Advice I Wish My Future Self had Shared When I Was 22
(AKA - 5 Things Every 20 (30,40, 50...)Something Gal Should Seriously Consider)
Don’t you just hate that person who always has advice on something? Yeah, me too. Which is pretty sad, because I’m actually that person. Maybe it's my name (ala *dear*Abbey), but it’s true. I thrive on sharing tips I’ve learned along the way with practically anyone I meet.
Accordingly, I'm sure it's not a surprise that I'm the world's worst advice taker.
Yup. I'm a resident expert at ignoring really good advice. I've done it all my life, and my 20's were prime years for blowing off (really important) advice regarding relationships, jobs, and life in general. Sure, I listened every now and then. But mostly, I scoffed at advice like a teenage girl denying the fact that Sun In is bad for your hair. (Unless you're into orange hair, that is.)
You see in my 20’s, I had life all figured out. I didn’t need to listen to the older, wiser women who gave me advice on everything from sunscreen to careers to relationships. In talking with my friends, and listening to a lot of Dr. Laura, I see this is a common trend. Even when approached by a woman with a proven track record of something (insert early marriage, marrying someone with kids, quitting a job too soon, save don't spend, etc.) chances are, the advisee will tend to ignore her. Further, that wise woman can literally be shaking us, (almost) screaming, "Listen to me! I was dumb like you, and look how that turned out," and we'll turn the other cheek, claiming that could never happen to us.
This ignoring of wise women is a universal truth, which is really too bad. Because here's another secret of the world- women need to be there for other women. We need to share our experiences, so that the same mistakes don't continue getting repeated. In this spirit, I’m sharing some things I've learned and some stories I've heard, in hopes of reaching the 22 year old (or 26, 38, 59 or 99) who needs to hear it.
Granted, this could be a really long list. So let's start with five key pieces of advice.
The Unofficial Life Manual
1. It’s often better to not do it than undo it. This one reminds me of a friend of mine who was about to get married. Everything was in place for her Friday wedding - the church, the restaurant, the flowers, the honeymoon. Guests were coming in from out of town. However, the one thing that wasn’t in place was her heart, which wasn’t in it for a multitude of reasons, most of which spelled an imminent disaster with a capital D. Her fiancé was not the one, yet on the Tuesday night she realized this, she couldn’t imagine canceling everything just three days prior to her nuptials. How embarrassing it would be. How much money it would cost. How hard it would be to tell her fiancé, and everyone else. Yet…she did it. She realized that canceling would be hard at the time… but nothing in comparison to the pain of “canceling” her marriage later on. Because the truth of the matter is, it is much, much easier to NOT do something, than to undo it. This advice applies to love, moves, work, and generally anything your intuition tells you not to do… yet the part of you that doesn’t want to deal with conflict begs you to just do it, and take the easy way out. Easy is only easy for the present moment… sometimes we have to make uncomfortable decisions in the short term to prevent pain and suffering later on.
2. Listen to your inner voice. No, really, I mean listen to it. It rarely lies. It’s that inner voice that tells us not to do something. It’s that inner voice that tells us when someone isn’t right for us. It's the voice that tells us to Uber it rather than walk the four blocks home from the bar at 1 am. It tells us what to study in school, who to be friends with, when to move on in relationships or jobs. As I look back at my life, I can pinpoint exactly when and where I didn’t listen to my inner voice. Let’s just say things didn’t turn out well in those situations. Plain and simple. Get to know that voice and then actually follow it. That voice will not let you down. I promise.
3. Act your age. No, I’m not talking about when you’re 12 but act more like you’re 6. I'm not talking about the 42 year old married guy with two kids, who galavants around like he's 23, going out every night. Wait, actually I am talking about him, only in reverse. This particular clown illustrates the point that there's a time and place to go out with your friends until bar time. There's a time and place to get an apartment with three other girls and stay up until 2, discussing your futures. There's a time to go on trips with your girls and generally enjoy being young and unattached. Age 19 or 20 is not the time to be focusing all of your attention on a boyfriend, getting one, or thinking about your married life someday. There's time enough for that when you know who the hell you are. Dr. Laura nailed it when a 21 year old girl called, saying she was was overwhelmed with her job, school, and boyfriend. Dr. Laura told her to dump the boyfriend and act like a 21 year old- be in school, work, and go out with her girlfriends. The girl was astounded, saying, “But he’s the one… I’m going to marry him.” Dr. Laura quickly shot that notion down, reminding her that she was a teenager just two years prior, and what teenager has any business choosing a life partner. (Damn good point.) The girl needed to find out who she was before finding someone to be with. Amen and amen, Dr. Laura. Having gotten engaged myself at the ripe age of 22, I can vouch for the fact that I had no clue who I was, or what I wanted out of life. Looking back, I think basically all I knew was that I liked emerald green for bridesmaid dresses. Which is actually a pretty dumb color choice to being with, and not exactly the formula for being ready for the rest of my life. Nope, I spent my 20's married, divorced at 31, and spent the next years doing what I should have done before - going out with friends, going on girl vacations, and discovering what I liked. It all turned out okay, but I could have saved a lot of pain and suffering had I known what I didn't know. So girls, please listen to me on this one.
4. One of my favorite Spanish expressions is en hora buena – everything in its time. This expression kind of goes with #3. Everyone has a list of things they want, whether it’s an ideal job, partner, family, or dream home. We can want something so badly that we become obsessed with it and think we’ll never get it. This type of thinking tends to take the joy out of everyday living, and prevents us from realizing how cool our present situations are. A better way to handle those dreams is to keep them close to our hearts, all the time trusting that they will come ‘en hora buena” – all in their own good time. Trust in that, and your whole outlook will most likely change for the better.
5. Don’t ditch your friends for your boyfriend. This happens a lot in high school. You remember “that” friend, right? The one who was your bff until the bohunk from her chemistry class finally asked her out, and BOOM, you were ancient history. Well, that happens as we get older too. It’s easy to get all consumed in a relationship, and stop doing things with friends. Let me tell you this now girls… don’t do it. You are going to need your girls about a million times over between now and the end of time, and chances are most of them will outlast any relationship. So, take care of your friendships and nurture them like you nurture your boyfriend or husband.
Stay tuned… I've had plenty of blunders in my lifetime. More advice coming.