Things I Wish I Had Known at 18

After one year and 5 months of being back here, the reality of having a full-time job pauses my head from re-playing the Europe memories over and over again. The yearning to set my feet lose again didn’t quite ceased though, for I was not the wisest at using time.

University is just the beginning of your life – some said. Oh how I wish I had listened to them and made the most out of it. I should have spoken to more people. Maybe I wouldn’t be craving the white steps of Santoniri and the surrealistic landscape of Cappadocia so much If I had decided to stay behind during summer. Perhaps adopt my cat earlier and my goodbye with her didn’t have to be so soon. Or going to clubs more often, or get my driving license in Europe… All the decisions that could have made my life presumably better then are the ones I did not choose.

But what do you know when you’re 18 – right?. You are a kid, you are living in strangers’ land, you know nothing and the best way to learn is through your mistakes – so I’m going to tell you about mine – the things I wish i had known at 18.

(and yes you’re about to have a peek through my sketchbook too xD )

1. Don’t love because you’re lonely

Sketch, 20.10.16

My grave mistake.

Some of us went aboard to study at schools and living in places that were favorable to our parents’ concerns, conditions and financial situation. We will not always get to live in exciting cities like NYC, HongKong, or London. My city is the second largest in Hungary, but compared to the busy streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, it’s more like the quiet town of Da Lat. Luckily I have friends and people who care for me there, but I was also too stupid to not find them ‘enough’. 

2 months forward, I met someone and we quickly got into a relationship. We didn’t even take time to ‘know’ each other properly before we dated. It was the impulsive first-sight physical attraction, yet we stayed together for 3 years – I stayed for 3 years. Through all the mental abuses and mistreatments, I stayed. Part of me naively thought if I was nice and kind and forgiving, maybe I could have changed him for the better. But the other part of reality was just simply loneliness. 

He didn’t have friends. I did, but I couldn’t see pass what I had then. It’s always easier to be give up than to fight. Even anger does not win. What goes after the madness? The fear of loneliness you’ll have left. “What will I do everyday after we break up?” “Who will I hang out with?” “How will I respond to people?”… on and on. I fear a life without him because I confine myself to what I’ve known. And I didn’t know much because never once did I allow myself a chance to feel better.

In the first 3 years in Europe, I’ve only been to the clubs 3 times, at a house party 1 time, travelled to 1 country, made less friends than I would want to tell.

Sad, isn’t it?

Which leads me to my next point.

2.  Fears will kill your opportunities

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So speak more – Talk more – Create chances for yourself

Don’t be afraid to speak to strangers, be it your new classmates, people you met at a club, or just in a random museum. Just be nice and do the Hello – How are you – What brought you here – Is this what you’re interested in – Me too – and dig further down. Who knows where the conversation will lead? You might have found a good friend that day who will give you nice memories and treasurable knowledge, or better yet, welcome you to their home if you ever come back again.

Don’t be afraid of the new. If you will have better opportunity at a new city or country, don’t be afraid to go. I’ve had friends who refused to go elsewhere due to “I don’t have friends there” or “My boy/girlfriend is still here”. This is not the age to let someone’s existence be the reason of your life choices. Don’t be irresponsible to yourself and your future.

Therefore, above all – don’t be afraid to think for yourself. Don’t feed your mind with excuses because you can create a thousand reasons not-to, but sometimes all you need is one reason to put it into reality. And maybe that one sole decision is the one that might give your life its turn. Who knows, right? it doesn’t hurt to try. Even failures give you lessons, and that is still a lot better than living your whole life regretting the things you could have fixed.

3.  Go places

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I’m not telling you to travel, but to go places. and that could be just about anywhere.

Of course, having a check-in post in a different city and new country every now and then on Facebook is pretty cool. But If you’re living on budget, discover your city, take your bike and get to the outer rear of town, be mesmerized by the endless fields of sunflowers, smell freedom in the air, learn a bit about the life of people here and there.. It’s going to be worthwhile. It’s going to be a good story to tell. It’s going to be the pieces of memories you will keep for a long time – because it will give you a reason to go places again.

If I had gotten a driver’s license, I would be writing about my road trip across the countries and cities of Europe, the playlist that me and my friends have put on our radio, how our car has broken down midways.. Instead of talking about the mistakes done by an old child who didn’t know better.

The story about that time when you were “18 and having the best time of your life” sounds good indeed, don’t you agree?

4. It’s okay to let go

I didn’t have to leave the crowd at 11:30PM because somebody is urging me to go home, I didn’t have to book my cab back whenever he gets angry at me for leaving him alone too long. I didn’t even have to stay, but leaving was hard.

Letting go was never easy for anyone. For me it was extremely hard because that means I’m admitting that I was wrong, that it was a failure, that all my years-long efforts were wasted, and a sign to my inadequacy.

I thought I was in control of my life, that the wheel is in my hands and wherever that destination is, I have the complete power to lead it there. While that is partly true, you can not sail on broken wings. The world does not weather the way you want it to be. The longer you try to hold on to the “maybe” and “what if”, the longer the storm is wearing you down. Sometimes we have to learn it the hard way, and sometimes we have to heal the hard way too.

This is not restricted to just relationships. Be it your friendship, your major, your city, perhaps even your part-time job. Realizing something does not do you good is one of the first steps, and to finally choosing to move on is the turning decision to building a better you.

5. This too shall pass

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No rainbows and sunshines last longer than a day, so do all the harsh and stormy weather. This is temporary. You will be fine. You will smile along someone who loves you dearly. You will have hundreds more good meals with the people who appreciate you. You won’t have to wonder why this or that happened, why they mistreated you so badly in spite of the goodness you offered. For all is temporary, and this too shall pass.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Linh K. Tran says:

    Thank you for sharing, much of it is very relatable to me, especially no 1 and 4. But you’re on a great track right now and your mistakes made you the mature and thoughtful person you are today so I think they happened for a reason. Love you mucho ❤️

    1. Hiyo Anh Le says:

      I think people only regret the things they haven’t done but I’m grateful for the life lessons nonetheless. Thankyou sister. Wish you best of lucks on your final year too ❤️

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