1. Letting anybody convince you that because you’re young, you’re incapable.
Plato began his career in politics before he was 20, (and has stated that he faced ridicule in his coming-of-age for that reason.) Some of the greatest cultural tycoons of this century were in their 20s when their first huge contributions were made: Jobs, Zuckerberg, etc. Imagine where we’d be if they listened to the people who said, what do you know?
2. Arguing with people whose intentions are not to understand you, only to prove themselves right.
You do not owe it to anybody to carry on a conversation that is only serving the ego, but you do owe it to yourself to step out of the inevitable frustration and self-doubt of interacting with people who don’t listen to understand, but to respond; who don’t speak to be heard, but to defend.
3. Wasting your energy placating the habits of people who don’t take the initiative to actually get their shit together.
Often the most frustrating thing about dealing with someone who is going through a tough time is that they aren’t willing to listen to reason or logic, or even simply, your opinion. You end up having to pretend. You nod along with whatever they’re saying because you don’t want your every interaction to turn into a fight. The resentment will build and the relationship will crumble anyway.
4. Justifying your choices to people who only care about how you look within the context of their lives.
The people who will squawk the loudest about what you should and shouldn’t do or how you’re on the wrong path or whatever else they couldn’t possibly have the grounds to know are usually the ones most concerned with how it makes them look, and how they’re going to explain you to friends or cousins or sisters or family or coworkers. Remember that while you’re deciding who matters, and while we’re on the topic…
5. Remaining in contact with people you don’t like because you “should,” because it’s more convenient, because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t, because you’re too afraid of what someone will think if you’re finally honest with yourself and other people.
You do not have to waste your life bending over backwards to make people happy when they don’t — and wouldn’t — do the same for you.
6. Holding onto love that’s already run its course because you fear the best has passed you or you won’t find anybody who makes you feel the same way. .
The purpose of most great love is to gut you open, teach you what you need to know, and send you on your way to bigger, better, even happier things. Don’t let your irrational fears talk you out of letting yourself find that.
7. Eating food you don’t like, keeping plans you don’t want, staying digitally connected with people who annoy you, hoarding clothes for a “someday” that never comes and putting your life on hold for someone who does not — and will never want — to commit.
The amount of life we waste gathering and holding onto the things that will never really serve us does one thing and one thing only: keeps us away from the things that matter, that bring us joy and purpose and meaning, for that much longer.
8. Not taking time to figure out what you want, even if it’s to be okay with knowing you’re not sure and don’t need to be. Don’t let the fear of not finding something definitive keep you from finding anything at all.
You’ll be running around in the circles somebody else drew for you so long as you don’t take the time to reflect and evaluate and really connect with that core, inner knowing that screams when you come across something you know is what you’re meant to do or be or become — even if it’s just for a day, and hour, a year.
9. Not taking the time to heal the wounds of your childhood.
The things that have molded you will be constructs that you — and only you — will have to dismantle for yourself. The time to do this will either be now, while you’re still adaptable and developing, or later, when your unhealed walls are forcibly knocked down by powers greater than your own self-control. (The choice is yours, it always will be.)
10. Judging people for things that seem ‘wrong.’ Every single thing serves a purpose. The goal is not to create a seamless image, it’s to go through the experiences that need to grow and teach and change us.
You don’t know that a completely wrong and illogical marriage is what someone really needs. You don’t know that there’s no element of fate or destiny involved in the birth of a child that seems young and for which the parents seem ill-prepared. You don’t know that the people who seem to be doing nothing with their lives are gathering the knowledge and experience that will one day write the next great American novel, uncover the next great philosophic idea, etc. As hard as it may be to grasp, all things are good, because all things serve us in the way of growth and development.
11. Never taking the initiative to learn how to live within your means — whatever your means might be.
It doesn’t matter how much or how little money you are making, how many investments you have or savings accounts that are stacked or absolutely empty, it doesn’t matter how much or little debt you still have to pay off, if you are not already in the mindset and lifestyle of living within the means you have, the same financial problems will follow you no matter where you go or what you achieve.
12. Putting the things you want most off until it’s more “convenient.”
If you’re looking for a reason not to, you’ll always find a reason not to. If you’re looking for a way how, you’ll always find a way how.
13. Burning bridges over minor frustrations — bridges that could have led to jobs or relationships you didn’t know you’d want or need.
While you’re in this weird period of infinite opportunity and inevitable, uncanny irony and serendipity, you’re in no place to assume that you’re not going to need every last contact you’ve got. If you must walk out of something, learn to do so gracefully, so the door won’t be locked if you need to walk back in.
14. Staying at a job you’re miserable at.
I’m not saying it will happen tomorrow. I’m not saying you’ll find your dream job in a week or even a month or three or six. I’m saying that anybody who has accomplished anything they’ve really wanted at a young age had one thing in common: they were at the right place at the right time because they were consistently putting themselves out there. To create your own luck, up your chances, and have faith that some greater, destined force will do the rest for you. (It sounds like a loose argument, but please, trust me.)
15. Staying in a relationship in which you secretly get the sense that you’re settling because there’s nobody else around.
Similar to how terrible, temporary jobs become a terrible 10 years at that same job before you do anything about it, relationships you settle for become marriages you settle for, etc.
16. Not experimenting with your appearance because you’re afraid any one change will define you as a whole.
There are two things it would benefit you to do here, and those are get really goddamn comfortable with the body you’re stuck with, and get really goddamn comfortable with that body changing, because it’s only going to do so from here on out. Some of that change will be within your control, most will not. Don’t let yourself be so attached to one way of appearing that you make your inevitable growth and aging even harder for yourself.
17. Never learning to say “sorry” or “thank you” — not for the sake of how it will make you look, but because you are able to recognize the ways in which you could have done better, and the things for which you’re humbled.
To your parents. To your exes. To your teachers. To strangers, friends, family, the people you once knew. But most importantly, to yourself.
18. Not ordering pizza at 4 a.m.
Or eating cake for breakfast at least once, or kissing a stranger, or giving the person you’ve been eyeing across the bar or café your phone number, or taking a road trip and sleeping in the car with your best friend, or whatever other slightly irresponsible but ultimately harmless thing you’re tempted to do but most times don’t have the guts to.
19. Waiting for something outside to fix your inside.
For the next year, job, relationship, paycheck, piece of clothing, new apartment to fix whatever discomfort or dissatisfaction you feel. (The latter will follow you into the former until you fix it on it’s own terms.) Always.
20. Only wanting happiness.
There’s so much more in a life than just feeling content all the time. The most important things you’ll experience will have little to do with your happiness. They’ll be about suffering, and heartbreak, and joy, and panic, and fear, and love, and what you come out as having been through those things.
You will not remember the days when you were just “okay” and “happy.” You will remember the moments of joy, and the pangs of ache, and the things that were defining and changing and miraculous and incredible and made you feel alive.
Stop numbing your life because you’re afraid of yourself. The only beast there is to tame is the one who doesn’t want to really live.