10 Things I Would Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

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Perspective is a cruel thing. Often by the time we have it, we can only pass on what we know, as time is gone. Sometimes, though, the big picture can be a comfort. Just think, if we knew then what we know now, lots would be different, but would it be better? Regret, pain, hope and joy are all part of this life. Success is not success without failure.

If I had it to do all over again, I might make a few changes, but if I did, I wouldn’t have this day, exactly. If you are 20, or so, heed these words of wisdom. I have the glitter from God (also known as gray hairs) to prove these true:

1. Prepare to be a Success – I am a hard worker. I have always been a hard worker. Hard work pays off. Success might not be that high-paying job, though. Yes, I had one of those, but happiness has come with less dollar signs than I imagined. I would tell my younger self not to climb so high and hard; the fall is painful.

2. Prepare to Fail – Failure is just a path to success, a difficulty to overcome. As a perfectionist, I want everything just so, but reality is a bees-waxer. To fail is to find a new path, one which makes success that much sweeter. I would tell my 20-year old self that I am not immune to failure, but it is not the end.

3. This is Going to Hurt – Life hurts. Being a parent hurts. Love hurts. Tattoos hurt. As an abused child, I knew emotional pain, isolation, but life can hurt publicly. I would tell my younger self not to take it all so personal and move onward and upward, away from pain, but to also embrace it as an experience of life.

4. Don’t Burn Your Bridges – My mother actually told me this all along. She was right. I have burned a few, but she told me. I mostly listened, but not always. I would tell my 20-year old self not to hurt others, to apologize more.

5. Go Out With the Girls More – Since I was engaged before 12th grade, I didn’t get out much. I would definitely advise my younger self to live more, not go clubbing, just experience more as a young woman with my young woman friends. Having that connection with a community of women shouldn’t wait until your forties!

6. Don’t Take His Crap – I have been a bit of a doormat, according to my tell-it-like-it-is sister-in-law. Possibly a grain of truth there. I have been threatened, bullied, emotionally blackmailed and even man-handled. I would definitely not get physical or aggressive myself, but I would tell my 20-year old self, “Don’t go back!”

7. You are Worth It All – Maybe I’m not alone when I say I grew up with pretty low self-esteem. I was smart in school. I was well-behaved and almost never in trouble at home or school. Maybe it was the sexual abuse, but I really didn’t feel like I was worth anything. Even sometimes now, I think, I am a terrible person. My mother would disagree, but she is supposed to do that. I would tell my younger self, and I do tell my daughters (and sons), you are worth all the hard work, all the pain, all the stress. You are worthy of love, patience, kindness and happiness.

8. Love Your Parents More – I have been mean to both of my parents. I know, who hasn’t? But life is short. I am lucky enough to still have both of them at age 45 and they are both turning 67 later this year! I would tell my 20-year old self that your parents will be the only ones there for you when your world crashes, so be grateful for them, even with all their imperfections.

9. Enjoy Your Kids More – Times flies whether you’re having fun or not. Have more fun. I was an energetic and structure-loving mom with my “first” family (4 kids) and have been a slightly less-structured and energetic mom to my “second” family (2 kids). I was a full-time working mom and part-time college student with my “first” family and have been a full-time at-home and part-time working mom to my “second” family. I would tell my younger self to take more time to enjoy ALL of the kids, to get help and not feel guilty about it, to be grateful for their health and to hug them all more.

10. Always Keep the Faith – My younger self would have known this anyway. Faith is something to keep deep within your heart, but also something to share with those around you, especially your spouse and kids. I would tell my 20-year old self to pray more, get more involved with church and to read the Bible more, alone and with my family.

Twenty-five years does bring a little perspective. I thought I had it all figured out. I had some stuff right, but not all. Where I had a plan, God knew better. Good thing we can’t go back and get a re-do. We’d likely mess things up even worse! Twenty-year old ladies, I’m a cool older lady who will tell you the truth, so read and heed!

Mom to six great kids, educator and writer, I earned my BS at RI College and MEd at Providence College. My hats: educator, Go Au Pair Local Area Rep, tutor and writer of local blog for families and Au Pairs. Baking, gardening, reading and relaxing on the porch are hobbies.