20 Lessons You Have To Learn Before You Turn 18

As I’m sure you’ve heard from many bitter and cranky adults, life is full of hard lessons. Unfortunately, most of these hard lessons are ones that you don’t learn until you’re in the midst of them (I guess if that wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t so hard). Just because that’s true, though, doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. There are some things you need to learn before you 18-years-old (the mark of being an adult in this society), and even if you don’t believe me about them, you should still familiarize yourself with them. One day, you’ll back, and think, “Wow, I’m so glad I read that Gurl.com article.” I mean, I hope you’ll do that, at least.

I can’t take all of the credit: this Ask Reddit thread on what adults think young people should learn sooner rather than later is what inspired this post. It made me personally think of all the things I heard in high school that I rolled my eyes at… and I now regret doing that. So, I’m trying to help you avoid that feeling. Here are 20 lessons you have to learn before you turn 18: 


1. Don’t take nudes. 


Okay, fine, I know you’re probably going to take nudes anyway no matter what I say. But if you’re to do that, then please heed the advice of Reddit user bigbadbedbug: “don’t take nudes with your face showing.” At least that way you’ll be a little safe.


2. People who treat you badly are not your friend.


The term frenemy kind of sucks, because it implies that it’s okay for someone to be an enemy and a friend, and it’s not. As user zaffiro_in_giro says, “Someone who consistently makes you unhappy, makes you scared, makes you tense, lies to you, lies about you, ignores your wishes, belittles your strengths, uses your weaknesses against you, any combination of the above, or any other version of treating you with cruelty and/or without respect…this person is not your friend. (Or your girlfriend/boyfriend, by the way.) Even if he/she is fun and funny and interesting and sometimes really nice to you. This person is trouble and you should get far away.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.


3. Financial responsibility is incredibly important. 


When you’re younger, you don’t want to think about money. I completely get it. It’s boring and annoying. But when you’re older, you’ll regret that. User TooShiftyForYou says, “Learn to track how much money you have and can afford to spend. Even if it’s not much now, this is a really important tool in the real world.” It’s more about getting used to tracking your money so that when you really need to, you won’t feel lost.


4. You can make yourself happy at any job.

hunger games

I hate when people say things like, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s not true. I have the job I love and have always wanted, and I still dread going to work some days. Work, like any other repeated activity, gets boring after a while. Plus, it’s not always possible for everyone to have their dream job. As user NondeterministSystem says, “Happiness on the job isn’t found. It’s made. Not everyone will have a dream job, but everyone should find a job where they can do something, do it well, and do it with pride. In time, that becomes a passion, even if it doesn’t start that way.” Exactly! If you choose to be happy with your job, then you can be happy, no matter what it is.


5. You have to work hard to get what you want.

hard work

Nothing will ever be handed to you. As user -Asher- said, “You need to work to make things happen.” This goes for jobs, raises, relationships, life changes… everything.


6. You’re going to lose a lot of friends.

best friends

It’s sad, but true. User 04079419 points out, “Chances are, you won’t be friends with the majority of the people you are friends with now. People go their separate ways, and you will come to learn who you want in your life. Friendships get trickier because unlike high school, you won’t see them everyday.” It’s the unfortunate truth. Some friends never leave, but many do. That’s okay – you will find more.


7. You have to be polite to people.


You don’t have to like everyone, but you should have a basic respect for people (unless they’re horrible to you). User RamsesThePigeon says, “Everyone has different ideas about how they’d like to be treated, but there are certain social rules that most people follow. Practice good table manners, wear appropriate clothing, answer questions with direct answers, speak in proper English (not slang), and be polite to everyone around you. Cut the profanity and vulgarity from your vocabulary, while you’re at it. There are better ways to say things, and it will make those rare occasions when you do swear, curse, or cuss that much more potent.” It’s true!


8. Everyone puts themselves first. 


I love what user asdtech153 said: “People aren’t against you, they’re for themselves.” At the end of the day, everyone cares about what is best for them. People can love and care about you, and still want to put themselves first. It doesn’t always mean they’re trying to destroy you or hurt you, it just means they’re trying to do what is best for them.


9. You aren’t the exception to anything.

what if

I also love what user lennon1230 said: “Being a kid means thinking you’re the exception to the rule, being an adult is realizing you’re not.” It’s so true. As you get older, you learn that you aren’t the exception to the rule. It sucks, but it’s true.


10. Some semblance of high school will always live on.


I always remember people telling me that once high school was over, I wouldn’t have to deal with popular kids or class systems or annoying social things like that. It’s not true! As TheLoneWolf527 says, “The bullshit never stops. They tell you that high school is where you put up with all of the bullshit which will prepare you for college where life really begins. But then you get to college and they tell you that college is where the main bullshit is to prepare you for a job and that once you have a full time career, you’ll be good. But then you get that job and it turns out that there’s even more bullshit there to prepare you for 5 years down the road when you should be deciding 100% the rest of your life goals such as where you want to be, kids, family, etc. Find the path of life that fits you best knowing that the bullshit may never stop unless YOU make the effort to find the least bullshit path.”


11. You don’t have to have sex with anyone.


As Etcherss says,  “No one is owed sex, you don’t owe anyone sex. If you don’t enjoy penis in vagina sex, that’s cool. You don’t need to do it. You can do other stuff. Don’t feel scared to set your boundaries. You deserve those boundaries.” Yep!


12. Masturbating is great.


We try to tell you guys this at Gurl for a lot of reasons. Masturbation helps with stress and anger and makes you feel good. Do what user drew1111 says, “Learn how to masturbate. Guys, girls. Learn how to masturbate. Only you can get the job done!”


13. You shouldn’t worry about everything.


As a chronic worrier, I know how annoying it is to hear “just stop worrying!” But try what user nusi218 suggests: “ask yourself, the thing keeping you awake at night, will it be relevant to your life next month? In six months? In a year? If the answer is no, push it from your mind.” 


14. You should never give up what you really want for a relationship. 

do you

I know that relationships can be all-consuming. You might think giving up what you really want for someone else is worth it, but that isn’t always true. As user ZweiliteKnight says, “Hope that you’ll love each other forever, but don’t plan your life based around the assumption that you’ll love each other forever. Remember that couples break up, especially in their teens, and there’s no reason to think you’re the exception. I’m not saying that you should think of your girlfriend as temporary or something, I’m just saying don’t pass up opportunities or make big moves because of some girl.” Or guy.


15. You have to take the initiative. 


Do things yourself. Be independent. Learn how to get things done when you want them done. You can’t rely on anyone as much as you can relay on yourself. User alleeele says, “if you want something done, do it yourself. Don’t wait around for it to happen, because it never will. Use your own judgement (but listen to others as well) and take initiative.”


16. Listen to other people’s opinions, even if you don’t agree.

not listening

In today’s world, it’s hard to say anything without someone taking offense. I think of it this way: everyone is allowed to have their own opinion on something, even if their opinion isn’t popular or PC or something you agree with. They’re allowed to think what they want to think. You can be annoyed about it, but give them the respect to think what they want. User JoanieGoGirl says, “Be open to others opinions, you are not always right. Listen to what others have to say. Even if you don’t like what people are saying you can learn some things about others and how to handle situations. Also let people be themselves. If someone is not physically or mentally causing harm to you or others then let people do their thing.”


17. Breakups really are not the end of the world.


Yes, breakups hurt so much. I will never say they don’t. Sometimes they feel impossible. But you will get through it. User thegreatbrah: puts it in perspective, saying, “You will form strong bonds with people you date. When you break up you might feel like your world is ending and you will never find those feelings with anyone else again. You will find them and that first second or third love may end up as just a fried or even a person you never speak to or think about.”


18. Talent alone won’t get you far.


I’ve watched insanely talented people end up doing crappy jobs and feeling unhappy in life, while mediocre people become successful. This is because talent doesn’t get you everything. It can only take you so far. As user FishTacos says, “Unless you are a crazy genius, you have to be well liked and have a decent appearance too. Don’t neglect doing the social stuff at your first job, it will be the people who are most friendly (genuinely) with your boss who make more money and get more responsibility (and consequently learn more).”


19. Don’t do drugs.


Yes, it sounds cliche and annoying, but really, stay away from drugs. User compugasm sums it up, saying, “Stay off drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, because addiction ruins lives.”


20. No one owes you anything.


This is the most important lesson. Learn how to hold yourself accountable for your actions and decisions. As user Foolscap77 says, “The sooner you learn you’re not owed anything, that your position in life is almost entirely based on the choices you’ve made, the better off you’ll be.” Everyone has had crappy stuff happening to them. You can’t fall back on that as an excuse for everything.

Which of these lessons do you think is the most important? What did we forget to include? Let us know in the comments.

You can follow the author, Jessica Booth, on Twitter or Instagram.

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