If you have not been reading the amazing Dear Sugar columns at The Rumpus, you have missed out. Inspired by this week’s beautiful advice to her twenty-something self, a list of lessons that I would pass along to me, ten years ago, most of which I could stand to remind myself of now:
- When making decisions, the bolder decision will always be the better one: move to that city you’ve never seen before, you will love it. Say yes, when you are accepted to that writing conference you don’t think you deserve yet; it will change your life. When someone you’ve just met at the end of a horrible break-up wants to whisk you away on vacation, go; it will remind you that you can be loved. When you are lonely and you’re invited to meet new people, show up; they will become your new dearest friends.
- Learn to share, early and often: If you have extra food, clothes, booze, bedrooms, poems, skills, anything, share it. In addition to avoiding becoming a hoarder, you will meet fascinating people. Have a party. Have a dinner. Host a swap. Offer to help. Send that poem out to be published. You will learn where you are strong. You will learn to let go with grace. You will learn that what goes around comes around and that having plenty means that you have more room to love more people. You always have more than you need to give, and that includes love. You will not run out.
- Listen to your friends: If your friends don’t like the person that you are dating, they are probably right. He is probably a jerk who doesn’t deserve you. She is probably rude and a bit racist. He is taking advantage of you. Believe me, they are not just jealous of your crappy relationship. They loved you first and they want the best for you. When you are with someone great who treats you well and makes you happy, then they will be happy for you.
- You will never regret your education: Sure, it’s expensive and you have no idea what you want to be. Yes, you are in debt up to your eyeballs. Go back to school anyway, if you want to. More education will never make you less qualified to do something. You will regret all those years spent folding jeans at the mall and working as a cocktail waitress because you didn’t want to spend the money.
- You will never get it perfect: In ten years, there will be a movie called “Black Swan,” and you will laugh at the idea of perfection. Until then, just trust me. You will never be perfect. You will blurt out something mean unintentionally. Just apologize. You will run late to work. Just call. You will think that if you cook dinner every night, and pay all the bills, while in perfect makeup and high heels, he will stop cheating on you. He won’t- he can’t love you, no matter how perfect you are. That is his problem, not yours. You are just like everyone else, doing the best you can with the life you have. Love that about yourself. Love that about other people. We are all such fragile, lovable things. Forgive yourself when you get it wrong, move on, and try to get it right next time.
- If something makes you feel bad, stop it: If your job is giving you ulcers, get a new one. If the person you are dating makes you hate yourself, date someone else. If staying out all night makes you regret what you’ve done, stay home next time. No decision is irreversible. You are not a secondary character in a play with fixed traits and bad habits that has to stay that way. Just do something else. If you hate that too, switch again. Continue this process until you don’t feel bad anymore. There are unlimited options.
- Don’t date people longer than you should: Look, younger me, you are loyal and devoted. That’s awesome. But that doesn’t mean you should stay with someone just because they haven’t broken up with you and you like not being alone. Do you love them? Do you enjoy talking to them? Do you want to tell them about good days and bad days? Do you actually want to hear about theirs? If not, move on. Not just because you deserve better, but because they do. Life is too short to waste someone else’s days, months or years when you know you don’t intend to keep them. The longer you stay, the worse it will hurt both of you when you leave.
- Just be you: Stop wasting time trying to pretend to be what everyone wants, and just be you. With everyone you meet. This is hard. On the other hand, it is much easier than trying to meet a million different expectations.
- Sometimes, you raise yourself: Younger me, your parents did a great job. You were very lucky to be loved unconditionally and taught manners and read to and tucked in at night. Now that you are grown, you are your own parent. Put yourself to bed on time. Make yourself eat vegetables. Send yourself outside on sunny days. When you misbehave or are cranky, give yourself a time out. It is no one else’s job anymore to be sure that you have what you need- buy yourself a warm coat and give yourself lunch money. Love yourself, the way you were raised, unconditionally.