Four Practices I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

Transitional periods can be one of the most ambiguous and misleading times in life—especially for young adults who have just barely reached adulthood. We find out that we may not be as well equipped to navigate with our own unique personalities in this new world as we thought we were. Here are four simple yet effective practices that I wish I could have told myself as an 18-year-old, and that I hope will encourage others who are getting their first taste of real adulthood.

1. Show up

Give yourself permission to be present in the space you find yourself in—the work force, a college campus, or the military. Be brave in celebrating what you bring to the table and contribute. This goes both ways—acknowledge what others bring and remember that there is always room for others to have a seat at the table, too.

2. Know that no one else knows exactly what they’re doing either

Being in your late teens/early twenties is, I think we would all agree, one of the most confusing times in life. For some reason, we’ve all believed the lie that everyone else has their lives neatly packaged and planned except for us. This couldn’t be further from the truth; and, honestly, the most comforting thing I’ve heard from others my age is, “No, I don’t know what I’m doing either.” So, can we just support each other’s journeys? Our successes and failures? Knowing that we should always give our best, but recognizing that our good times and bad times do not determine our worth?

3. Be kind

Why be anything else? I think that we underestimate an extra compliment, putting your phone down when with another person, or buying a latte for a classmate before 8a.m. class you have together. These little details matter and can be the highlight of someone’s day. Once we look up and see our peers for who they are and how they’re struggling right alongside us, we will be more inclined to show kindness and encouragement.

4. Remember that the Lord sees you and knows your path

As hard as this seems to trust, we must remember that God is not unaware of our circumstances. He has seen every person’s struggle, happiness, highs, and lows, and He orchestrates all of these moments. Every event of our journey points toward God’s work in our lives and reiterates the call for us to depend on Him to lead us, love us, and assist us. “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the One who helps you.’”—Isaiah 41:13.

I think transitions and living in uncertain periods can be made simpler, and more freeing, with these four reminders. They will make life a little more bearable for us and others as well. Depending on God and what He has for us will allow us to remain faithful and trusting even in the most uncertain of times, and as young adults trying to traverse new living situations, schedules, and acquaintances, we also need all the encouragement and care from each other that we can get.

-Gabi Sanford