18 Things I learnt before I turned 18: part 1


18 things I learnt before I turned 18. Graphic Credit: Katy Zhang

As I turned 18 during this past semester, I wanted to reflect on some of my past experiences and I have collected some reflections and thoughts I’ve gained through my journey in life so far and I want to share them with you. 

  1. You are the main character of your own story and only your own story. 

At the beginning of high school, I often attempted to participate in every organization possible and always seeked to be under the spotlight. However as I looked back on those experiences, constantly seeking approval from peers and other people have caused a huge toll on my mental health. Instead, it is more important to focus on your own needs and seek to find passion in your own ways. 

      2. Always try your best to catch every opportunity possible. 

From being the editor-in-chief of this organization to creating organizations during the pandemic, I’ve realized that a lot of major changes in my life occurred during these unexpected times. If I asked myself ten years ago that I would be in a completely different country and experience diverse cultures, I would have definitely said no. However, these changes brought me a lot of opportunities. If I stayed in my comfort zone, I would have missed out on all of them. 

      3. Know that loneliness is not an issue, and learn to spend your time alone is essential for life.  

Being an only child, I often do not have a lot of people around me. So during my free time, I often start to overthink and panic because I don’t have anyone to express my feelings or enjoy life with. However, throughout these years I found comfort in loneliness as I can write down in journals how I feel and truly conduct self-reflections on my actions by myself without any judgment. During those times I would read books and magazines to fulfill my mind with ideals of other thinkers of our times and how they face challenges. 

      4. There’s not always a bad decision and a good decision in life. 

We are often taught to make decisions wisely. This idea is true to some extent, however in certain situations I believe pondering on choices without taking actual actions and executing them can really hold back your true potential. It is more important to take actions when you’ve already made a decision than simply not starting due to the fear that one of those decisions can end up with potentially bad consequences. 

      5. Love yourself before you love others. Respect yourself before you respect others. 

In traditional Chinese culture (the culture I grew up in), women are taught to sacrifice for the need of male family members at home and people are taught to sacrifice for the common good, but I believe that being selfish is not a negative idea. By prioritizing my own mental health and wellbeing, I can truly process my emotions and feelings while gaining self-worth as I begin to understand myself. 


      6.There’s no failure unless you submit yourself to it. 

Studying in a competitive environment often causes me to question my success because there will always be people getting better grades or gaining more academic success than you. All of those competition can really make one feel like they’ve become a failure, however after conversation with many successful adults around me that didn’t really obtain so much success during their highschool years, I’ve realized one of the biggest lesson I should learn is that failure is subjective and one could never truly become a failure unless they admitted to the expectations of society and gave up on trying. 


      7. Learn and protect your heritage and culture.

Coming to the United States during my early-teens caused a lot of identity crisis in me. Even though I wanted to be different, the pressure of “fitting in” still followed me. However, as I continued to expand my view on the world, I realized that it is important to recognize your heritage and culture because it adds to my personality and truly completes my identity. Instead of attempting to get rid of my cultural identity, I would rather promote it and embrace it since it provides me a connection to my ancestors and their values. 

      8. Be willing to step up in order to make your voice heard and make changes happen. 

When in middle school, sometimes I was scared to speak up against things because I feared people would not accept and listen to my opinions. However, as I grew up and started participating in more group initiatives, I realized that it is essential to always speak up for yourself because you would never know if there are others that share the same opinion as you but refuse to speak up because they were fearing rejection. By breaking the silence, I felt free and I felt like even a small voice can make a difference. 

      9. Think for yourself and form your own ideals of life and society. 

There are a lot of diverse opinions in this current world. As consumers of the current culture, we can easily be persuaded by voices aside from our own and become part of a bigger agenda that could be used as profit or weapon. Hence, it is always essential for me to solidify my own ideals and standard of the society in order to become more socially aware and less biased in controversial situations.