5 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

And, just like that – another year has come and gone! As I got to thinking about what I wanted to post today for my birthday, I actually ended up doing some self-reflection. It’s crazy to me that 10 years ago today, I turned 18 and was on the brink of adulthood. It was a time of excitement and uncertainty. If only I had a crystal ball so I could look ahead and see how everything turned out, right?! That’s why I decided to write a letter with 5 things I wish I could tell my 18-year-old self.

5 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 18-Year-Old-Self, Kim Kedinger Photography 2017, Thelma Sadoff for the Arts Fond du Lac, Wis.

Dear 18-year-old Karly …

Quit being so hard on yourself.

You don’t know this yet, but your high school days will hardly matter once you’re off at college. Yes, good grades matter (you already have been accepted early to Drake University!) and it’s good to be involved, but those aren’t the end-all-be-all ways of life. You’re a hard-working, dedicated student, but cut yourself some slack every now and then. Crying over a project or having anxiety about writing the best possible thesis paper (although, your thesis on polygamy does turn out pretty stellar!) is SO not worth it. The 28-year-old version of myself is still working through this!

Enjoy the moment that you’re in.

This goes hand-in-hand with what we just discussed, but you need to live in the now. You’ve been so focused on getting through high school and off to college since sophomore year. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking ahead, but that also means that you’re probably missing out on what’s happening around you right now. Ask mom and dad if you can stay out a little later after Friday night pep band, and go hang out with your friends at Caribou Coffee or someone’s house. Social memories are just as (if not more) important than academic ones, and that’s probably what you’ll remember most as you get older.

LC Lauren Conrad blush peplum topKate Spade Pride & Prejudice book clutch

Adopt healthy habits now.

You’ve always been athletic and basically genetically blessed with height and a small waist. But, trust me – that’s not going to last past college. Make the gym a regular part of your routine now so you’re not struggling to figure it out years down the road. Also, make sure you take care of your skin. Ditch the tanning bed now, and try as hard as you can not to pick at any blemishes. You don’t want to constantly cover up acne scars, do you? If you start these habits now, maybe you won’t have to deal with mild adult acne like I do! And, make sure you slather sunscreen all over that surgery scar on your neck. If you take care of it like I know you will, you won’t even be able to see it in a few years.

Protect your heart.

I don’t solely mean this from boys, but from friends and close acquaintances, too. All I want to tell you about the first is that the guy you’re “dating” right now is so far from who you’re supposed to be with. I wish I could go back in time and run away myself. But, you’ll figure it out on your own soon enough. And, psst – you’re going to meet your future husband in a little more than a year. 🙂 As far as friends, don’t close yourself off but don’t go in with such trust either. You’re going to get burned more times than an 18-year-old should – some of it by your own doing. But, if you take care and shield yourself from some of it up front, it won’t be as difficult to deal with. Also, insist to mom and dad that you get a single room at college instead of a double with a roommate. That’s a story for another time, but trust me on that one. It will save you so much emotional sanity and heartache.

Never (ever!) change who you are.

I hope this goes without saying, but I just want to remind you of the most important point in this whole letter. You’ve never been a follower. You always march to the beat of your own drum and do what YOU want to do, not what others expect you to do. You truly are an individual, and you’re pretty good at not caring what other people think about you (thanks, Dad for this trait!).  This often is questioned, and it’s definitely not the easiest way to live. People will try to change you, compromise your beliefs, but just stick to who you are. Be proud of yourself and what you stand for! You do you, and it will take you so far throughout college and your early adult life.

5 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

sweater, jeans & flats: Kohl’s | earrings: don’t remember, but here’s similar ones | book clutch: Kate Spade

28-year-old Karly (who’s still trying to figure things out most days, too!)

Ryan and I are away on vacation this week to celebrate my birthday and bask in some much-needed sunshine and warmth! Regular content will be up, but things mostly will be quiet on my end. Can’t wait to catch up with all of you next week!

What do you wish you could tell your younger self?

photos by Kim Kedinger

Leave a Comment


  1. 3.1.17

    happy belated birthday girl! omg LOVE that book clutch!!!
    i wish i could tell my 18 year old self all this… heck, wish my 30 year old self would learn it. haha!

  2. 2.28.17

    This is such a cute post! Happy birthday and love your top!

  3. 2.27.17

    I LOVE this post, I would tell myself all the same things – why were we so so hard on ourselves? Hope you’re having the best vacation and birthday ever! xx

  4. 2.27.17

    I love this! So many of these applied to my 18 year-old self too. Happy Birthday!

    Southern Style

  5. 2.27.17
    Mia- MakeMeUpMia said:

    Happy birthday beautiful, enjoy your vacation!

  6. 2.27.17

    Happy happy birthday, and I hope that you’re having the best time on vacation! I love where you said to protect your heart! I feel like I’m still working on cutting people out of my life that make me feel bad. There’s really no need for that at all!

    • 3.4.17

      I’m definitely still working on that, too! It’s not that I want to close myself off to people, it’s just learning how to not be so open and trusting right away.

  7. 2.27.17
    katie arnold said:

    Happy Birthday! You are so photogenic and always look great in your photos. Would love to read a post on you and Ryan meeting!

    • 3.4.17

      How sweet, thank you! And that is a fun post idea, it never occurred to me that I never shared how Ryan and I met. Thanks for the suggestion!

  8. 2.27.17

    I love this post idea! Oh what I would tell my 18 year old self… Yes, stay AWAY from the tanning beds, please! And the boy drama seems so silly now, doesn’t it? I love these photos of you! Hope you are enjoying yourself on your getaway! Happy Birthday!!

  9. 2.27.17

    Love this! It’s insane that it’s been TEN years since we were 18!!! SO crazy! Happy Birthday girlfriend and hope you guys have the best time on your trip!

  10. 2.27.17
    Christina Sotherden said:

    Happy, happy birthday!! I hope you guys have the best time away – I can’t wait to hear about it!

  11. 2.27.17
    Pamela said:

    Girl, yes to all of this! So many things I wish I could have told my younger self. Happy birthday sweet friend! <3, Pamela Sequins & Sea Breezes

  12. 2.27.17

    Happy Birthday!! So much good advice in this post– for any age! I hope you guys are having an amazing vacation!

  13. 2.27.17
    Debra Stachelski said:

    Happy Birthday to my dear, sweet girl! This was an emotional read, you have always been wise beyond your years. We all have so much to learn at any age! I hope you have a magical birthday at “the happiest place on earth!”

  14. 2.27.17

    This is such a sweet post! I love letters to past-selves. I’m sure there’s a whooole lot I could’ve told myself at 18 years old…and 19, 20, 21. Ha! Happy birthday 🙂

  15. 2.27.17

    Karly this might be one of my favorite posts from you- I absolutely LOVE this! It’s so fun to read about 18 year old you! Everyone should right a letter like this- It feels like it would help you realize just how far you’ve come. And these pictures, and that clutch!! I just love it all so much.

    • 3.4.17

      Awe, thank you for your kind words! They mean so much. I wish I wasn’t still working on some of this 10 years later – especially being hard on myself – but at least I can see the progress from being a teenager to an adult.

  16. 2.27.17

    This is great advice to EVERYONE but I certainly needed to hear it when I was 18, too. Not that I would have listened 😉 Happy Birthday!! Enjoy that vacay!

  17. 2.27.17
    Biana Perez said:

    Happy birthday girl!! Wishing you all the best!! xo, Biana –BlovedBoston