What I wish I knew when I was 18
At the very “old” age of 26, I have finally reached a place in my life where I feel like I have gained some serious wisdom from my experiences – both good and bad. While we all come from different walks of life, I think it’s safe to assume that most of us are not the same people we once were.
At 18, I graduated from high school and went straight to college. Excited to be free from the parents’ nest, college was a new place full of opportunity and room for growth. I already knew that I wanted to study communication. During my first semester of college, I was determined that I wasn’t going to date – or be social for that matter. Four years in college was all I was going to allow myself. I was going to be serious because I was “so busy” and didn’t have time for fun. I was there to learn and had a get-in-get-out attitude. This ideal lasted about two weeks. Until I realized that I was 18 years old out on my own for the very first time.
The first semester of college was great. I, of course, hung out with my friends way too much and spent money that I didn’t really have. I was being reckless because that’s what freshman do. But my fun quickly ended when my car was stolen. Not once, but TWICE during the fall semester. The first time wasn’t my fault. I was actually being a responsible student/upstanding citizen by taking the local transit instead of driving to campus. But on a late November night, I walked out to the public transit parking lot where I had left my 1996 red Honda Civic. I looked at the empty parking lot, seeing other red cars, just not my own. I quickly called my dad, now panicking. His response was,
“Are you sure you parked your car there?”
“Dad, I am 18 years old. I would not forget where I parked my car!”
I shrieked, now feeling the tears rolling down my face.
Realizing now that I wasn’t kidding my dad told me to call the police. As it was in the middle of winter I stood there in the cold without a jacket. Because at 18, no one prepares you for that one time you’re stuck outside in the cold because you lost your car!
The police arrived within minutes, and as I waited for my aunt to come pick me up I sat in the backseat of the police car. I felt like a criminal. Even though I was the one that had been violated. My car was my pride and joy. I paid for it with my own money and I couldn’t believe it was gone. My aunt came and saved me from the back of the police car and within an hour we got a call from the police that they had found my car! I’ll never forget to pull up to retrieve my car and seeing cops pulling out brown paper bags of drugs and alcohol. One officer asked if any of it was mine, which surely it wasn’t. I officially felt violated. My car smelled of cigarettes and beer. It was no longer my car and I didn’t drive for over a week. I had learned two things from that experience: one, Honda Civics 90’s model are the number one stolen car in the United States and two, Don’t treat your trunk as your on-the-go closet because it WILL go missing.
The fall semester ended. To no one’s surprise, I did NOT do well. Before breaking the news to my parents, I decided that going 80’s dancing with my friends was in order before heading home for the winter break. As we began to get ready my long-time best friend Maddie and I argued about who’s car to drive. I lost.
The club was called Area 51 and on Thursday night’s 18-year-olds were allowed in for the infamous night of 80’s dancing. Maddie and I were dressed in our best 80’s gear. Walking in only with what we needed, leaving the rest in the car. Including her brand new pink leather jacket and her dorm key.
After hours of dancing, we head back to my car. The same feeling I had a month prior as I walked out from the club in my leggings and fanny pack came over me. My stomach dropped out of my body as I screamed,
“Um, my car is gone!”
Maddie chimed in right behind me, and squealed,
“My pink leather jacket is gone!”
“Maddie, my car is gone! Along with your dorm key!”
We both just stood there as the snow began to fall, as it was the middle of winter. We phoned our friends to come rescue us and headed back up to campus where we had to wake a very irritated RA. I felt defeated and wanted to call my parents until 3:30 am after my initial shock had died down. Knowing all well that the outcome wouldn’t be good.
That night drastically changed the course of my life. My parents pulled me out of school. I was forced to move home. I had to get a job and had to wait over a month before the insurance would send us money for the car. In that moment, it felt like the world was ending and my life was over. This was not a part of the plan. I was supposed to get in and get out of college. I was devastated.
What I didn’t know was that my car getting stolen, not once but twice, would be the best thing that would ever happen to me. At 18, you’re not mature enough to see that timing is everything. As I look back at my college experience, I am reminded that the butterfly effect is real. Take one small horrible experience away and it will change the entire course of your life. 7 years later, I am now graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. It took me a LONG time to get here. But I gained so much more than I lost. Through hard work and dedication, I balanced school and working full-time the best I could. Not always succeeding, but never quitting. I’ve lived a fun exciting life. I’ve crossed off over 25 adventures from my bucket list, and even lived in Paris. No one could have prepared me for what has happened over the past couple of years. But I am somehow grateful for that stupid red Honda Civic.
Life is like pink leather jackets – sometimes you want or like something so much that it takes losing it to actually appreciate what you had. But in the chaos of it all, you learn that failures can bring so many other blessings and opportunities to your door. To my 18-year-old self, I want to say, if you can get through the little things in life you will be capable of handling so much more. You’ll lose so many pink leather jackets and red Honda Civics in life. But the only way to move forward is to keep going no matter how many you lose or how long it takes. Just stay positive. You never know what amazing things are waiting for you.