Dear 20-year-old me,
You’re a rebel. I get it. You shaved your head and dyed it super blonde. You think you’re cool, don’t you? Well, I’ve got a few things to tell you, and I think you should try listening for once in your life. You might learn something…
First, let me say that I think you are an intelligent, creative, sensitive, and compassionate person. You have the world in front of you, and you can do whatever you set your mind to. Don’t let anything or anyone ever stand in your way. Having said that, you must realize that timing is important in life. There will be instances when you will have to wait for stuff. Be patient. Decide what you want. Work toward getting it – work hard – and it will come to you. Also, you are allowed to change your mind about things. No one’s going to hold a gun to your head and say, “Hey, when you were ten, you said that you wanted to be a ‘Chuck E. Cheese dresser-upper’ – now you MUST keep your word.” On the other hand, if you are too fickle, you’ll never get anywhere. At some point, you need to decide on something, and go with it.
Second, you know that guy you are dating right now – keep him. He’s hot. He’s also smart, funny, ambitious, and extremely commitment-oriented. And he’ll age well. Have you seen his father? Seriously though, the fact that he sticks with what he starts will be important when life gets hard – like when you have teenagers and they are giving you attitude, like when you or someone you love gets sick, like when the universe is exploding. OK, so that last example is a little extreme, but you get what I’m saying. When the going gets tough, you want the tough to get going. You don’t want it to walk out the door, and leave you stranded.
And I know that you are eager to procreate with him – it must be hard to keep your hands on the outside of his clothes – but do yourself a favour, use condoms, and finish school first. I know you won’t, but be prepared for a tough road ahead trying to deal with babies while going to school full-time. How tough is it going to be? It’s going to be tough like trying to tie your shoes with pillows on your hands – it’ll be almost impossible. You may even quit before you are finished doing everything that you’d planned to do. Sure, there are perks to having kids at a young age, like by the time they move out – if they EVER move out – you’ll still have a good twenty years or so left to travel the world, and have wild “push me up against the wall” sex with that husband of yours. I’m not saying that you should wait until you are forty either. I just don’t think you need to rush.
Now, when those children DO come along – because oh, they will, and in quick succession – do what feels right for you. Everyone and their brother has an opinion about how to raise a child – don’t hold the baby so much, never allow children to sleep in your bed thereby forcing your husband to sleep on the floor, breastfeeding a three-year-old is kind or creepy, MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” isn’t really a lullaby. Screw everybody else. Go with your gut, and you’ll do fine. If it feels right, then it probably is. If it feels wrong, then tell your husband to stop doing it. Men always mess up. They wouldn’t know a diaper cover from a diaper liner.
Third, I want to remind you that you can’t change people, nor can you force them to do anything. You are responsible for you, and ONLY you. OK, you are responsible for your children as the grow – you need to make sure that they don’t get hit by cars, and that you feed and clothe them – but always remember that they are their own little people, who will grow into big people, who may or may not do things that you want them to. You should support them regardless. They will have their own lives to live, and unless they are off in a crack house somewhere getting high, you need to let them be free. Your parents did that for you, and it will someday be your turn to do that for them.
Fourth, I think it’s important to understand that – as a woman – you are equal to ANY man, and I mean ANY man anywhere ever. I know that you’d say you already know this, but there may be times – and people – who will try to make you feel that this is not the case. Those individuals are idiots. Ignore them.
Also, be proud of your body. It’s going to change, and sometimes it may not look exactly the way you want it to. You are who you are on the inside, and anyone who truly cares about you, won’t be looking at your thighs. So relax. Keep in mind though – and I don’t want to sound like crazy Tom Cruise or anything – but your body is your temple, and you need to respect it. Keep exercising and keep eating healthy. It is a commitment that you make to yourself – a commitment that you MUST keep. Sure, there will be times when you can’t do much – like when you are too tired to even keep your eyes open, because the baby was up all night screaming his bloody lungs out for no apparent reason – but stick with it. Continuity is truly the key. If you do, when you are sixty, you’ll look forty, and when you are ninety, you’ll look seventy. By then, it won’t make much difference, but whatever. Who wouldn’t want that? Also, do the same for your children. Make sure that they are active on a regular basis right from the get-go. This may sound silly and a little hardcore – and no, I’m not suggesting that you force your one-year-old to run laps around the park, though sometimes it could prove helpful – but I’ll tell you this: once you create a habit, it is much easier to maintain it.
Fifth, with regard to negative people – don’t associate with them if you can help it. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable, and then it’s up to you to stay positive. Granted, not everyone’s happy all the time, and in your relationships, you will discover that. But if someone is continually bringing you down, then it’s time to get out. Life is too short.
Sixth – and I know this list is getting long, but bear with me, I’m almost done – please understand that life won’t always be easy. Did I say that already? Well, it’s worth saying again, and again, and again. Don’t expect it. No one owes you a golden toilet. You want to be happy? You need to CHOOSE to be happy.
And finally, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a cat (or two or more) in the house. They are the best things on the planet. A dog wouldn’t hurt either. Pets are known to lower your blood pressure. But don’t get another gerbil. Sorry Thumper, but you were the most useless pet ever.
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