Dear 18-year-old Ritika,
Although I don't exactly wish you could meet your future self (because then, what mystery would there be about the future?), but I do want to send you love. I love your wild abandon, your trusting soul, your curious mind and optimism... All of which seems to get tainted with time. Don't ever let go of your values, don't settle for less, don't stop trusting your instincts.
Most of all, I want to tell you that in life there are no dress rehearsals. I learnt this much later. Some decisions like, who you marry and why, are far too important to be based on romantic whims. Even though you feel like you're all grown up, there is a lot of conventional wisdom that only comes with age and experience. While you feel your parents don't quite understand you (and maybe they don't), they still wish the best for you. Don't choose to buckle under social pressure to do as the others do. But do take the trouble to explain your choices to your loved ones. Communication is a strong bonding device.
Love will come from a lot of sources if you're lucky. Don't just invest in one relationship. As for friendships, the best ones will stick around and the rest will fade away. Be sure to cherish the ones that do. If you happen to find a companion you feel could commit to for life, then do so. There are many uncharted territories you'll have to venture into to experience joy and pain firsthand.
Like becoming a parent. It's the most rewarding experience a human being can ever have. Be kind, be patient. Be all the things you'd like your child to emulate.
Be wise in choosing a career that you're likely to be interested in and not something someone else picks for you. It's a real asset that will see you through tough times.
I came to be interested in money rather late in life. Well, some things you learn along the way. When people say life goes full circle, they mean you'll discover many traits your mom had in yourself when you become a parent. You'll learn that a few qualities you were judgemental about in others, reside in you too. There are no black and whites – it's all grey.
Now for the small stuff. There are things you couldn't be bothered about then... learning to cook, to drive or to keep accounts. It's okay if you do or you don't. Although it does make it easier to not have to rely on others for these things. Everyone will give you advice every step of the way. You'll know what fits with your priorities. Travel, if that's most important to you. Invest in a house if that's what will bring you peace of mind. Have a side project or hobby with nothing else to gain but the joy of creating.
Last but not the least, give back whenever you can. People have helped you and touched your life in ways that are beyond you. Stay positive. We're all equipped to bounce back through the worst of times. When you're low, just think “this too shall pass”. Life truly is short – so do something that counts. Make the best use of time.
I wonder what my future self has to add to that, at this point!