Recently, I read an article where a 40-year-old woman gave advice to her 30-year-old self. Being sufficiently elderly at 31 (I guess women are elderly most of our lives?), I decided I would give some advice to my 20-year-old self.
But before I begin, I will say that I try to live life without regrets. Because of living with lupus and facing many disappointments due to the illness, I've learned that you can wish things turned out differently, but as they didn't, there is no use to dwell on the past. Instead, all we can do is move forward and use what we have learned. Indeed, I am pretty fulfilled and happy with how I have spent the past 10 years of my life--though there are some words of wisdom I would pass down to my younger self.
Oh, here she is in Grenoble, France on a night out:
1) You are worth more than the sum of your relationships.
In my teens and early 20s, I didn't really date all that much. I don't really know why, but I just didn't really have a serious boyfriend until I was 23, my first boyfriend until I was 20. Looking back, it seems so ridiculous to have worried so much about that, but at the time, I took it as a symbol that something was wrong with me.
My first boyfriend dumped me for another woman, my second boyfriend and I strung out our relationship far after it was over and then I was subsequently dumped two other times by two other men before settling down with my current boyfriend. I was wildly convinced I was un-relationshipable (which is not a word, but we're going with it). When people got to know me, there was something in there that was so terrible that it turned them off and made them run the other way.
But I finally met someone who I have been in a stable relationship with for two years and with whom I see a future. If it doesn't work out in the long run, I at least know that it isn't a product of me being impossible to be with. Instead, my dating resume before was filled with a combination of low self-esteem, inability to take charge, and bad luck.
2) Don't be afraid to take charge. I have always been somewhat of a risk taker in the form of being quite fearless over moving to new places and meeting new people. However, when it came to dating, I was far too scared to ever make the first move. While I'm very content with how my life turned out, I would tell my younger self not to be afraid to strike up a conversation with a crush or even ask him out. If he says no, on to the next one--it's a reflection more on what he's looking for than you.
3) Don't obsess over ex-boyfriends. For reals. WHO CARES? Why did you spend so much time doing this, self. You wasted so much time! Of course, you needed time to grieve after relationships end, but for godssake woman, pull yourself together and stop over analyzing everything. You could have been out there meeting new guys and enjoying all of your new experiences instead of thinking about a guy that dumped you in the back of your mind.
|Here I am also in France. I think I was 21 or 22 here. Cheated, but close enough.|
5) Seriously, screw what other people think. Even if they are friends or family members, you are living your life for yourself. If they don't like it, they can do something different with their own lives. You also don't have to put up with people's BS if you don't want to...unless you're working with them or you don't want to get into a family fight over Christmas dinner. Then, yeah, you do a little bit.
You also have the right not to listen to people who criticize your body or make sexual comments about it uninvited. Despite what people will say, you don't have to put up with it.
6) Stop being paralyzed by fear about the future. This is something I think my 40-year-old self will also tell my 30-year-old self. This is something I'm continually trying to work on--but as someone with a chronic illness, I find myself sometimes scared of what the future brings. I've made it okay thus far, so I think I'm going to be okay. I hope.
7) Learn the value of a dollar/pound. I grew up pretty privileged, I will admit that and am not apologetic about it. But I would tell my 20-year-old self to get my head out of my ass on that one. Money isn't going to come as easy and has a lot more value when you're making it yourself.
8) Don't set up unrealistic expectations for yourself. No, you didn't win an Academy Award at 14, nor did you publish a critically acclaimed novel by 25. Nor were you a millionaire by 30. Instead, focus on fulfilling yourself and achieving realistic things. If any of those things happen in the next 10 years, I'm not going to be mad, but I'm also not expecting it.
What would you tell your younger self?