1. Even though your parents had kids and a mortgage by now, it’s OK that you don’t. Because it actually is way harder for us to be grown-ups than our predecessors. Our median salaries are way lower and our student loans are way higher than previous generations. This whole delayed-adulthood thing has real roots. Look it up. Then stop beating yourself up.
2. Someday, you’ll be glad you were poor. If you’re an artist in your 20s, chances are you’re totally broke. One day you’re on Broadway, the next day you’re babysitting. On the same day this year, I was featured in a Very Important Magazine and received a hospital bill I definitely hadn’t budgeted for. But knowing what it’s like to hustle, struggle, and live anxiously from paycheck to paycheck will make finally earning money all that much sweeter. I think that if all child stars were forced to work summers scooping ice cream they’d be way less likely to crash and burn.
3. Your heart can heal. It may take a long time. It may hurt like hell. You may think you’re all better and then realize you still have a long way to go. But eventually, your heart will mend.
4. You need to invest in your friendships the way you’d invest in romantic relationships. My best friend lived on the opposite coast for years after college and now lives in the middle of the country. She always makes it a point to connect in NYC to see me if she’s traveling, and even when I was super broke, I made the plane ticket to visit her in St. Louis a priority because our friendship is a major priority in my life. Your friendships may just be the greatest love stories of your life. Treat them with the same care and attention you would a romantic partner.
5. People die. And it’s not fair. And it hurts. And life will never be the same. And all you can do is be thankful for the time you had and hold the ones you love dear.
6. Listen to your body. Most of the time. If you’re hungry, eat something. If you’re tired, go to sleep. If your heart’s pounding, he’s worth talking to. But if you don’t feel like going to the gym, go anyway.
7. It’s OK to be judgmental. It’s your body’s way of telling you what’s safe, what’s dangerous, who’s going to make your life better or worse. Make sure you keep an open mind, but once you’ve explored new ideas or people, it’s OK to make up your mind about them.
8. Friends grow apart, and that’s OK. You’re going to change a lot in your 20s, so your friends might, too. Especially when it comes to drinking and drugs. Who you choose to surround yourself with is one of the most important factors in the trajectory of your life. Choose wisely.
9. Fictional Characters Will Steal Your Heart. But They’re NOT REAL!!! It’s so hard not to fall in love with two-dimensional characters, but just keep reminding yourself, he’s not real, he’s not real, he’s not real…
10. People Who Are Older Than You Are Not Necessarily Smarter Than You. I used to think they were. Boy was I wrong. Sometimes your boss truly is an idiot. And you just have to deal with it.
11. That Older Guy Who Wants You Doesn’t Think You’re Special. I was 22. He was 38. I thought he thought I was special, so age didn’t matter. Nope. Before me, he was with a 25 year old, and after me, a 20 year old. I wasn’t special. I was a part of his pattern.
12. Get It In Writing. Always. Protect yo self.
13. Internet Scams Are Real. And so is your self-loathing if you fall for one. Be paranoid. There are people out to get you.
14. Family is everything. You can have real conversations with your aunts and uncles now. They’re pretty cool people.
15. Like what you like. I like One Direction. I like Britney Spears. If you don’t think that’s cool or indie enough, I really don’t care.
16. Nobody Remembers That Embarrassing Thing You Did in 8th Grade. Sometimes I wince thinking about something dumb I did back in the day, and then I realize literally no one else on the planet is thinking about this. And then I think BUT OMG but what if they are??!? They aren’t.
17. Follow Your Parents’ Advice. But Not All The Time. My parents are right about 98% of everything. But they wanted me to live with them, get a “real” job, and save up a lot of money before moving to New York. But it was 2009. The economy was crap and nobody was hiring. If I’d waited to have the job or the money they’d wanted me to have, I’d still be mooching at their house feeling terrible about myself.
18. You Can Break A Bad Habit. I had a bad diet coke addiction. I convinced myself it wasn’t a big deal because it was my one vice. But after a trip to the dentist revealed two cavities and a $500 bill for this lady without dental insurance, I realized this habit was literally taking money out of my pocket. Guess who kicked her bad habit that very day?
19. Somebody Wants Your Body. Every body type is somebody’s type. So love yourself and be prepared to be loved.
20. You Don’t Have to Be Friends With Your Ex. You don’t even have to try. It’s really hard to do and most of the time it doesn’t work, so why bother? Save yourself another form of heartache and opt for a clean break.
21. Always Be Reading. People who are constantly reading are the most interesting. Whether it’s the news, books, essays, or scientific studies, people want to talk to people who have stuff in their brains.
22. Love isn’t enough. The Beatles straight up lied. John Mayer was right: “All you need is love is a lie.” You have to have the same values. You have to want the same things.
23. Just because someone doesn’t love you anymore doesn’t make them an asshole. In high school, if a guy dumped you, he was a total and unequivocal a-hole. But this is a pretty juvenile way to think. As I got older, wiser, and more mature, I realized that just because someone breaks up with you doesn’t mean they’re a jerk or that everything you thought was good about is suddenly nonexistent. Most of the time, people don’t mean to hurt one another. Most of the time, we’re all just doing the best we can. Getting dumped may bruise your ego, but it doesn’t mean you have to fling stones at someone else’s character.
24. Failure is so necessary. I’ve been fired. I’ve been rejected by hundreds of agents, artistic directors, and hiring managers. I’ve written plays that drew six people into the audience. I’ve signed a movie deal that fell through. I’ve gotten knocked down over and over again, but I’ve always gotten back up. And every failure has made me stronger, smarter, and more focused. So fail, fall, and falter. Then get back up and try again.
25. Closure is for college. In the real world, unless you work together, you’re never going to run in to someone you date at the library or the cafeteria, so people just disappear when they’re through with you. While this can hurt like hell, try to fast forward through all the frustration and over-analyzing to get to the brutal truth: you’re never really going to know what happened. Ever. The sooner you can accept that, the sooner you can move on.
26. Only you know what’s best for you. Nobody else is in your head. Nobody else has to walk in your shoes. Others may question your decisions, but ultimately, they are yours to make. You are the protagonist of your story.
27. People can change. Even you. Don’t give up on a family member who’s in a bad way. Life is long. They can change. And if there’s something you wish was different in your life, make it happen. Every day is a new opportunity to grow. It’s never too late.