I wouldn’t say that I regret any of my adult decisions because my choices made me who I am and I’m pretty okay with myself. With that being said, things could have been a little easier and sometimes I fantasize about what I’d say to younger me if I could go back in time. I think I’d still do the same things, still have dated the same people, for example, but I’d tell younger me to move on the moment I realized that person just wasn’t right for me. I wish that the moment I realized I wanted to be a writer, I’d have sat down and wrote and sent things off for publication. Instead, I studied sociology and researched things like human sexual fluidity and the social impact of after-school programs because just going for what I really wanted seemed somehow “irresponsible.” That’s not to say I didn’t love doing research, but I’d much rather write about that one time my dad told me that humans are born with 567 bones but when they die they only have 426 bones. Or that time I went to visit my grandma when she was dying from cancer and I walked in to find her smoking a cigarette and drinking whiskey while hooked up to an oxygen machine. I love people and storytelling.
So, if I could go back in time to have a conversation with myself, this is the advice I’d give M.E. Then I’d high-five myself and say something like, “damn girl, red lipstick does look good on you.”
- Every relationship doesn’t need to work out. Every date doesn’t need to be destined for marriage or a long-term commitment. Don’t feel bad when a relationship tanks or never gets off the ground because all that means is that person wasn’t right for you. When you meet the dude you’re supposed to marry, you’ll know. Also? He has an accent. Raaaaar.
- Follow the 80/20 rule, young M.E. There’s a huge difference between a bad relationship with great moments and a great relationship with bad moments. If your relationship makes you feel like crap most of the time, get out. I promise you, people always upgrade from one relationship to the next and you’ll find someone way better. At the same time, everyone is flawed. Remember that time you broke up with someone because you didn’t like how they chewed? Yeah…
- Be careful who you choose to invest time and energy in. Nobody’s perfect and everyone does shit that’s not ideal. But there’s a difference between shit behavior and a person who doesn’t contribute shit. It’s one thing for a friend to get too drunk and puke on your favorite shoes and say something they don’t mean. It’s another thing to have a one-sided friendship, a person who only calls when they need something, for example. Or, someone who tries to one-up you constantly or manipulate you. Friends who are abusive or manipulative, judgemental or compulsively dishonest, you can do without. Get rid of people who consistently bring you down. You know those friends who get mad at you for studying instead of doing vodka shots with them at the local pub? Yeah, you don’t need that.
- It’s okay to tell people what you want or don’t want, like or don’t like. It’s okay to talk about how you feel and to set standards with people in your life, respectfully and with tact. You can do all of this while being nice as hell. You don’t need to be an asshole to be heard. Calm down.
- Self-care books aren’t nearly as lame as they sound. Work on yourself, grow, improve, and you’ll be so much happier. I mean, you’ll say douchey things like, “my self-care activity today is,” but you’ll be happy as hell while you do it.
- Black is the best choice color for all clothing and you’re on point, babe. Never change that. However, let’s discuss your excessive use of safety pins on t-shirts. You actually look like a sewing kit vomited on you. You’re going for punk rock but you actually look like Frankenstein’s monster.
- You don’t need to hang out with the people you’re dating 24/7. It’s a terrible idea. Go on a trip with your female friends, have a standing movie date with a bud, grab wine and sit on a friend’s couch. Don’t neglect your friends or family for your partner, ever, because you need both to be balanced and happy in the long term.
- Self-sabotage is a real thing and you need to stop doing it. Stop freaking out about not being good enough. Just write some shit, put it out into the world, and when it’s rejected just pick yourself up and do it again. It’s fine, you’ll survive. Which brings me to #9.
- Fail hard, fail often, make it a goal to fail. Failure makes you stronger and it’s the best way to learn and grow. Stop being afraid of it.
- You don’t need to be perfect or great. Instead, make it your goal to just show up and do your best.
- Stop taking yourself so seriously! Jesus, you’re 22! Laugh about it!
- Let go of your anger towards your dad (or anyone). Just sit him down and talk with him about how you feel. TALK ABOUT IT. Tell him you forgive him and move on. It takes a scary amount of energy to be angry with people, way too much energy, and it’s not worth it. Anger won’t protect you, it won’t stop you from getting hurt or keep you safe, it will literally just make one aspect of your life shit. Let it go.
- That thing you do where you replay things that happen over and over in your head? That’s called rumination and it’s an anxiety thing. Don’t let yourself do it. Tell yourself, “ah, anxiety,” and do something to distract yourself. Also, stop bottling up your emotions because later in life it causes fun little meltdowns and costs a fortune in therapy.
- Your siblings look up to you, a lot. No matter how annoying they are, just try to be there for them. Listen to them, give them advice, and compliment them often. You really don’t know what could happen. And in fact, you lose a brother in your late twenties. Don’t leave room for regret, it hurts too much.
- Learn about finances! Go to the library right now and check out a book. Learn how to budget, figure out how to invest, and for the love of the universe, invest in something amazing and open an IRA account. Saving early means the difference between retiring at 55 or 80.
- Exercise, you lazy asshole. Put down your Vonnegut novel and go hiking or something. When you decide you actually want to be in shape in your thirties, it’s way harder because you were so goddamn lazy in your twenties. I mean, seriously, how can you sit around so much?
- Move out of your hometown earlier. Your twenties will be the most flexible time of your life. You can always go back home but you won’t always have the chance to move to new places. Spend a year in New York, a year in L.A., a year in Charleston. Change is also great for writing, so do more of that. Yes, you move out of the country at 29 and that was smart, but do it sooner.
- Find balance. It’s awesome to care about causes and to strive to make the world a better place, but you can’t do good if you’re depressed all the time from focusing on all the negative things in the world. Do what you can, be informed, but injustice doesn’t need to be your every waking thought. At some point, you’ll burn out. Also? Get off of your soapbox and just listen to other people. Believe what you believe but find middle ground with people who are different than you. Don’t write people off because they’re politics, ideology or worldviews are different. Ask questions and listen. I promise it won’t change who you are but it will help you grow.
- Stop getting in your own way, trust your intuition, and believe in yourself. Seriously, you’ve got this.
What would you tell yourself if you had the chance to go back in time and give yourself advice?