Would you ever go back to your early twenties? I feel like I barely survived the first time, although I'd probably do a few things differently if I had the option to go back. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Here's my advice:
Keep studying but try to actually enjoy school more. You won't end up where you thought you would, so don't worry about taking all the required science and maths. Maybe expand your horizons with some humanities or even fine arts courses. You'll be surprised by how much you enjoy them.
Chemistry does not equal love and neither does comfort. You are not going to end up with any of the guys you think might be right for you right now. You won't even end up with the same TYPE of guy. You wouldn't believe me if I told you where your future husband is right now... (Probably in the high school English class your best friend is working in as a student teacher) so don't worry so much about meeting the right guy and just enjoy dating in general and keep an open mind. Try not to hurt the guy you're with and try to appreciate him more. You are not in love with him, so try to be strong enough to let him go so that he can be happy.
Focus on your friends. You'll be surprised by how many of them will still be important to you in many years. They are smart, so listen when they speak and try to be a good friend to them. You will learn a lot from them. You may think you're "one of the guys" but it is your friendships with other women that will end up fulfilling you and making you grow the most.
You will eventually become friends with your brother. It may seem like you may never get along but you will both eventually grow up and realize that you're much more similar than you think. I promise things will get better between you. You will be incredibly close with him and mom and they will be your most trusted advisors.
Be sympathetic and kind to your mom and try to be a better friend to her. This is not an easy time in her life. One day, when you are a little less selfish you will understand how hard she works and how much weight is on her shoulders and you will wish you had opened your eyes to it sooner. Be more respectful of her, because in a few years you will hope to be as smart and strong as she is.
You are tougher and more resilient than you think. There are some big challenges ahead, but you have exactly what you need to push through. Life is hard but it is also amazing! I promise that many of your dreams will come true... they just may be dreams you haven't dreamed yet. Love yourself because you are amazing!
Try to learn to like exercising. You will eventually need to do it and it may be easier if you start a little earlier. Also, wear sunscreen... you'll be terrified of sun damage and wrinkles in a decade. Don't be so vain. If you think it's a good idea to cut your own bangs to cover up a pimple, you are tragically wrong!
Most of all, enjoy the next few years... REALLY ENJOY THEM! This chapter will be over in an instant.
I also asked several smart women in my life the same question. I told them their responses could be anonymous. They came back to me with brutally honest advice that made me both laugh and cry. Here they are:
- Love and sex are not interchangeable
- The man you're with will break your heart, but don't leave him yet. The children you have with him will be the best part of your life.
- An open heart can receive love.
- Find someone you can love more with each year that passes. And remember, you marry the family, not just the man. Make sure it's a family you feel comfortable joining.
- Look for strength and stability first, excitement second. Motorcycle-driving "bad boys" are fun to read about, but that's all they are; works of fiction and pop culture. The truth is, there is nothing more appealing than a man who stands for his family and works hard every day to provide the best for them. There is nothing sexier than having your own personal hero come rescue you and your car out of your own driveway (for the third time in one winter.)
- Dear 20 year old self: A friend once told you that to meet a man, you need to look your best, stand a certain way, and to never act silly. She was wrong, especially about the acting silly part - your life will be so much better the more you dance, play, sing and explore.
- Sorrow is not forever, love is.
- Try and make an effort to stay in touch with high school friends. They were there for you for four years, and even though they are all at different universities, staying in touch is important.
- Stay in touch with your friends. It may seem hard while you are busy right now, but it will be harder to reconnect with them later.
- Hang out with people who make you laugh until you cry.
- Everything you thought you knew about baby headbands was wrong.
- Take time to get as much information out of your grandparents as possible before they pass away. Their generation went through hardships we can't even imagine, and it will put things in perspective when you learn about their lives when they were 20-Something.
- Stop thinking you're fat. You don't even know what fat is.
- Drink more. Hangovers only get worse with age.
- Travel as much as possible when you are this age (young). You wont be able to travel the same way once you have kids or even a secure career. Use university summers to explore the world.
- I want to say "Don't go so far away for grad school," but I can't because then I wouldn't have my job or some of my closest friends
- Don't forget your social graces. Say "please" and "thank you!"
- Let go of your barriers, don't be afraid to emote and feel. It's okay to cry for joy or sadness, no one will think you are weak. And, if they do, who cares.
- Have more sex with different guys. Be safe, but experiment a little more. You'll look back at those days fondly, rather than with shame.
- One of my friends felt her advice was best reflected through a song:
- Let go and don't be afraid-no venture, no gain. All you can do is live the best you can in the moment. Be your truest self, and be a little hopeful that life will bring you sweet surprises.
- Let go of the past and any harm that's been done to you and let Karma do the rest.
- The hard times are not necessarily bad times. The difficult times will pass and you will learn so much!
- Only YOU can fulfill your potential.
- Trust yourself.
- Every challenge is an opportunity in disguise. No matter what befalls us, WE choose how to react to it. Happiness is a choice.
- Follow your instinct, not the pack.
- Recognize the things in life that make you happy vs. the things that you think are supposed to make you happy.
- Never lose sight of your goals and dreams. They will change, but so will your priorities and you'll be much happier going with the flow.
- 30 isn't as old as you think it is.
- Don't take everything so seriously, be a little less intense. Age allows us to mellow, and that gives us time to consider everything before speaking. It's not a race to the finish and often little kindnesses get overlooked when you are constantly rushing.
- At least twice before you're 30, you will think your world has ended. You will be wrong.
- Take chances! Rejection hurts less than regret.
- Confront your mistakes. Nothing is worse than the time you lose hiding from them.
- My anonymous advice would be without a doubt to have more confidence. Confidence in who I am, what I like and to trust my own decisions. I think that I second guessed everything I did in my twenties and only when 30 hit did I fully feel ownership over my life. At 30 I felt so happy with everything and that I was exactly where I wanted to be. I loved turning 30!
One of the things I found most interesting about all the responses I received is how similar so much of the advice is and how true it rang for my own experience. Isn't it funny how similar we all are? I'll end with what might be my favourite last sentence from my friends' responses:
- Don't worry, you got this!
But wait, there's more:
In addition to wanting to hear from some of the very smart women in my life, I'd love to hear from other bloggers, so I'm making this a link party. I'd love to see your own version or variation of this post, so please feel free to add your link below and either grab a button, or link back here. Make sure to share the love by visiting (and commenting on) other blogs!
I can't wait to see what you guys come up with!