During my recent trip to the beach last week, I did a lot of people-watching. And in observing others, I reflected on myself and thought of 20 things I would say to my 20 year old self.
Hot sun. Crashing waves. My children laughing. Me in a bathing suit. And a bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings walking and running past me in their perfectly fitting suits and toned bodies!
Now you should know, I have two young daughters and body image is supremely important in our house. And on top of that, while I know there are a few pounds I could lose…here and there…I am actually pretty happy with myself. I know my body is strong, healthy and has given me the two greatest blessings in my life.
But I couldn’t help but think how I felt about my body at 20…and how in retrospect, it is clear that my body was much more “perfect” all those years ago but I couldn’t see that at the time. And then I thought about all the other things I couldn’t “see” at 20 that have either been learned or become self-evident since then.
So here are the 20 Things I Would Say To My 20 Year Old Self:
1. Love your body just as it is RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT! It will never be more toned naturally than it is right now. That doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle and lose weight. But the collagen and lack of ripples and waves won’t necessarily endure. Embrace it – Wear the bathing suit you want and appreciate the body you have.
2. If someone is not your friend, it doesn’t mean they hate you. I spent so many years taking it very personally if someone didn’t just love me or want to be my best friend. With age I realized that more often than not, the reason is that you just don’t have a lot in common. In my small world, I am really good friends with only a few people but friendly with a lot more! These are people I would help out in a bind, would drop my kids off in a bind but not choose to spend my time with on a weekend. Not because I hate them, but because we are very different people with different interests. And that’s ok.
3. Take care of your body – This is the only one you get. Exercise. Don’t smoke. Eat healthy. Don’t be fanatical but make overall healthy choices and your body will pay you back for a lifetime.
4. Quit trying so hard. Some people like you and some people don’t. But just as you can’t make someone love you, you can’t make someone like you. And even if you could, they wouldn’t like the authentic version of you.
5. Get as much education as you can right now. Going to junior college?…Consider a 4 year degree. Getting your Masters?…Consider your PhD. Because while you think you are burned out on school, let me be the first to tell you that taking 3 hour night classes after you have worked a full 8 hour day and left your children with someone else will be a LOT harder and take a LOT longer than it will at your age right now.
6. Enjoy this moment right now. Because you will never get this time in your life back. That’s not to say there won’t be even more awesome moments waiting for you. But this is a great time in your life. You are likely child-free, mortgage free, and therefore more carefree than you may ever be again. Embrace it, enjoy it and don’t squander this time away.
7. Quit wasting your time on loser boyfriends – I look back now and laugh at the guys I wasted my time on when I was younger. And I’m not saying that even if I had found Prince Charming at 20 I would have married him because I still had a lot of growing to do. But if I had spent my time with guys the caliber I deserved I would have learned a lot more about what to look for in a husband…not what to NOT look for.
8. Have faith in yourself. You can do more, achieve more, earn more, and be more than you think. But if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.
9. Have faith in others. I am not a jaded person. I am also not an idiot. I realize that there are mean people, deceitful people, untrustworthy people and downright evil people. But I try my hardest to give people the benefit of the doubt initially. Treat them with kindness and hope you get kindness in return. It happens more often than not.
10. Trust your gut – It’s called a sixth sense for a reason – that feeling you get telling you to take that job, date that guy, go that route…trust it!
11. Don’t talk about people behind their back. Even ignoring the issues of morality or personal integrity, don’t do it because it will ALWAYS come back to bite you in the butt! And in this world of social media ubiquity, it is becoming a much smaller world. That whole 6 degrees of separation takes on a whole new level of real. So either tell someone how you feel directly or keep it to yourself.
12. Trust that old saying – When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
13. Do. Not. Go. To. The. Tanning. Bed….period!
14. Quit stressing about your major in college – I would say at least 80% of my friends don’t “do” what they went to school for originally. I personally spent waaaayy too much time picking out my major…only to change direction completely when I got my Masters. Only to then go into a field completely unrelated post-graduate. Only to then become a stay at home mom to two wonderful little girls. So major in something you enjoy, work hard and enjoy your time in college.
15. Think about how you want your future kids to treat you…and treat your parents that way TODAY. You may think they nag you or don’t seem cool but what they are is worried about you and your future. Because one day they know they won’t be here for you and they want you as ready for that day as possible. So love them and respect them and thank God for them.
16. Do that thing you’re afraid of. Apply for that job. Talk to that boy. Make that trip.
17. The real world is the great equalizer in terms of popularity. So what if you’re not in the “in” crowd? So what if you’ve never been there?! You will go into the real world with real jobs and real problems and while cliques can form anywhere, no one will care if you were the cheerleader or had the cutest boyfriend in school.
18. Start saving and spending wisely now. It is so easy to get tricked into the credit card game when you are young. You think you have all the time in the world to make lots of money and pay that debt off. But the spending and saving habits you make now are likely the ones you will have for years to come. Make smart choices.
19. Be the friend you want to have…and when you find someone that reciprocates, never forget how important that person and friendship are. My REALLY good friends are few and far between. I treat my friends like family, am extremely loyal and would drop everything for these few friends. And I know these girls would do the same for me. So if you have those friends now, don’t lose touch with them just because “life” gets in the way. You won’t all get married or have kids at the same time. Don’t let that change your friendship – these friendships may ebb and flow but a true friend is worth keeping in spite of the difficulties
20. Don’t think you fully understand the word “love” until you have children. I prepared myself for almost all aspects of child birth and raising a child. But no one…no one… could prepare me for the all-encompassing love I felt when I held my babies for the first time. Or the way that I would give up anything and everything for their happiness and well being. And no one prepared me for the way that that love would translate into endless worry about these little bodies I brought into this world. Love took on new meaning, it colors every moment of my day and every choice that I make. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.