Advice to my 18 year old niece

(1) No matter how hard life gets, never give up. If you fall down, just get up and try again; take one day at a time. Challenges build character. Facing your problems head on, that takes courage. After you get through these rough patches, you can face pretty much anything (there will always be challenges or crossroads throughout your life; think of it as a learning curve).

(2) No matter who (president of a company, royalty, normal people like us) or what a person (race, religion, etc.), one will ALWAYS have problems. It’s just a fact of life. Acceptance of this makes it easier to deal with your problems.

(3) No matter what you do in Life, always do the best job you can (in your case, student). A strong work ethic is showing up on time, day in, day out, and doing what’s expected of your position (or even going above and beyond). Don’t bring drama or a bad attitude to work. Don’t burn bridges with your managers/bosses, because you never know when you will need a referral down the line. (Networking works!)

(4) Always share with your siblings; friends may come and go, but family comes first. Cherish those moments spent together. Time is precious (tomorrow is not guaranteed). Saying our final goodbye is a painful part of life. I do miss those large family gatherings (extended family) we had when I was a little girl. On good friends, though, it is worth the effort to keep them in your life because it’s really easy to make friends, but much harder to keep them. Here are the words or phrases to use frequently with family and friends: I love you. Please. Thank You. I’m sorry. I forgive you.

(5) Gratitude is such an important thing in life. Be grateful for all of your blessings- you woke up, you had breakfast and clean water to drink, you have clothes to wear, you can walk, you have another day, etc. There are so many people in this world living with less (freedom, water, food, clothes, shoes) than what we have, not because they want to, but because they are just trying to see tomorrow (war). My dad used to tell me, “Better than nothing.” I will always remember that. Also, prayers don’t have to be everyday, but when you remember, say them. I may not be the most religious person, but I do have faith and I do believe that there is a higher power.

(6) Save up some money for a rainy day fund. (Or save up for something special.) Manage your debt. Don’t sign up or credit cards until you are well into your twenties, have had a stable job for years, and most importantly, learn to balance your checkbook. (One of the most important things to set up when you’re established financially is a life insurance policy). Try to get the best price on something, especially when it’s a major purchase. Do your research; don’t jump on the first thing you see, take your time. You can also negotiate with private sellers on the final price. Major retailers do price-matching nowadays (wal-mart, target, best buy, toys r us). On the flip side, sometimes you need to spend a little more money on investment pieces (fashion) when it comes to items you plan on using for longer than five years. I still have my doc martens from my college days. At the time, each pair was $120.00 (and we are talking the 1990s). Investment pieces (esp. classic pieces that never go out of style) are worth spending the extra money. Come into your own style, don’t just follow every current fashion trend. If you like something, and it fits your shape well, stick with it.

(7) Take some time for maintenance (launder your clothes, stitch the holes, take off the pilling, get those clothes altered, if need be, clean your shoes, get those repairs done (or toss/donate broken items). Take some pride in your appearance. Don’t go to the store in your PJ’s. Shower, scrub, shave, tweeze. Put on clothes that fit you well. Put some makeup on. Always take care of skin- cleaning, protect it with SPF or hats if you’re spending time in the sun. Style your hair (or wear a hat). Always brush/floss. It is true what they say, “First impressions matter.” (Interview basics are: confidence, smiling, a firm handshake, looking that person in the eye.) Also, make those doctor appointments and dental appointments, every year. (a Tetanus shot last 10 years.)

(8) Always be aware of your surroundings. Always look people in the eye, while walking down the street; don’t look down at the ground- criminals often target these people. Keep your purse on your arm/shoulder. Never leave coins/change in plain sight (lock your door when you are driving.) Some things to notice: shady people will always look like they’re up to no good- will be fidgety (or on drugs), act nervous, look behind their shoulder, etc. If need be, you might need to get the license plate number (hit & run accident) or a description of a suspect (height/weight/race/outfit/tattoos or other marks- criminal activity)- you could be a witness. In the case of a car accident, make sure you exchange license and car insurance information. (Important! Do not admit guilt.) File a police report, state the facts. Consult with a lawyer. If someone is committing a crime in your neighborhood, call 3-1-1, for non-life-threatening incidents.

(9) Practice Moderation (a balance of foods, fruits & veggies, with exercise). Fad diets do not work (I tried about 10 diets by the time I was 18). Lifestyle changes do work (ie. good habits). Find what works for you and your body (it is not “One Size Fits All). Exercise should be a normal part of your life (dancing, walking, biking, cardio, weights, yoga, kickboxing, pilates, etc.). Avoid boredom by mixing it up. Aim for 4x a week. Accept your body shape (everyone’s different; a size 0 is not realistic and should not be the goal) and play up your best qualities (be proud of your curves as a woman). View exercise as keeping your body strong and healthy. In your twenties, your metabolism changes dramatically. I learned that so I had to make adjustments especially after learning about our family medical history (cut out soda, limited my red meat intake, sugary, and fatty foods, etc.). If you indulge too much one night, make plans to work it off some way the next day. Balance is important. (Forgive yourself if you slack off.)

(10) SLEEP. There is no substitute for rest. If you work out, stretch, and move throughout the day, and are studying, or working, in addition; you need to be good to your body and let it recharge (especially if you plan on longevity). Don’t pull all-nighters often and don’t rely on energy drinks all day. Also, take some breaks throughout your day, especially when you are sitting at a computer all day, you need to let your eyes focus on something else. If you need to, or can, take naps.

(11) Finish your education but enjoy the whole college experience. Don’t just focus on academics (also, be mindful, that earlier lessons in grade/high school will be re-learned as you learn other concepts in college- grade school was all about short-term memory and regurgitating the lessons). Textbooks aren’t always the truth. Be curious. Find out things on your own (research skills are very important and will be used throughout life/basic math will be used to figure out shopping discounts/some other skills I picked up in school were typing, sewing, cooking and baking). Come up with your own thoughts. Be well-rounded. Join a team or club. Meet new people, make friends (you’ll need study partners). Participate in the events that are offered. I often went to most of the free seminars. I was able to see Arthur Ashe (the 1st Afro-American man to win wimbledon) speak before he died. I also saw Bill Clinton when he was campaigning for the Presidency; I have picture somewhere. I’ll never forget those moments. College is tougher than high school but you learn a lot.

(12) Achieving your goals (financial, work, family, etc.) are a life-long journey; this should be revisited from time to time since your needs will change. Never stop learning new things (especially, in the work place, you’ll become more valuable as an employee), growing as a person, or becoming better, in general. (I consider myself “Work in progress.” And that is the reason I don’t make resolutions; because I work on this EVERYDAY.) Visualization (achieving your goals) and meditation are powerful tools to use. Don’t forget about your dreams. Contribute to your cause (whether it be the environment, animal welfare, homelessness, cancer awareness, domestic violence, etc.); be a part of the solution. This adds to living a fulfilled life. If you don’t like what’s happening in your community, make your voice heard, be a registered VOTER, and vote on every election, locally and for the Presidency (I’ve been voting since I was 18).

(13) Manage your time wisely (know your limits). Take the time to do it right the first time (rushing will create more work for you in the end). Make time for important things and people that matter to you (it’s ok to say ‘No’ to invites). Avoid the time-suckers. In time, you’ll find out what/who that it is. Procrastination is the enemy of progress. Tackle things, don’t let them pile up on you or else it becomes overwhelming (then you will dread it- it’s a waste of time, the worrying). Don’t forget to make time for yourself- read a book, take a walk, have a spa night at home, call a friend, sing karaoke, go window-shopping. Sometimes, just taking five minutes is all you need to regroup. Planning is good, but always have a Plan B, too. Organizing cuts down on wasting time. Keep things handy if they are frequently used items, especially if they are used daily. For example, keep your keys on a key ring on the wall, so you don’t waste time looking for them. (Some important documents you will refer to constantly: your birth certificate, your social security card- women especially, will have name changes). A few times a year, go through your closets and your stuff. (Have you heard that saying “Cluttered closets, cluttered minds”?) Purge! Separate into trash, sort the items you can recycle, have a yard sale or have a swapping party. Then, afterward, donate to an organization like Savers Thrift Store or SafeNest (helps victims of domestic violence), for example. You can’t help everyone that needs help, but you can help do your part.

(14) Be a model employee (in your case, student), a contributing member of the team (sometimes you learn about other people’s methods on how to do things; it doesn’t hurt to know other processes if they are effective or efficient- it could help you later on, down the line). Be nice to your co-workers. Learn the different personality types because you will be dealing with all sorts of people in your lifetime, especially in the workplace. There are way too many people today in customer service who don’t like people, and it shows; they are not helpful, they are not happy, they don’t smile, they want everybody to know that they would rather be somewhere else- it all reflects badly on the company image, too. Finish your projects. If something is too large or daunting to tackle, break up the task into smaller projects, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. I always rely on my “To-Do” lists- it helps me achieve my goals. Of course, sometimes, this can’t be helped because life happens. Be true to your word (if you can’t take one something that is too big, politely, be honest.) Be the person that managers seek to hire (and remember, should another position becomes available).

(15) Ignore the self-doubt and negative inner talk- about 94% of what we fear (it’s ok to to feel like this, sometimes, but push through it) is going to happen to us, doesn’t actually happen (“don’t sweat the small the stuff”- it’s a book and a good philosophy); this also includes very negative people- you can listen to constructive criticism, but you can tell the difference when someone is just being mean (again, learning the different personalities helps). You don’t have time to get caught up in the drama. At the end of the day, the thing that matters the most, is that you’ve done your best & you gave it your all. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, by the way. On the flip side, learn from your mistakes, acknowledge them, then move on- try not to repeat them. You’re supposed to learn something from the experience (the learning curve).

(16) Celebrate your unique gifts. Celebrate what makes you YOU. (Don’t listen to the haters.) There is noone in the world quite like you, and it’s because you are special. Ever since you were very young, I saw your personality, and you’re still the sweet little girl, but pretty much, all grown up now, hahaha, time flies! Love yourself, flaws and all (acceptance). When you settle down, do not settle for just anyone, choose the best person for you, someone who will be your life partner, someone who will be there through everything, someone to share your highs and lows, someone who not only loves you, but respects you, and treats you well.

(17) Life is meant to be lived, enjoyed to the fullest (just don’t hurt anyone, break the law, or commit a crime, for that matter). One of my favorite celebrity quotes from Goldie Hawn is “Happiness is a choice.” Live in the present. Be happy now. Today. You see people walking around with perma-scowls, don’t be that person. Leave those people alone, don’t join their pity party, referring to the old saying, “Misery loves company.”

(18) It is about the journey, not the destination. Treasure those moments. Remember that beautiful sunrise or sunset. Look at that beautiful scenery/view after a tough hike up the mountain (soak it all in). Take pictures to reflect back on these happy times (pictures stop time). Make time for travel. (Remember the land of the FLORIDA? That was a fun!

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