tl;dr: My 18-year-old self made poor life decisions—and they turned out to be okay
If you’ve seen the latest season of Stranger Things season 3 on Netflix, you’ll notice that there were a lot of poignant scenes that really capture what it feels like to grow up. And if you haven’t seen the newest teen adventure from the strange town of Hawkins, you can read up on it here. Also, warning: spoiler below.
Still with me? Good. Throughout season 3, we see trusty Will Byers struggle to grow up after essentially having a small chunk of his life taken away during his time in the Upside Down, which has affected his relationships with his friends. Everyone else seems to want to grow up and go their own ways, but will desperately tries to hold on to what he’s lost. This culminates in a bunch of crazy adventures, which ultimately lead to the Byers family moving out of Hawkins.
Now you may be asking, “Well, what’s this got to do with the article?” Well, as I prepare for my own move to another country, it got me thinking: How did I get from that point in my life when I was younger to here? And what would I say to my younger self if I could?
I believe that everyone goes through something of a “life challenge” or—as I like to call it—a life-defining screw up. So to answer the questions above, let me tell you how my 18-year-old self was.
Much like everyone else growing up, I had strived for a linear path in life: college, work, house, family. But similar to Will, my 18-year-old self had that life-defining screw up that derailed me from the rose-colored life I thought I had to (and would inevitably) have no matter what.
It started in college. I was lucky enough to get into a sought-after course in a prestigious university in Taft. As a bright-eyed teenager, I spent my early university years having the most possible fun that I could. After all, it was a bright new world right out of high school.
So I blew off classes and homework and tests all in the name of having fun. And to no one’s surprise (except my own), the things I had been blowing off had come to bite back as I was swiftly on my way to transferring schools, filled with a sense of true dread for the first time in my idyllic life.
After transferring, I was in a horrible personal state. I felt inferior to everyone around me for not being able to stay on that rose-colored path and it came out in ways I wasn’t always proud of. I was eager to please, as if trying to reclaim my lost validation from other people. I was quick to judge other people’s mistakes to make myself feel better about mine. Shitty, I know.
But you see, when I was younger, it was my entitlement that led me to believe that everything would just work out, that life owed me something and that I was going to receive it no matter what and with no problems. But as I found out, life doesn’t work that way and it doesn’t owe you anything.
Life moves on though and I (eventually) did come to understand that my mistake was my own fault completely, that I was not a “special child” that could do nothing wrong and I’m honestly grateful for the experience.
I had come to find out that adversity really does build character and it changed the way I viewed the world and life. Life didn’t care what I did, so I should just live it the way I want to: to fail, to struggle, to be kind to who I could be kind to and—most of all—work for what you want. After all, starting something, even poorly, is a million times better than not starting it at all.
Everyone in life will make a life-defining screw up. If it hasn’t happened now, it definitely will. We aren’t meant to be perfect and we shouldn’t be. I think life is how you deal with your mistakes and how you learn from them, rather than striving for an unattainable goal, like being perfect.
There’s a scene towards the end of Stranger Things season 3 where El reads a letter from her adoptive father Hopper. And if I were to give my younger self a letter, it would probably read the same:
“Make mistakes, learn from them and when life hurts you, because it will, remember the hurt.
The hurt is good.
It means you’re out of that cave.”
With my move rapidly approaching, I’m ready to face whatever life throws at me and happily start a new life full of mistakes elsewhere. And much like Will in the finale, I’ll be away from my friends—but I’m glad that I’m lucky enough to have people that I’d hate to leave.
Words Mon Medrano
Art Alexandra Lara