Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Things I Would Tell My Twenty-Year-Old Self

After seeing the absolutely delightful blog from Miss Riki, talking about things she would tell her teenage self, I thought it would be only fitting to have a chat with my twenty-year-old self.

To give a little background, scene opens.  It's 1992, and I am fresh off of taking a couple years at my local community college to find out that I am disillusioned with becoming a fine artist, finding that I would be facing a life of abject poverty as an artist and would have to try to pull a good grade out of an art history course that would have tanked my GPA immediately.  So I dropped the course and the major.

With that in mind, I had spent the prior year just taking general ed courses for the sole purpose of attending school somewhere else.  That somewhere else ended up being a small, church-sponsored bible college out of state.  My thought in this is that I could get a degree in Liberal Arts or possibly English, teach somewhere eventually, and get some social interaction that could eventually lead to acquisition of a husband.

However, October 17th of 1992 I would be embarking on my first semester and life was not a bowl of cherries.  More like the pits.  I had an insufferable roommate who was anal-retentive level tidy, whereas I have always been chaotic.  My moderate dyslexia has made it nearly impossible to consistently lay out a routine for organizing my things, so periodically I will naturally misplace generally every item that is important to me.  I was struggling to fit in within a dorm of very different, rebellious, spoiled girls and the girl that slept in the bed next to mine was as opposite as one could get.

It was depressing.

I also had constant lies and manipulations from a girl who would try at every turn to sour my friendship with her male friend and make me look like a psycho-stalker to try to kill interest amongst any other males on campus.  In other words, it was a social scorched earth campaign.

On top of this I was floundering in my bible classes, under a very oppressive grading system that had been implemented to supposedly inspire us to greater things (because according to the college president we were slackers and didn't deserve to be there--his words.)

Depression, exhaustion, and homesickness were all setting in on this October 17th.

As I step into my wormhole/time machine, I'm taking a stroll and going to find my younger self, sit down in the dining hall, and have a meal.  I am disguised so as not do too much to disrupt the space-time continuum, because otherwise, all I will do is create another parallel universe for myself where I do things drastically differently.  And how will that help, really?

I don't need that much of a disguise. I'm older and much heavier, so I'll don a hat, large semi-dark glasses so as to not be recognized.  I will pose as an upper classmen. As I sit with myself and other student friends, I'll wait until they have left, and ask to chat a few minutes about the experiences here.

As my true identity is revealed to me, I will carefully choose my advice as follows.

1) Enjoy your body.  I know that's a weird thing to say to a total stranger, but really you think you're too heavy now and you're just right.  In fact, you're in pretty darn good shape.  Appreciate this fact and savor it, because the older you get the harder it will be to come back to.  And likely, you will be ready to sell your right arm at my age for the chance to be a size 12/14 again.

And also along that same vein--even though your glasses are a little big and your hair is still frizzy, people fall in love with your hair.  No seriously, they love your hair.  And they won't tell you how much they love your hair until years later when they reveal that they bemoan every time you get a haircut.

Even with short hair you'll look adorable and they don't have to care for your hair, so don't worry about it.  Wear your gorgeous hair with pride.  It'll be beautiful at every length.

2) Enjoy this time in your life. Whenever you look back on this, despite this being a really tough year for you, things are about to get significantly better.  This tragic and pitiful fool that is making your life miserable will soon be departing, so don't let her sully your memories of a beautiful friendship.  And your male friend that you have a crush on, it's perfectly okay.  You'll remain good friends and he won't think you're a psycho despite her best efforts.  In fact, he will encourage you to let the real you be seen more often.

3) Don't be afraid to become the person you're meant to be.  Girl, you are meant to be loud and audacious sometimes. Don't be afraid of that! Flirt, be loud, be funny, and don't be afraid to be yourself even though you are very different from those around you. Really, different is good, and you are making friends right now that will appreciate those differences in every way. Even though some will argue that "She's got a great personality" is a way to say you're not pretty, it actually is a huge complement.  When other people are left with only their looks and a sucky personality, you'll be totally set.  Looks come and go, but a passionate and loving soul lasts forever.

Honestly, one day you will find that you are the life of the party and you won't understand how in the world that happened when in these days you were an outcast.

4) Pay attention to the shy guys.  Some of them will be your friends forever, and some will be there and gone again, but the ones that again have a great personality will be the ones that stick with you always. Not only that, but they will help you make memories that you will treasure always.

In fact, you will long after miss the social life you had at this time, so cherish every date even when it's just a few.  There will come a day when you have a really tough time getting dates and memories will sustain you.  I know...buzzkill right?

5) Being single isn't all bad.  Just know that while marriage has many advantages, and while some stupid people under the guise of helping will try to say that you have to be in a certain place spiritually before God will allow you to marry, it's all poppycock. It's life. Some people are lucky and/or blessed to get married much younger.  Some are not.  They will struggle with relationship issues, dirty diapers, and a host of things that come with being married that you will not.  You will struggle with being lonely and feeling unworthy, but you've dealt with that devil all your life.  So don't worry about it.

If it happens it happens, and if it doesn't it doesn't. We all have our crosses to bear. What's important is to enjoy these moments and these relationships now and not worry about future romances or lack thereof.

But what you should know, is that marriage doesn't equal spiritual superiority by any means.  It means they took a chance on love that panned out, and were smart enough to get legal paperwork to make separation of their property a little easier to legally sort should everything go south.  So don't go kicking yourself around because you aren't married and having kids at the same time everyone else is.  There is no contractual obligation for life to provide you with lifelong love and children, and having none of these things doesn't make you less of a person.  So don't ever let anyone tell you different.  Just find happiness in other endeavors and let the chips fall where they may.

6) Your dreams will change--and that's not a bad thing. Every time you make a career decision that seems like a solid plan, life and circumstance will tell you different.  So your response should be to just go with it.  You will have opportunities come up and things that you never expected to be doing that you will do because it utilizes your skills. In fact, be completely open to utilizing your skills in new and exciting ways.  Don't feel guilty for exploring different means of using your skills.  These can lead to all sorts of possibilities even when life seems to have presented you with all sorts of unexpected dead ends.

As I leave my stunned twenty-year-old self wondering if she should call security on the crackpot 40-year-old that was spinning one hell of a tale, I go back through my distortion in the space-time continuum, and bid my past self adieu, knowing that it is a time that will gladly be left behind but with the knowledge that I gave my past self a little comfort and consolation.

And that future self is perfectly okay with the struggles and rough edges that made her who she is today.


  1. Amen! There are so many things that I'd love to go back and tell myself. C'est la vie... Great topic. I just might write myself a letter to the 21-year-old me and another one to the 50-year-old me. That would be kinda cool to open up and read again.

  2. Love it! And I might copy this idea too...!:-) (jessica)