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Michelle Turnberg, Published August 26 2012

Turnberg: Advice for my 18-year-old self

I remember the day I moved into the freshman dorms at Concordia College. As our parents waved and drove away, my roommate and I did the same until we couldn’t see their pickup trucks anymore. Then we jumped and danced and screamed at how exciting this adventure was going to be.

Even now, my mom and dad are probably still cringing at the story.

It was such an exciting time in my life, and now when I see the students moving back into the dorms it makes me smile. I hope they know what an amazing opportunity awaits them.

The same goes for those kids going back to high school. I’ve never understood the people who hated high school. Those were some of the best days of my life – carefree with so many opportunities and your entire life in front of you.

Having been there and knowing what lies ahead, I sometimes think, “If only I knew then what I know now.”

This is what I’d tell my 18-year-old self:

E Take advantage of all the activities school has to offer. You probably won’t fully understand this until you are much older, but most adults look back at their high school or college days with pride or regret.

If they played sports they either had success or wish they would have worked harder.

I have friends that were incredible high school athletes: Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball, Prep Bowl Championship game MVP, State Track champions and some that went on to play professional sports and run or play in the Olympics. None of them would tell you they wish they would have partied more. But many who were talented and partied wished they would have practiced and played harder. You don’t get a second chance to be a star. You get one shot.

E Don’t be so anxious to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s the only time in your life you really don’t have responsibilities beyond school. You don’t have a mortgage; you don’t have a full-time job and kids to feed. Have fun with your friends and make memories. My girlfriends who had serious boyfriends in high school all say they wished they hadn’t.

E Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours. It’s that simple.

E Don’t share anything on Facebook you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see or read. It amazes me what people will put on Facebook. I am so glad it wasn’t around when I was growing up. Remember once you put a picture on the internet it is out there forever. Be smart. Know someday you will try to get a job and possibly be a parent yourself. And anything you put online can and will be held against you.

E Be kind. Your elementary and high school years can be tough, but don’t be a bully, and don’t be a mean girl. This is something I was always conscience of growing up. I don’t believe anyone would say I was ever unkind in high school, and it breaks my heart to see kids being mean to each other. Someday, later in life, you may cross paths with people from your past. If you were a bully this will come back to haunt you.

E Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

My best friends and I grew up together. We have known each other since elementary and those girls would do anything for me, and I would do anything for them. That kind of friendship is priceless.

Life is not always easy, but my friends and I often look back and laugh at how stressed out we thought we were when we were younger.

You have your entire life in front of you. Learn from the mistakes of others and blaze your own trail. And keep in mind the words of Ann Landers: “Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold you head high, look it squarely in eye and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.’”

Make it a great year.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for SheSays. She can be reached at michelleturnberg@gmail.com.