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.
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?