Twenty years ago, I was a sophomore at the University of Georgia, majoring in English/pre-med. I was trying to figure out who I really was while still living up to my parents’ expectations… and failing at both.
Twenty years. Wow, that’s a long time. In those twenty years, I’ve lived a couple of lives. I fell in love young and got married, only to find myself a few years later uncertain about everything I thought I knew about myself and about love. And then going against everything my “logical brain” and parents advised, I asked for a divorce.
I’ve been a single, successful career woman. I learned to rock climb, snowboard, surf (a little), and ran a marathon. I’ve been a student, a software engineer, a manager, a coach, and a writer. I taught myself to play guitar, knit, and built a semi-successful food blog.
I have dated younger guys, been the dumpee and dumper (and once in a weird way I was both at the same time). And then when I decided to stop dating, I found true love in a friend I had had for years.
I have been athletic & svelte, and then I’ve gained 30 pounds and struggled to take it off again. I have been depressed, and I have found real happiness. Most of all, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life along the way. And in honor of my upcoming 40th birthday (in just a few, short weeks), I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned.
here are 40 things I would tell my-20-year-old-self:
- You are worthy of love.
- Real love is not dependent on what you achieve.
- Follow your own heart, even when it flies in the face of expectations.
- You have nothing to prove to anyone (including yourself).
- It’s not your job to make other people happy. No matter how much you love them or want them to be happy.
- It is your job to make yourself happy. No matter how much you want others to do it for you.
- You are the only one who has to (and gets to) live your life. So others can have opinions, but you get the final say.
- Forgiveness is freedom.
- Not all love lasts forever. And that’s okay.
- When you overanalyze something, it usually means you’re scared and avoiding a hard truth you don’t want to face.
- When you make excuses for your boyfriend and keep “finding” reasons to stay, it usually means it’s time to break up. (This goes for friends too.)
- Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.
- Worrying about what you “should” do is a warning signal that you’re not listening to your own heart.
- Healing and recovery don’t happen overnight. It takes work… and tears.
- Don’t be afraid of emotions or crying. Feelings aren’t wrong or bad. Sometimes they are the only true thing.
- Stop waiting for permission.
- Do the things that make you feel alive.
- Forgiveness does not mean letting yourself get hurt again. Forgive, because that’s where you’ll find healing, but also set your boundaries. You can do both.
- Love yourself first… and have the courage to let someone really love you.
- Be gentle with yourself and others.
- Don’t apologize when it’s not your fault.
- Don’t shrink yourself so that others can be bigger.
- Don’t hide or run away. You are strong enough to stand in the light.
- Life won’t always go as you planned, but it all turns out better than you could have expected. Enjoy the ride.
- Stop assuming you know what someone else is thinking. You are not a mind reader.
- Your parents don’t always know what’s best for your life. Trust yourself.
- There will be times when you could’ve handled things better. Apologize for that, but don’t give up on what your heart knows to be right (for you).
- Families come in all shapes and sizes. And sometimes, blood and marriage have nothing to do with it.
- Your body is strong and resilient. Take care of it. Love it.
- It’s all connected: mind, body, heart, spirit. No, really. It is.
- You are sensitive, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s one of your biggest strengths. (Read The Highly Sensitive Person. It will change your life.)
- You aren’t as shy as you think you are.
- You are a strong, independent woman capable of doing so much. But that doesn’t mean you need to do everything alone.
- Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean that’s what you should be doing for a career.
- Surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, not what you do for them.
- You are not what happened to you.
- You are worth fighting for. Don’t avoid the fights.
- Don’t let the fears others have hold you back from your own adventures.
- Don’t wait for someday, start now.
- You already have everything you need in order to live a happy life.
What would you tell your younger self?