yourself.

But the harsh things that you say in your zeal, may be very hurtful to many and you may regret it later. You may realize it was not even worth it. To be happy, you need to spread happiness. What goes around comes around. Negativity and bitterness will not help you. Channelize your aggression. It is the little acts of kindness of yours and others that will keep your faith in humanity and make you a better person.

10. You have seen much less that what you will see in the future. And yet, life is short.

From time to time, I have a dream, in which I am about to do something exciting: something as adventurous as jumping off a cliff on a parachute. Or as simple as asking out a guy who I like. Or as embarrassing as singing karaoke at a restaurant.

I dare myself to do it. But I chicken out at the last moment. Then I wake up from the dream.

It was not real! I wish I had done it! I wanted to know what could have happened, what chapter could have unfolded.

You may feel that way about your life too when you look back. You will wonder what if, you had done a lot of things you wanted to do. You need to decide which episode of your life is worth unleashing, and which one is better remaining curtailed.

Your 28 year old self may not ask you “Why?” but she may want to know “Why not?”

Author’s Note

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is the regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable. ” – Sydney J. Harris

Originally published at akkarbakkar.com on November 13, 2015.

© 2016, Tanvi Sinha. All rights reserved.

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