The Advice We Would Give to our Twenty-year-old Selves. Your Responses.

I asked the question, “What advice would you give your twenty-year-old self?” on Facebook recently and received either via Facebook comments or direct email over fifty responses. The responses I received were candid, thoughtful and contained several very consistent themes. Here they are.

Don’t Be in Such a Hurry, but Don’t Waste Time Either.

Many women, although they love their families very much, expressed a wish that they had taken their time and not rushed into marriage and parenthood so early. In retrospect, they would have taken time to discover themselves, their passions and the world before committing to a domestic life. Both men and women believed that they were in such a hurry to get somewhere else: a career, a home, or a certain lifestyle, that they missed out on the beauty of the present moment that they were in. Others expressed regret that they procrastinated, whether out of fear, naïveté or just plain laziness from exploring and pursuing what was important to them. When young, we live under the illusion that there will always be time in the future to be who we want and to do what we want to do. There isn’t.   The time is always “now” to do what you love.

Don’t Worry So Much.

I spent my time in college and my early twenties fretting over not having enough money and not finding a monetarily secure (and status-securing) job. I wished I embraced poverty more. I didn’t have a car payment, house payment or other debt and I didn’t appreciate the freedom this allowed. I could have done more if I could have let go of the fear of scarcity. A lot of people shared this feeling. The lesson of just letting things unfold, excepting our mistakes as the important lessons they are, and knowing the road is never straight are valuable insights that many of us have gained.

Nothing is Permanent.

Most of us acknowledged that we are very different people from who we were (or thought we were) in our twenties and are living lives other than what we might have predicted. Most of the dramas and tragedies that felt so traumatic worked out just fine and more often made us better, wiser and more resilient human beings. Don’t fret. Don’t hang on. Learn to let go.

Be Braver and Take More Risks.

Many of us followed traditional paths, taking traditional jobs and making traditional life choices because doing otherwise was scary. It’s easier and safer to follow the herd—and very damaging. But we’ve learned that most of the scary outcomes that we feared from failing solely existed in our heads and seem almost comical in retrospect.   We’ve learned that the scariest outcome is the true life left unlived.

Listen More to Your Own inner Guidance and Rely Less on the Direction of Others.

Many of us struggled trusting our own intuition when young. We tended to default to what others—society, parents, teachers, etc.—thought was best for us, often to our own detriment. While it is wise to pay attention to the advice of those who care about us and have had experience, we must remember that others’ experiences, goals and values are not always aligned with our own. Many of our loved ones are more concerned with keeping us safe and secure rather than encouraging us follow our passions. Our destinies are our own. Trust your inner knowledge to know this.

These Lessons Still Apply.

Even though our challenges and our dreams may have shifted since our early adulthood, the lessons and advice about still applies. We have to continue to incorporate them in our lives every day. We may no longer fret over our college major or final exams, but we face the challenges of career change, long-term relationship struggles, or a thousand other things under the sun. Let’s take the advice we gave to our former selves and give it to the present us. It’s still wisdom worth applying.

Sidenote: While almost every response I received from women was honest, direct and vulnerable, almost every response I received from men was self-deprecating and jokey. Hmmm.   There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

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