Every two weeks my office has an all staff meeting. It has become a tradition at these meetings for someone to ask a “question of the day.” Some people may hate these types of things, but I actually really like them. It’s a nice way to learn a little bit more about the people you spend the majority of you time interacting with. Anyway, yesterday was probably the most insightful question we’ve had yet; if you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
The instant the question was asked I thought “wow, I could write a book.” I stuck to the question and only provided one answer, but it got me thinking about what other advice I would pass on.
Let go of jealousy and envy. It’s so easy to look at someone else and think her life is perfect, and to be jealous of that perfect life. But the reality is that no one’s life is perfect. We all usually put our best foot forward in public, we don’t wave our problems and troubles in everyone’s face. What you see that seems so perfect is simply that she has something you want and don’t have. You don’t see that you yourself actually might have something that she wishes she had, something that you are failing to appreciate. Your time and energy will be better spent appreciating what you have, and figuring out what you can do to obtain those things you wish you had. Feeling jealous and envious will only fill you with negativity and make you a miserable person.
Don’t dye your hair. Your natural color is not as ugly and mousey as you think it is. If you dye your hair you will begin a vicious cycle. You will have to constantly keep up with the dying. You will spend countless amounts of money on hair dye. You will get dedicated to one brand and one color only to have the color discontinued or the brand disappear. If your color of choice is on the blonde spectrum you are probably frying your hair. When you decide to stop dying your hair it will take you almost two years to completely grow it out, luckily those two years will happen to coincide with the ombre hair fad.
You will never have it all “figured out”. I know, you look at adults and they seem like they have it all together. They put on professional clothes, they go to jobs in nice offices, they pay bills, they have kids. You feel so scattered and lost at times, the world seems so big and confusing, but these adults seem like they’ve figured out how to navigate it all. So of course you assume that once you become an “adult” you will suddenly and magically have everything figured out. You will know what you want to do with your life. You will know how to manage a budget. You will know everything you need to buy a house. You will know how to raise another human being. But really, the only thing you figure out as you get older is how to fake it more convincingly. There is no magic age at which this complete wealth of knowledge about the world is bestowed upon you. We’re all flailing around trying to figure things out, and really we’re all just faking it ’til we make it.
Take some risks. I feel like I played life a bit too much on the safe side when I was younger. When I graduated high school I had no idea what I really wanted to do, I even contemplated taking a year off before college. But, in the end I played it safe. I was an excellent student, excellent students don’t take a year off, at least that’s what I thought. So I went to college right away. I wanted to major in something artsy, but I needed a job to pay my living expenses and the artsy majors didn’t leave a lot of extra time for jobs because of the necessary extra curriculars. I took AP Psychology in high school and got the highest score possible on the AP exam. Psych seemed like a safe major, so that’s what I did. I got involved in some research with a professor in the Psych department. I enjoyed it, I thought about getting a masters or PhD in Pscyh, but the thought of the “publish or perish” pressure scared me. I knew I needed some sort of graduate degree to really do much. I barely squeaked through chemistry, so I landed on law school. All I will say about that is the best things that came out of law school were meeting my husband and a small handful of good friends, otherwise it was very much not worth the money I now pay back each month.
Call your grandmother more than you think you need to. A day will come when you go to call her and she won’t be there to answer. You will regret all of the times you thought about calling her, but put it off to another day.
Don’t spend time caring what other people think. The only opinion that matters is yours. Worrying what other people think about you will only hold you back, it will never push you forward. No one is actually paying as much attention to you as you think they are, really, they’re all too busy focusing on themselves. Be confident in who you are. Let your freak flag fly. Don’t be afraid to express yourself.
This is just a small handful of what I have come up with. Unfortunately, as of now it is not possible to travel back in time and pass all of this wisdom to my younger self. But here’s part of the magic of having a child, while I can’t go back and tell myself these things, I can pass the knowledge on to my daughter. Granted, I realize, there is a good chance that much of it will go in one ear and out the other, but some of it might stick, and might help her get through those tough years just the tiniest bit easier. If that happens, then I will consider this whole parenting thing a success, and if not I’ll just continue faking it.