With the decade drawing to a close, I’ve been feeling a bit introspective, as many often do when we bid one decade adieu and welcome a new one. At the turn of the previous decade I was 25. When I think back on my twenties, I can’t help but cringe a little. I look at that girl and want to shake her by the shoulders. She was in such a hurry to hit certain life milestones that she made questionable (at best) decisions and let life pass by in a blur. She thought she had it all figured out.
At 35, I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt I do not have it all figured out. I barely have what I’m having for dinner figured out. But these lessons are ones that I know for sure. If I could go back in time, these are the things I’d want to tell my 20-year-old self (not that she’d listen).
1. You need to start practicing self-care now.
I don’t necessarily mean in the form of bubble baths and face masks (though those can be spectacular). I mean eating healthily and mindfully, drinking lots of water, moving your body, and feeding your soul. Read more, watch less. Spend less time online and more time with the people you care about.
2. Start wearing eye cream now.
And a C serum. Get down with terms like glycolic and hyaluronic. Take off your makeup every night, no matter how tired you are. Moisturize and for the love of Botox, wear sunscreen!
3. Stop using busy as an adjective.
When someone asks you how you are, tell them! Tell them what’s on your mind or how you’re feeling. On the flip side of that, when you ask someone how they’re doing and they reply with that “busy” answer, don’t be afraid to dig deeper. We live in a constantly busy culture, but for busy people with so much going on, we aren’t really saying a lot. Change that by shifting the focus away from what you’re doing to how you feel about what you’re doing and what you think about it. Watch yourself and your relationships grow because of it.
4. Don’t ditch your friends for a date. Ever. Period.
We all have that friend. At times, many of us have been that friend. You start dating someone and it’s new and exciting, so you bow out on plans with friends so you can hang out with them. Slowly the days turn to weeks and you see your friends less and less while you and your newfound love are finishing each other’s sandwiches and being the most annoyingly adorable things on the planet. Love is great. But it should always add to your life, not take away from it. If you’re doing less of the things you want to do and seeing less of the other people in your life that matter to you, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your priorities.
5. If a man wants to be with you, he will be with you.
Stop making excuses for these boys in men’s clothing! I know you’ve heard these excuses before, or maybe you’ve even made them for somebody who definitely wasn’t worth your time. He’s intimidated by me. Labels just complicate things. He’s scared of love. He’s really focused on his career. If someone wants to be in your life, they will be in your life. Period. And if that person doesn’t want to be with you, that’s okay. YOU will be okay. Don’t decrease your value because of someone else’s inability to see it.
6. Own your shit.
When relationships end, when you’re having trouble with your relationships with your friends, coworkers or families, sit back and analyze your part in it to see if you see any patterns or things you could do differently. Be comfortable enough with yourself to admit when you’re wrong.
7. You are not your mistakes.
No matter how big a mistake is, you can come back from it. If your mistake involves another person, you don’t get to dictate their reaction, and you may have to live with the consequences of your actions. But you can still forgive yourself and learn from it.
8. It’s okay to start over.
Whether you find yourself in a relationship, a major, a career, or even a city that no longer serves you or makes you happy, you can start over. Too often we hold onto these things because we’ve invested so much time into them. Life is too short to knowingly stay in a situation that makes you unhappy. If you can’t get out immediately, start making plans to get out. Work on your passion as a side hustle, end the relationship, talk to your academic advisor, take on a part time job to save up some cash to move. Whatever your end goal is, there are small actionable steps you can take to achieve it.
9. Nothing is permanent.
The bad days won’t last forever and neither will the good. That’s just the reality of life. Once you accept that fact, you can allow yourself to really be present exactly where you are. Love yourself and others more because these moments just don’t last forever.
10. This last one might be the most important one: You are enough exactly as you are.
A million, billion, trillion times enough.