With graduation season in full swing, it’s time to dispense all our “nuggets of wisdom” on the newest members of adult society–the high school graduate.

I’m certainly young (25) to be handing out advice, but age has never stopped me from doing anything before.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve made so many mistakes in the course of my life.
That said, here’s what I wish I had known at 18.

1) Fail gloriously.  Buckner, Leon Lett, Chris Webber–the sports world is replete with examples of individuals who made gigantic blunders.  Get into the sort of positions that when you make mistakes, they matter.  And when you make them, admit them, learn from them, and move on.  You’ll be far better for it than if you had stayed at home and never tried anything.

2)  Take as much responsibility for your life as you possibly can.  You will be far more happy and fulfilled than if you don’t.  Pay for your own college.  Buy a car.  Even if it takes you longer to get your degree, your degree will be more meaningful to you than those who get through on Mom and Dad’s dime.

3)  Read.  Read bad books, read good books, read old books, read new books.  Fiction, non-fiction, poetry–read it all.  You can learn a lot from books, and you can train yourself to become a good person by reading well.

4)  Pray.  If you are in college and aren’t paying for it yourself, the extra time you have isn’t for video games–it’s for prayer.  It may be your only opportunity to have enough time to spend one, two or three hours a day reading the Bible and praying–seize it.

5)  Think twice as much about marriage as you do about dating.  Trust me, I’d say more, but I’m writing a book on this.  There’s far too much to say about it for this little list.

6)  Your friends matter more than you know.  You’ve heard this a billion times, and you still don’t believe it–but it’s true.   Find two or three members of the same sex that pray more than you, and then don’t let them out of your sight.

7)  Keep your mouth shut at home.  And probably everywhere else, for that matter.  You may actually have the world figured out at 18–really, you might.  But even if you do, no one is going to listen to you.  

8)  Read your Bible.  This should be a given, but it’s not.  Start with Paul, because his letters are short.  Read through one letter each day for 30 days, then switch letters.  Compare the two to each other.  Repeat the process, adding letters all the time.

9)  Super cool people get involved.  They’re the sort of people who are giving and giving and giving, and somehow they manage to be approachable and fun and joyful.  Find them and act like them.

10)  Find joy.  Cynicism awaits you, especially if you go to a Christian college where everyone is smiling.  You may be tempted to reject it all and “see through” to the underlying pain and suffering in people’s lives.  You may reject the “Hollywood endings” in favor of darker, more depressing films because they are “real” or “artistic.”  But you will cut yourself off from the joy for which you have been created and the laughter and the happiness that is the higher, purer and more real reality.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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