21 Things I Wish I Knew At 21

Ah, 21.  The age of independence, I could drink in the US, I had almost finished my undergrad, I knew EVERYTHING (but not enough to know I knew nothing) and I was just about to meet the man whom I was to marry (and now subsequently divorce after 14 years together – more on that later, if I muster up the courage…)  It was a pivotal year yet as I lived it I had not a clue in the world that I truly had no clue in the world….

Though we’re told to have no regrets, as I look back, I can’t help but think of a few things I wish I knew.  So in case any of you ripe young things out there are looking for some tips from a not so young thing who admits to not knowing a thing about a thing, here goes:

1. Life is short and equally long.

Everyone holds onto the old adage that ‘life is short’ but arguably as you live it, it can feel desperately long.  Take the time to enjoy the little moments, the nights out with friends, the freedom, the lack of responsibility.  Be at peace with not having it all or knowing exactly what your life plan is because there will be years and years in which you will be entrenched with responsibility without an inkling of freedom and desperately missing your friends.

2. Buy the shoes, but on sale.

There’s nothing more exciting than being able to buy yourself those coveted shoes that you’ve been dreaming of but there’s something equally as horrifying and that comes in the form of being 28 and in debt still making nowhere close to what you think you should be and having to pay off all of your frivolous purchases of the past.  I’m a firm believer of rewarding yourself in the way that makes you happiest, but please, don’t spend your entire paycheck on shoes that I promise you will hate sooner than the soles wear out.

3. Date.

I know the dating world has drastically changed since I was 21 but if I was talking to myself in 2001 – a sweet spot of dating when the world wasn’t yet glued to their phones and all into virtual likes and swipes – I would highly recommend my uptight ass to get out on the scene, stop being so serious and get out there and meet some people.  Kiss some boys and hold some hands.

4. Don’t be afraid to do that course abroad.

Though we briefly spoke about debt and it’s pains, being in debt for an experience (and not a drunken bottle service one where you blow your balance on bottles) where you can learn and grow is something I wish I could urge my younger self into doing.  Going from living at home to a brief stint with a roommate to back home to moving in with the person you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with isn’t the move.  If there’s an option to spend some time alone exploring a new world, take it, the only thing you risk to lose is some of your savings but, oh the things you will gain!

5. No New Friends is a dumb motto, make new ones

Yes, you’ve had the same friends since grade four and yes they are 100% the best people on the planet, but there are some really cool people out there that will teach you things and love you and help you along the way.  Be open and let them in.  Some will hurt you, some are just nosy but others will show you sides of yourself you will be surprised to find existed all along.

6. Ride the mechanical bull.

Stop worrying so much about what people will think.  Let your hair down, sing at the top of your lungs and stop letting other people’s opinion trump your good time.  Ride the mechanical bull, even if you’re a klutz, fall off, laugh at yourself and hop back on.

7. Wear red lipstick.

Don’t wait until you’re almost thirty to start wearing red lipstick.  It looks good on you and really isn’t as shocking as you think it is.

8. Just because you work in fashion and love it doesn’t make you dumb.

Yes, you’re pretty smart.  You did well in school and you will continue to self educate for as long as you live but please, don’t allow the men in the room to dumb you down and dim your light because you work in fashion and bartend at night.  You’re young and you’re figuring it out, you’ll get there, don’t give anyone the power to make you feel less than you are.

9. If it makes a model look overweight chances are you will look, well, worse.

Finding your signature style just may never happen for you, you like to try too many things to keep it that simple, but just remember not every style needs to work for you, especially baggy turtleneck dresses with horizontal stripes….  They will never work for you.  Ever.

10. Be healthy, you’re never going to be Kate Moss thin, this is one quest I allow you to give up on.

No matter how many fat burners you take, or how many mountain climbers you do, you’re just never going to be heroine chic…. Unless, of course, you do herione, and your fear of drugs is a good one to have so be at one with your curves, workout to be healthy and find the foods that are right for you.  Plus teeth are cool.  Pretty sure you lose those when you love heroine.

11. Don’t internalize every critique

Perfection is not the goal, the goal is to grow and learn and grow and learn.  When someone critiques you or your work it isn’t always a personal attack.  Listen to what they have to say and don’t crumble, you can’t always get it right.

12. And don’t let every critique silence you further.

Just because someone isn’t aligned with your opinions or work doesn’t mean that you have to give up.  The world will not always be on your side, toughen up but never lose your heart.

13. You can say no.

Saying no doesn’t make you mean and/or a bitch.  If you don’t want to do something, don’t.

14. There’s another side to the story, listen to it.  Gaining perspective is gaining life.

You will become quite good at this but it will take you time to truly understand.  Putting yourself in other people’s shoes will serve you well so practice.

15. Listen to the 100 positive comments, not the one negative one.

You will grow a thicker skin but don’t ruin all of the positivity that surrounds you by letting a few negative Nelly’s get under your skin.

16. Hear to your parents.

You already know they’re cool but they’re also smart and 100% on your side.  Let go of your teenage angst and don’t only listen, hear what they have to say.  Their perspective is always thoughtful, fair and from their hearts.

17. Figure out what you really like, being a cameleon makes the hunt for your own idea less colourful.

It’s nice to be accommodating but if you’re always finding ways to fit in and make others feel comfortable you may just never truly decipher what you want.  This all ties into figuring out how to say no and being ok with critique.

18. Don’t be any man’s number two.

In this case, there is zero bonus to being number two.  Value yourself enough to be number one or be none.

19. Trust your gut.

Or your heart or your intuition or whatever you want to call it.  If it feels wrong, it’s wrong.  If it feels right, it’s right.  The more you trust yourself the more you can trust others.

20. Understand how powerful your ego is and know when to set it aside.

You need to learn that your ego is a strong force and it can make you do things that you will later regret.  Figure out how to differentiate between your heart and your ego.

21. Fall in love with yourself first.

You can’t properly love a single soul until you learn how to love yourself, flaws and all.


Whoosh!  That was hard to write and even harder to share but I figure if I invited you into my life for the good times, it’s only right to bring you along for the rough ones.  Thank you to all of you who have virtually been there for me for all of these years.  Thank you for listening to my stories and coming to my events and making my recipes; your encouragement has been paramount in making me the woman that I am and I’m so thankful to all of you for helping me find my voice.

with love and admiration,


p.s.  What do you wish you could share with your younger self?


For You

27 thoughts on “21 Things I Wish I Knew At 21

  1. Loved the honesty clearly you are as amazingly human as you appear to be. Thank you for sharing that very real article in this very virtual world. It’s so easy to forget that their is an entire life that goes along with these perfectly captured snapshots we all share on line. At the seasoned age of forty I say the best is yet to come. Bravo for everything you have accomplished already, I look forward to seeing what’s in store for you.


    1. Thank you China. Your kind words do more than you know for me at this crazy time in my life. Thank you for the comment and the vote of confidence, really helped today and I will go back to this post when days get tougher.



  2. WOW! I’ve always enjoyed how transparent you’ve been since the inception of Coco & Lowe, until now. I’m significantly older than you, and most of your readership, but I’ve often discovered value for my own life within your posts. I co-sign about 8 or 9 of the gems you posted…if only hindsight weren’t 20/20. Sending you thanks, love, admiration, hugs, and hella support as you navigate the next wonderful phase of your beautiful life!! Elle

    1. Thank you Elle. I appreciate your support since day one. You’re a lovely soul and it seeps through the into your virtual being.



  3. such a lovely and brave post. This list is everything. I’m far from 21, and was saddled with a lot of responsibility in my younger years. I wish I had more fun then, just stopping for a moment to enjoy life more. Now i’m trying to catch up! thanks so much for sharing. this list is going on my vision board for sure 🙂

  4. Thank you for your bravery and sharing this post! Thank you for your honesty to your readers and strength in sharing your experiences. I wish you nothing but strength in this time. If I was to tell my 21 year old self anything I think it would be to stop being my own worst enemy. I can often be far too hard on myself! Love, hugs and courage to you!

    1. Thank you Amy! That’s so true! I would certainly tell myself the exact same thing. Thank you for your kind words.



  5. What a brave post. I know you only through this blog and am sending you tons of virtual love during this time. Keep doing what you do because it’s great xo

  6. I started following your blog from the inception, but this has to be your most moving post to date. I don’t know you personally, but I connected to your posts even more when you wrote about your pregnancy, as I was pregnant with my first child at the same time, and we ended up having our children weeks apart (my son was born November 17, 2012). I remember an honest post you did about the tough and “real” parts of pregnancy and the life changes you were facing then, and to watch you grow as a mom and entrepreneur have been eye-opening for me, because you prove that women really can do it all, and you do it with positivity, even through the tough times. Thank you for sharing the “real” with your readers, because life certainly isn’t perfect, but a lot of people make it look that way on social media, and it can be daunting at times because of the pressures it creates on women and more specifically, on new mom’s. As you embark on another life change, I send support your way, and I wish you good luck and continued success as a woman, entrepreneur, and most of all – as a mother.

    1. Wow. Thank you Melissa. Not only for taking the time but for your support and encouragement as I know you know what it’s like. I will work on sharing some more insights as I’m starting to see the benefit of sharing the real.
      I appreciate you, your words mean more than you know.



  7. Thanks for sharing Coco! This very honest post makes me very grateful for the experiences I’ve had in my 20’s. I was a bit upset early this year about turning 30 and still being single but I realize that I did get to do alot of things you recommend: study abroad, travel, go to school, date, make new friends and live alone.

    1. Thank you Jen! I’m really happy to hear that. Take your time and enjoy your life. Don’t let outside pressures make any decisions for you.



  8. Catriona, aka “CC, Coco, blogger extraordinaire” but first and foremost – my Friend. As you already know I’m not much of a reader but sometimes it’s nice to catch up on a light read (ps thanks for making this in point form. Easier to focus….) but as much as it was light, it was honest and heavy at times. I must admit that the past few months you have become a huge impact in my life and I can only imagine where this will all take us in the future. You are a true human being – the ones they say are put on this planet to make a difference. You may not be superwoman, or the cool stretchy mom in the Incredibles – but you are you…. And that’s the best part about it. You’ve shown me a path to take as I reach my 30s, you’ve set goals for where I want to be without even directing me there. Thank you for being honest, caring and willing to hear me out (even when the ranting is excessive). You’re truly a blessing to my life and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to call a client…. Well. a FRIEND, forever. Lots of love xx -E

  9. I have even more love and admiration for you than I did before ( If that’s even possible). I’m always rooting for you CoCo! XoXo

  10. Love this…. Straight to the point and honest. Being a mom is a hard task doing it while working and dealing with life in ever harder so kudos to you! I also have a 4 yr old diva who is wise beyond her years so I can totally relate. Wishing you good vibrations during this time. You will rise above all!

  11. What great advice and honesty, Im not 21 but 25 and STILL I can always learn a thing or two! Thank you. 🙂

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