I’m a previous chapter reader and re-reader. I often revisit my past in my head, sometimes for nostalgia, sometimes to ache, and sometimes to see if I can will my way back to give advice to my younger self. Overall I don’t have a lot of regrets but there are some things I wish I’d done differently. If you’re recently out of college or in your 20s and trying to find your way in the world, this post is for you.
1. Don’t move around so much if you’re looking for home. I lived in a new city after college and I struggled to settle in and find the right apartment for me. Looking back, the very first apartment I had was my favorite. I wish I had stayed there for awhile and created a home with memories while I built my life in my new city. Find a place you like and let it bloom. Remember that building a home takes time.
2. Don’t try to predict the future. I spent a lot of time thinking that certain things would happen for me by a given age. They didn’t. My advice is to throw out your timeline for life. You have no idea when you’ll land your dream job or if you’ll ever get married. You may not meet your partner for 20 years but your life will be shaped by the company you keep today. It might take 10 years for you to land your dream job but the skills and experience you are developing now will be what gets you there. If you look longingly ahead in life you’ll miss what is happening right in front of you.
3. Don’t compare your life to anyone else. Most of my friends from high school had advanced degrees and were married in their early 20s. I couldn’t help but feel like a failure in comparison. It’s really hard not to measure yourself against other people but it doesn’t do much good. Sometimes I wonder if I got my Master’s degree just so I could feel smart and accomplished like my friends seemed. I thought too much about what other people might expect of me or want for me and I lost focus on what I truly wanted for my life.
4. Don’t assume anything about relationships. Friends from high school, college, your last job, and family relationships take work. They need to be nurtured. If you want someone in your life you have to care about theirs. So much will happen to you and your friends when you’re in your 20s. If you’re not intentional about your relationships one day you’ll look back and realize they’re gone.
5. Don’t work so hard. Work hard but maybe not so hard. I worked hard in my 20s and for the most part it paid off. Looking back, I wish I enjoyed being young a little more. I wish I had taken more time off and just relaxed into life. Call in sick on a Wednesday and give yourself a break. Use your vacation days for long weekends and do something fun. Life is meant to be lived.
As I read and re-read my list I realize I can use all of this advice in my life today. I can’t change my past but I can shape my future.
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What advice would you give your younger self? Does it apply to your life today?