1. What you like.
No matter how much Pitchfork and your frequent scarf-wearing friends would like to convince you otherwise, you might just not like “cool” music. There might be this one band out there that just totally changes the way you think about electronica, man, and you just can’t even imagine how much it will blow your mind — but you still just enjoy the Spice Girls. You try to get into it. You try to change the fundamental composition of your brain into something that might appreciate the Thom Yorke-meets-Daft Punk aesthetic they so enjoy, but it just might not be your thing. And if guys who look like Benedict Cumberbatch are your ideal human specimen? You do you, weirdo! I mean, to many other people, he might look like a melting candle shaped like a My Little Pony, but to you, he is Prince Charming incarnate. And that’s just your thing. No matter what your tastes are — or what another person might smugly think of them — it’s just a part of you. No sense in trying to force yourself to like what everyone else on the playground deems “hip.” Just enjoy your raisin-filled cookies and Jessie J albums. It’s okay.
2. Your family.
Yes, it’s unfortunate that, at certain holidays, you have to go back and deal with your drunken aunt who won’t stop scaring away every love interest you’ve managed to wrangle home for a day or two with her horrifying stories of “when she used to be beautiful.” And maybe your mother’s constant needling about how you should be living in a bigger apartment because won’t that be perfect for when you get married because you are getting married aren’t you? is less-than-ideal. But these are the people you were born into, and they will likely always remain a part of your life, for better or for worse. And frankly, no matter how irritating their follies are when magnified around an overfull dinner table, you’ll probably miss them when they’re gone. Might as well try to get to know them as human beings and look at the bright side of their personalities — I know, I know, it’s so weird.
3. Where you come from.
Wouldn’t it have been awesome to have been born rich? Don’t you just watch Bravo reality TV and want to fall on a sword for coming from a background that did not provide you with fancy internships and three-story condos on the Upper East Side for just breathing? It’s hard, I know. But no matter how much we might wish we were more cultured, or learned multiple languages growing up, or were taught to use the word “summer” as a verb, there is no changing where we came from. It’s easy to feel inadequate around other people who we perceive to be more pedigreed than us, or born with a silver spoon (that may or may not actually exist), but it’s best to probably see the best in your beginnings, and realize that no one had a childhood that produced a 100 percent perfect person devoid of any actual conflict or struggle later in life. At least, I hope not.
4. What other people are going to say.
I can think of few better things than hearing someone make nasty comments about myself, or something I like, or making a statement I disagree with fundamentally, simply saying, “No,” and having that be sufficient evidence for them to do a 180 on their lame opinions and become perfectly aligned with my view of the world. Wouldn’t that be just excellent? Unfortunately, we live in a world with endlessly varying thoughts, opinions, and people who insist on sharing cold pricklies instead of warm fuzzies. This is the world that brought us Anderson Cooper, but it also brought us Paul Ryan. These are truths we have to live with, and though sometimes we can change people’s feelings about things, that is far from being a universal guarantee. Some people are just going to say crappy things about you, or about things you like, and they’re not going to care at all if it hurts your feelings. Some people are going to spew bigoted comments on YouTube videos. Some people are going to hate on every decision you make. Some people are going to talk about how much they love Megyn Kelly. It’s just something we have to get used to.
5. The successes and failures of others.
Does it sting when that total douchebag gets a promotion over you? Is it a hard pill to swallow when that girl gets the role in the big Broadway show just because her father was the casting director? Yeah. It’s no fun. But few things are as profound a waste of time as being Bitter Betty over other people getting to do and see awesome things. Sure, you can have a few minutes to indulge in your self-pity and cry “This is so unfair, God, why not me? Why not meeeeeee?!?” whilst tearing at your clothes in agony and clawing at your face over the grave injustices of the universe allowing someone else to get a cookie before you. But then you have to get back to work, get back on your grind, so to speak, and do your best to ensure that the next person who achieves something amazing is you.
6. What you are ready for.
If all of your friends are having sex, and it’s prom night, and you’re wearing that dress that’s just the perfect combination of taffeta and vodka stains and everyone’s like “Come on, Stacey (or whatever your name is in this scenario), now’s the time! Have sex with Johnny (or Brad or whatever)!” but you don’t feel like it’s the right time for you, don’t have sex. Don’t do it. And that goes for pretty much anything in life. No matter what the “right” time to do something is — get married, have kids, buy a house, whatever — if you’re not financially, physically, or emotionally ready to do so, you’d better nip that terrible idea in the bud. I think we all know one or two examples from life where people who were not at the proper stage to make big life changes were cajoled into action by a merciless group of peers and, lo and behold, ended up making a mess of things. Do you really want to half-ass something major just because everyone else thinks that you need to get a move on? If you’re going to be the three-toed sloth of the group and not settle down because you don’t feel you can give yourself fully emotionally and also have not met anyone right for you yet, you enjoy the single life, Cathy! Better to be the happy, gently smiling sloth than the lemur who has developed a prescription pill habit to keep up with the snowballing disappointments of a life he/she did not choose. Be the sloth, not the crazy-eyed lemur. You’ll be happier. I promise.