Turning 18 is an important event, marking our transition into adulthood. However, being a legal adult and acting like one are different things. Here are some important things you should know how to do before turning the big one eight.
1. Talk to People – Knowing how to talk to people you don’t know, especially if you’re introverted, might seem painful or even scary. But learning how to talk to people is essential for moving through the world as an adult. Whether approaching a store employee to ask where the deodorant is or calling your bank to ask about a fishy charge, being able to communicate effectively can help you learn how to successfully navigate challenging situations and build confidence in being independent.
2. Cook Meals – Pouring yourself a bowl of cereal or microwaving a mini-frozen pizza can only take you so far. Look up a recipe online or how to cook your favorite meal. If you fail? Keep trying! Even the best chefs do trial and error when preparing an entire meal. Check out this piece on how to get started cooking.
3. Do Laundry – You might be moving away for college or settling into your first place. Even if you’re not, knowing how to do your own laundry is an important step to becoming an adult. If you don’t know where to start, ask your parent/guardian or older sibling to help you. There are also many videos and articles online that provide step-by-step instructions on how to do laundry.
4. Drive – Learning how to drive and owning a car can offer greater freedom than being dependent on others for rides or relying on public transportation. Practice driving with a trusted adult or friend, and take your test when you feel confident.
5. Make a Doctor’s Appointment – by yourself – Being responsible for making your own medical appointments, like your general physician, dentist, and optometrist, sounds a little nerve-wracking. But the day you turn 18 is when your parents or guardians, unfortunately, can’t legally speak on your behalf anymore. So, put on those adult pants and start making your own appointments! You can practice what to say with your parent/guardian until you get it right. Calling to make an appointment is not as dreadful as burning up with a 99-degree fever. Luckily for you, a lot of providers allow online scheduling too! This can save you the time and anxiety of calling to schedule an appointment. If they have one, check your provider or clinic’s page online and see if there’s an option to schedule online.
6. Send an Email – As you start college or work at a professional job, emailing becomes the norm. Sending a clear, respectful, and polite email will help you earn respect and a response from the person you are sending it to. Learn about good email etiquette here.
7. Apply for a Job – As an adult, money becomes even more important than what it was to you as a teenager. It’s what helps to keep a roof over your head, pay for necessities, and buy the things you want. What’s the best and most secure way to earn money? Getting a job. But if it’ll be your first time working, you might not know where to begin. Click here to learn how to apply and interview for a job.
8. Have Your Own Bank Account – Speaking of money, you will need somewhere to deposit your first paycheck or money you get for holidays, your birthday, or graduation. For this reason, having a bank account that only you can access is a good idea. Opening a bank account might seem difficult, but we’ve got you covered on how to do so here.
9. Manage Your Money – If you’re living on your own, you’ll have bills to pay and necessities to purchase, like groceries and gas. Even if your family can help you, knowing how to manage your money is important. Getting in a good habit of managing your money will help you in the long run.
10. Vote and Know Who/What You’re Voting For – Along with freedom, turning 18 also brings some responsibilities, and voting is one of them. With great power comes great responsibility, so be sure to research political candidates before voting. Understand who you’re supporting and what they stand for, which issues you’re voting for or against, and how the voting process works at the Tribal, local, state, and national levels.
11. Know Your Way Around Town – No matter where you’re living, knowing your way around will save you from being lost and stressed. It can be dangerous if your car breaks down, you lose cell service, or you end up in a bad part of town. Although GPS, like Google Maps or Apple Maps, can help you with directions, you should become familiar with street names and landmarks that can help if you ever need to find your way home without your phone.
12. Set Boundaries – It’s impossible to do everything, and you’ll inevitably disappoint someone if you try to. Your time, peace, and energy are valuable. Learning to set healthy boundaries with those around you, from family to friends, protects all aspects of your health. It’s okay to say no to things you don’t want or need to do.
13. Apologize – You will be wrong sometimes. Other times, you might hurt someone’s feelings. You have to know when to swallow your pride, admit when you were wrong about something, and apologize for your words or actions – intentional or unintentional. Knowing how and when to apologize shows your maturity and supports healthy relationships.
14. Take Accountability – In addition to recognizing when you’re wrong, learn to take accountability for your mistakes and actions. Being an adult and strong leader is being accountable in leadership roles and everyday life. It’s normal to make mistakes. We all do! But own up to your mistakes, apologize, and work to do better in the future.
15. Communicate – When there’s no communication, there is no understanding. Being able to respectfully and effectively communicate your feelings, opinions, and boundaries is a skill that is useful throughout your entire life. Learning how to communicate can save you time, prevent misunderstandings and preserve relationships.
16. Manage Your Time – Whether you’re starting college or your career, you will likely have different tasks to accomplish while trying to manage your social life. Figure out how to prioritize your time. Find a balance between work, school, family, and friends. You can manage your time wisely using a planner or calendar app, or by keeping a to-do list.
17. Stick Up for Yourself – It’s normal to depend on your parents/guardians or older siblings to have your back when dealing with unfair treatment in school or situations. But being an adult includes knowing how to speak up for yourself. Life will have different situations where you might be in an argument or negotiation with an individual, organization, or business where you will need to stand your ground. Although being direct might seem scary, knowing how to do so respectfully but sternly can help you set boundaries and honor your values.
18. Fall and Get Back Up – Failing is a part of growing up and life. If you never fail, how are you supposed to learn and grow to become the person you’re meant to be? If you fall, dust yourself off and get back up. Every strong person, person you admire, and person you want to become has fallen and risen like a phoenix from the ashes. Be sure to, as well. In the words of Wilma Mankiller, a Cherokee activist, “the secret of our success is that we never, never give up.”
Being 18 is just the beginning of adulthood. The tools provided in this list will help you enter adulthood with confidence and the necessary skills to face the challenges that await you.
For more information about adulting, check out these resources:
Acknowledgment: Some of the content in this article was inspired by or taken from the “18 Things Every 18-Year-Old Should Know How to Do” article from Earn Spend Life, a space where twentysomethings can get direction and advice on life.
Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.