Please Mail This To My 21-Year Old Self

Robbie Biller
Robbie Biller

Hey there,

Here are some tips for the next decade of your life.

Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume the worst. Don’t assume the best, either. Remain practical. Remove your feelings and attempt to see events as they actually are, rather than letting your emotions color your perception.

You are not psychic. This means that, no matter how otherwise convinced you are, you do not know what other people are thinking or why they’re doing what they are. It’s a waste of time to focus on this. Deal with reality, not with your wild imagination.

Stay as calm as possible at all times. Adding panic to stress only makes things worse. Deep breaths and closed eyes help a lot. Remind your inner drama queen that, unlike the voting committee for the Oscars, the audience of your life’s story is more impressed when you react without tears and screams and nervous breakdowns. Leave the soap opera stuff to the actors.

Build your inner strength quietly. If you’re able to keep your mouth shut, do that. Refrain from believing that everyone you encounter needs to hear every detail of your life. Choose a small group of trusted friends to be your confidants and leave it at that.

You will never regret keeping your private life and your work life separate. No harm can come from that. Your personal and professional lives are two equally important parts of your well-being. If you combine them, you risk screwing both of them up at once. Share harmless, funny stories with your co-workers, but don’t share your secrets with them. You may not be able to imagine how or why they would ever use these secrets against you, but it is possible, and quite likely. Don’t forget that everyone has their own agenda.

People are not necessarily evil, but they’re selfish. If you accept that now and forgive everyone in advance, it will save you a lot of hurt feelings later on. Most of the time, when people screw you over, it’s not about you, it’s about them. And even if what they did was very wrong, they’re just trying to figure this life stuff out, too. Go easy on them. Your grace and composure might inspire them to be better.

Thinking that you can predict the future is arrogant. Come to terms with the fact that imagining your future is no different than dreaming when you sleep. Your actual life will probably never resemble what you think it will. Just when you think nothing good will ever happen again, something marvelous will, and all of a sudden, you’ll be one of those people walking down the street with a goofy smile on your face. Conversely, just as you’re celebrating how well everything is going, something so awful will happen that you are struck speechless at the thought of having to pick up the shattered pieces that you used to identify as your life. You will only fully understand and own this cycle after it has happened to you several times. Do not try and control it. Ride it like a wave. If you’re thrilled with your life at the time, don’t ruin it by wondering when the next bus is going to knock you out of your shoes. Plant yourself firmly in the present moment. Soak up every single cell of available pleasure like a sponge and squeeze it into your soul. When you’re happy, the only moment you should ever dwell on is the one that you’re in. You should only think about the past or the future when you’re miserable and you need something pleasant to look back on fondly, or something wonderful to look forward to. It is perfectly acceptable to get through awful times by living for the future. Make sure to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually those feet will carry you miles away from your pain. Your pain will still exist, but you will have found a new joy, and you should be so passionately fixated on that moment that the pain will be like that ugly dress in the back of your closet – taking up a little space, but not hurting you.

Listen to your instincts. You know right from wrong. Don’t talk yourself into something that you don’t want. Don’t let other people talk you into it, either. You owe it to yourself to create the most satisfying life that you can. What else are you here for? Why would you deliberately waste a single moment of your life? You can quit anything and change direction at any time. Do not be fooled by supposed boundaries or restrictions that are not there. You are in charge of your life. Be a bold pilot. Do things that make you proud of yourself. Complacency is not for you. The more you realize how valuable you are, the more others will realize it, too. If you sell yourself short, you’ll end up feeling empty.

Your heart will only repair itself if you use it again. If you keep it buried because you feel resentful over the last time you brought it out and someone smashed it, it doesn’t stand a chance of recovery. Love is like that game of slaps that you used to play when you were a kid. Your opponent flips his hands over and smacks yours because you weren’t fast enough to pull away, but you’re required to put your hands right back in the game. Even though they’re stinging from the last slap, you try again to win. So put your heart back out there. It might take a few rounds, but as long as you keep playing the game, you’re eligible for a win. And it might just be the next big victory your life needed, the kind that turns you into one of those people walking down the street with a goofy smile on your face. TC mark

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