10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Entered My 20’s

FLickr, Nathan Congleton
FLickr, Nathan Congleton

Being 29 is a little scary. I’m going to be real with you. I spend a lot of time telling myself I’m not angsty about it, but I’m pretty angsty about it. I get that time isn’t real and I have an undeniable youthful glow, but like, how did my twenties go by so fast?

I think most of the angst of growing up comes from our belief that we are not living up to our potential, not doing the best with the time we have. Oh well. Tough shit. I’ve done some cool stuff, and some not so cool stuff. I’ve grown up a lot, but also fucked up a fair bit. Still, of course I spend time thinking about what I would tell myself if I could go back in time. At 20, I was living in England, a stupid little child floating on a cloud made of dreams thinking pain was beauty and everything meant something. It took finding out what pain really was to discover it’s not beautiful — it’s ordinary and boring and feels interminable. It’s not fun. It’s not quirky or adorable. It’s not interesting like in the movies. It’s unglamorous and undesirable.

There’s nothing I can do with a painful past. It’s like trying to make something out of a handful of broken glass. But if I could, here is what I would say to my silly, sweet, 20-year-old self.

1. Get over him

He occupies most of your thoughts and inspires most of your actions. I don’t want to say that’s pathetic, cause I’m gonna try to be gentle. But it’s sad. It’s really, really, sad that you let some stupid boy have this much control over your happiness. He will never love you back, regardless of what he’s been saying.

It’s a waste of time, and is causing you so much pain. You will give him something precious and then leave the country the following day.
You won’t hear from him for months and months. It will leave you feeling worthless and so, so sad. So sad you’ll want to die. And it won’t matter the sweet things he said or that time his grandmother called you pretty.

That being said, can you just fuck him already? This Bronte sister crap is kind of exhausting.

2. Learn some damn common sense

Your whole life you haven’t understood things. You’ve always had book smarts. You can write an essay on a piece of literature, but I wouldn’t dare ask you the population of any city. Or how far something is in miles. Or the main industry of your hometown. I wouldn’t ask you to parallel park, or to renew a passport, or register a vehicle. You’ll do it, but not without having an existential crisis.

My point is this: it’s fine to be able to go on about the concept of “the uncanny” in whatever movie you’ve seen in film class that week (if you want to come across like a total turd bomb), but this does not make you a good person, nor does it make you a good artist. Listen to your dad. Just…listen to your dad, okay?

3. Stop worrying about how others see you.

The thrill of being the center of attention has not yet left you, but it has become far more complex. You simultaneously want to be noticed and to be totally invisible. This is the burden of becoming an adult, and realizing the world exists outside your self. It’s a sad realization. It’s a pity we have to grow up and lose that unbridled, dangerous confidence.

4. Stop writing bad poetry

You’ve managed to stay away from poetry for a couple years, so congratulations. It’s been a while since “the incident” — the incident being that time you got up in front of your entire 12th grade class and staged a dramatic poetry reading. I didn’t think you’d get past that, tbh. It was a lot like a horrible car crash. But here you are, in your third year of university, enrolled in a creative writing class with a boy you’re smitten with (which is embarrassing. And gross. Can’t you just be dead inside like me?) And now nothing can stop you. Your fingers on the keyboard are like nimble little elves trying to keep up with your overly lachrymose thoughts on love. Your poems, borderline nonsensical, are verbose and full of mixed metaphors. I know you think this is a good way of expressing yourself, and undoubtedly the most romantic thing ever. But it’s embarrassing! Fiona Apple gets away with it because she’s Fiona Apple. You, bb, are not.

5. Adulthood can be a bit of a dick

So our teenage years weren’t the best. Unfortunately, the common story that life gets better in your twenties is an oversimplified and ultimately damaging narrative. I don’t want to be the sour grape in an otherwise delicious fruit salad, but although the idea may be helpful in the short-term, it simply isn’t entirely truthful and inspires the belief things will magically change. But the truth is, happiness is hard work, especially for those prone to mental illness. For the most part, unless you’re a Kardashian (you’ll find out soon enough what that is), life doesn’t just hand over the things you desire. It’s just not that simple. Sometimes, it doesn’t get better. Sometimes it gets worse. And that sucks, but it is what it is. This unfortunate news shouldn’t prevent you from trying to achieve anything you desire, nor should it take away the confidence you have in someday doing wonderful things.


7. Not everyone is going to be your best friend

Maybe going out of your way to please Irish Sarah down the hall is pointless, because maybe Irish Sarah is just a fucking bitch. You’re allowed to make out with whomever you want, and her slut shaming bullshit is tired and reeks of JALOUSIE. It’s not your fault she likes a dude who likes you instead.

8. Think long and hard about going on medication

Your depression feels really tough and this seems like an answer, but before the age of 25, you will have been on Effexor, Cipralex, Zoloft, Risperidone, Lamotrigine, Lithium, Abilify, Clonazepam, Fluvoxamine, Quetiapine and Benztropine. The side effects of these medications are fucking scary. The withdrawal effects are intolerable, causing anxiety and paranoia so bad you won’t be able to function. And your dreams will get real weird – think Angel Season 3.

9. Do you, girl

You are smart, funny, pretty and charming. I can say this even though I am you and not seem arrogant because I am…FROM THE FUTURE. You don’t realize your own worth because you’re stuck in this spiral where other people get to dictate how you feel about yourself. Remember when you were waiting at the airport with Lizzie in Amsterdam and she told you “yeah, you’re one of the good people, you’ll go far” – please listen to that, and try with all that you have to be the type of person who deserves that sort of compliment.

10. Take it all in

You’re going to wish you could keep everything you have right now around you forever, but you won’t be able to, and it sucks. So travel as much as you can, appreciate your friends as much as you’re able to, and spend time with people who are deserving of your beauty. Don’t waste it being angry or wanting something you can’t have. I would say “seize the moment” but girl, I just saw the movie Boyhood, and like, in the movie he’s all “maybe we don’t seize the moment, maybe it seizes us” and it made me think of you cause no offense, that’s the type of totally lame and embarrassing thing you would say. No offense. Love you. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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