If only I had known. But you couldn’t have told me anything at 20. I couldn’t even have told me anything at 20. But if I could have, this is what I would have told myself.
1. You will age just like anyone else. You will get wrinkles and age spots, a spare tire, and bunions. So wear sunscreen and low heels, put down those sticky buns and get on an exercise regimen NOW.
I just never thought those things could happen to me. How can a 20-year-old look at a smooth, unlined face in the mirror and comprehend that there area around her eyes will get “crepey”? She can’t! She didn’t. And she spent many enjoyable days at the beach, blissfully baking in the sun. Reading in the sun. Napping in the sun. Strapped on high heels and worked all day and shopped half the evening. Ate gooey desserts with abandon.
It all catches up to you eventually.
2. You’re a smart girl. You really can do anything. Don’t settle on a life plan that will sell you short.
When I was younger, I wasn’t very confident, but I should have been. My lack of poise impacted every decision I made, from the boyfriends I chose to the college I attended to the major I selected to the chances I didn’t take. I’ll never know how much further along I could be in life if I had aimed higher when I was younger. I just didn’t think I could.
3. Don’t waste time with dating guys who are not your equal.
I ended up with the man I was meant to be with for the rest of my life, so the dating I did before I met Mark was all dress rehearsal anyway. But I think my early adulthood could have been more fulfilling had I not failed to date men who were my equals. That is not to say that I was better then them or they better than me, but we were most certainly on different paths most of the time. For instance, the whole time I was in college, I never dated a college student. I am lucky to have married someone whose goals mirror and shape my own.
4. Stay out of debt as much as you possibly can.
I never carried a whole lot of debt, just enough to keep me tethered to a waitressing job that I hated all through college, enough to keep me from really being able to spread my wings because I had bills to pay. I don’t really believe that money is the root of all evil, but I believe that debt is.
5. Just be happy. It really is a choice.
Even now I can get in a mood sometimes, but I have learned that if you put on a smile, play some good music, and crack a joke, your mindset will follow. When I was young I carried the world on my shoulders and was besieged by such negative thinking that I don’t know how people stood me. It took years to learn how to shake off the past and embrace each today that is given to me.
For me, happiness takes effort, and I find that it is very much worth the effort.