Dear 27-year old me: take my advice.
I know you are certain that you already know everything there is to know about life. You’ve already seen some ups and downs, and you’ve proven that you are pretty resilient. And even though you are not likely to listen to me because A. this is an imaginary letter, and B. you prefer to bulldoze your way through life and learn things the hard way, I am going to offer you ten pieces of advice that could prevent a lot of hard feelings and hardship in your future:
1. Forgive your parents
Your parents are not perfect. They have hurt you, they have disappointed you, they have embarrassed you, and they have, at times, made you wish you were adopted. Forgive them. Forgive all of it. As your own children grow up, you’ll understand why. You’ll see for yourself that even with the very best intentions, parents make mistakes. You’ll find out that even though you love your children more than life itself, it is damn hard to raise little human beings. You’ll understand that your parents were doing their best; forgive them now, and pray that your children will grant you the same grace.
2. Nothing lasts forever
The good times don’t last forever, so savor them. Be present and soak them up. Journal about them and write down all the little details that you are sure you’ll never forget because you will forget most of them. Take pictures and print them – and here’s a bonus tip – organize them NOW, or they will stay in those shoeboxes for the next thirty years.
By the same token, the bad times don’t last forever, either. Don’t feel hopeless when they hit. Hang on, and look for whatever little silver lining you can find, because believe it or not, you’ll miss parts of the bad times too.
3. Don’t spend money you don’t have
Here’s the truth: the things that you think you can’t live without right now will all eventually end up in boxes in your garage, where they will stay untouched for years until one day you finally get tired of parking the car in the driveway, and you make your husband throw everything out including all of those once-shiny, once-all-important THINGS that you just had to have. You don’t need much, and you certainly don’t need fancy stuff to impress other people. New shoes and new television sets and fancy cars don’t really make you happy, and they’re definitely not worth the sleepless nights you’ll spend wondering how you’re going to pay your bills.
4. Stay out of the sun
Tan lines are not sexy. Sunburns are definitely not sexy. And sporting a fake tan in February does not make you look healthy, it makes you look like a freak. Your tanning addiction is only going to pay off for your future dermatologist. Stay out of the tanning beds and wear some sunscreen, you idiot.
5. Never miss a chance to say “I love you”
Life can and will change in an instant. Enough said.
6. Learn a foreign language
It is never going to be any easier to learn a foreign language than it is now. It’s all downhill from here, so keep practicing your high school French before you forget it all – and take up Italian, while you’re at it.
7. Don’t be afraid to be bad at something
Stop letting the fear of embarrassment keep you from trying new things. You don’t have to be good the first time out. Take up golf and tennis. Go snowboarding. Take tap dancing lessons and piano lessons. Write that novel. Quit worrying about what other people think, because the truth is, no one is thinking about you. Everyone is in their own world, and no one is paying attention. Stop missing out on life.
8. You can’t think your way out of depression
It’s time for some tough love here, girl. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but you suffer from anxiety and depression. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; it’s just a fact. Putting on a happy face for the world is not going to solve anything, and you can’t fix yourself. The longer you wait to ask for help, the more you and the people around you suffer. You can’t think your way out of it: get help.
9. Invest in something called “Starbucks”
Just trust me on this.
10. Don’t wait for “someday” to be happy
Stop wasting time thinking you’ll be happy “when we have a new house” or “when I have a new job” or “when the kids get a little older” or “when I lose ten pounds.” Happiness is not something that comes from outside – from circumstances or things. Happiness really is a state of mind, and it’s available to you every single day. Choose to be happy, or at least as happy as you can possibly be, right now, today.
Since you can’t read this, and you wouldn’t change anything anyway, I’ll just tell you one more thing: it’s going to be all right. Just keep your head down, keep doing your best, and try to do just a little better every day. You’ll be just fine.