Well, guys, I am officially out of my twenties. And let me tell you, it is not nearly as scary as everyone made it out to be. I cannot tell you how many friends or family members told me, “Just wait until you’re THIRTY. Everything just goes down hill from there.” According to these older and wiser friends and family members, my life was about to start its decline. According to them, reaching age thirty was a magic (or cursed) number in which I would instantly start disintegrating into an old woman. I would immediately become out-dated, grey-haired, arthritic, peri-menopausal, and begin my decline toward death. How morbid, right?
So, needless to say, the weeks leading up to that fateful day were filled with dread on my end. I spent my days wondering how in the WORLD I had already reached this formidable age. I still felt young. I even still looked fairly young – save for the tiny wrinkles beginning to form underneath my eyes (years of squinting into the sun during soccer games and, of course, smiling). How could it be that I had already passed the prime of my life? There was so much in life I still wanted to do, but now felt I was running out of time. I had only been out of the country once, never gotten a tattoo, and I hadn’t even had kids yet! Should my husband and I take the plunge into parenthood simply because the clock was ticking? It was almost like a mini mid-life crisis!
However, that day came and went and what I realized is that…. nothing changed drastically. I didn’t feel or look any different, and even though my husband DID find a grey hair, I found I was more proud than appalled. Thirty wasn’t so bad after all. I was definitely different than I was when I was 18, but all these changes weren’t horrible or scary, and they obviously didn’t happen all at once as soon as I turned thirty. In fact, a lot of the ways I had changed, I wished I had made these changes years ago. I started wondering: how was I different? What had changed? Then I decided to write a letter to sweet, naive, scared eighteen-year-old me. Obviously, eighteen-year-old me will never be able to read this letter, but maybe it will speak to other young women out there… possibly even my future daughter (or son).
So here goes nothing…
Dear Teenage Me,
First of all, every part of you is beautifully and uniquely you! Stop wanting to change everything about yourself. The tiny gap between your two front teeth is cute and your thighs are NOT big, they are muscular and athletic and evidence of your years of hard work in soccer. You have a healthy, beautiful body and to wish for it to look any different than it does now is a waste of a wish, sweetheart, because you’re perfect the way you are.
Take joy in all the little things in life that give you joy. Focus on the positive and let the negative roll off your back. Take time for yourself to do those tiny things that give you joy: read books under fluffy blankets, put on acoustic music in the bathtub, put on fuzzy socks and pajama pants during a thunderstorm and revel in the comfy-cozy feeling.
Start putting more time and effort into your friendships rather than your romantic relationships. One day all those guys won’t look so cute when they have beer bellies, drop out of college, and have bad attitudes like the world owes them something. But your friends will always be there. They will drive hours and spend the money to fly in for your wedding even when they haven’t seen you in a long time and those dork boys won’t be anywhere to be found (because you’ve married literally the coolest guy on planet earth – fist bump).
Don’t be in such a rush to grow up, but also don’t be afraid of getting older. Each stage of life is wonderful in its own way. Be present in each stage and enjoy every minute. There will come a day when you look back on your early twenties and teenage years and miss them, even the “bad” moments. Wrinkles, just like your muscular thighs, are a testimony of the millions of smiles you’ve smiled and crinkled your eyes, the many trials that creased your brow with worry or concentration… they are a testimony of your life and they’re beautiful. Embrace them when they start showing up.
Next, take school seriously. I know you’ve coasted your entire life, but college is really freakin’ hard and you’re about to get a wake up call. For Heaven’s sake, woman, DON’T take out student loans just to pay for your apartment!! Suck it up and live in the dorms (FOR FREE), even though you really want to stay in the nice, sparkly new apartments. School isn’t cheap and it is NOT fun putting most of your hard earned money toward student loan debt every month. There’s this thing called “interest” that comes back to bite you in the butt after college (and grad school). Which brings me to my next point, pay attention to things that will affect your future! Don’t put something off for “future you” (AKA me) to worry about. Take control of your own life and your future: do your research and make an educated decision.
This next one is important, so read carefully: anything worth having takes WORK. Don’t be lazy! Put the work in and just get it done. Don’t convince yourself that you don’t want something or aren’t meant to do something just because you failed ONCE and you don’t want to put the work in to fix it. Failures are not indicative of your ability or potential. Failures are learning opportunities! What matters is how you RESPOND to your failures – do you learn from what you did wrong, improve, then try again? Or do you make excuses and quit? One failure is not a reflection of who you are as a person, so don’t let it define you! I’m not saying it doesn’t suck to fail, so cry for a minute if you need to, punch something if it makes you feel better (but maybe not a person), then wipe your eyes, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. The same rings true with mistakes. You are so smart, hardworking, kind, thoughtful, and fun. Mistakes don’t change or define who you are, but how you respond to those mistakes does. “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle.
Lastly, miss Taylor, it is not your job to make everyone happy and like you! It’s okay if not everyone is your best friend. It is OKAY to disagree and to have an opinion! Live your life as fully as you possibly can. Memories are not made from sitting on the couch eating potato chips. Go explore and don’t be afraid to try new things. Sushi is actually delicious and you’re missing out! Don’t talk yourself out of going somewhere or doing something just because you’re getting your introvert on and binge-reading Harry Potter or you feel “tired”. Get out in the world, put your phone down, and I promise you won’t regret it.
I’m so proud of us.