Youth is wasted on the young.
– George Bernard Shaw
Okay so I’m in my forties and I am thinking about my son who has reached his twenties. I listen intently when he’s telling me about his life and like every one of his age, there are extreme highs and lows. Everything in your twenties means so damn much. You think everything matters and counts and you don’t dwell on the future very much beyond your friend’s party happening in a fortnight. You think that what happens in the moment will somehow shape your life moving forward.
In your twenties, you have dreams and aspirations of course. You dream of life but with a sense that you have all the time in the world.
When I was a teenager I dreamed of leading a bohemian existence. I wanted to write like Jack Kerouac (given I have a bizarre habit of writing poetry of scraps of paper, napkins or receipts I find on the bottom of my handbag, that seemed fitting) and I wanted to be an actress…or a rock star. Even though I wasn’t in a band. I dreamed of a different life than the one my parents lived in the suburbs. I read mountains of books and filled my mind with fanciful notions of the life I was destined to lead.
My twenty year old self was tiny and feisty. She had wild long hair and well-defined calves. She had perfect skin yet to show the creases of laugh lines. Her eyes were crazy big and bright green, highlighted by too much eye liner and she loved to dance. That twenty year old girl was pretty damn cool looking back, and yet she didn’t have a clue. She doubted herself. She chastised herself for wanted more from life than she felt she was entitled to. She viewed herself through lenses formed by the opinions of others.
Ironically in our twenties, we are beautiful, with lovely bodies not yet touched by age – but we are so insecure and unsure of ourselves. I know I worried too much about many things. I’ve had an interesting life and I have very few regrets but I think if I could all go back armed with the knowledge I have now, I may have lived a little differently.
So if I could sit down and share a glass of wine with my twenty year old self (she’d be drinking anything white and too sweet while I would be having a glass of Pinot Grigio), I’d tell her a few things I wish I’d known then…though like all 20 year olds, I’d doubt she’s listen!
- You are beautiful just the way you are.
You are slim, firm and fit and yes, you idiot – you’re twenty so of course you can rock a bikini! Just like the song Sunscreen suggests – you are not as fat as you imagine.
2. And on that note – wear sunscreen and sunglasses!
You will be grateful later in life that you are wearing sunscreen even though everyone else is getting a tan!).
3. Your boobs are not your enemies!
Embrace them and stop thinking they are too big! They are brilliant. Given you are twenty, they are perky now but they won’t be forever chick! Show more cleavage and wear fitted clothes.
4. Travel. A lot.
While you can and before you settle down! There is a huge world out there. Don’t worry about the how – just get on a plane and go. If your friends won’t go with you, go on an organised tour if you must – but get a passport and GO! (Heads up – One day you will write poetry in a bathtub in Paris while you drink Dom Perignon – dreams can come true).
5. Fall in love.
Do so with everything you have. Sometimes love doesn’t last forever and there is no such thing as a fairy-tale, but a love story is a love story – just because it has an ending doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Your heart will be broken sometimes. You will break the hearts of others– but never be afraid to love. In life there is nothing sweeter. Being open to love is where true courage lives. Sex doesn’t equal intimacy – but real intimacy is brilliant! Passion is a great quality – don’t hide it.
6. Respect yourself – always.
Walk away from people who treat you badly or don’t respect you enough. Know this fact to be absolutely true – when one door closes another one will always open. Respect your body – it’s a temple.
7. You will have brilliant friends.
Embrace them and never take it for granted. Memories shared with your friends will be some of the most amazing!
8. DANCE!! Often and always!
Every chance you get. Embrace the music and dance like no one is watching. When you hit your 40’s there will still be dancing but a lot less often! Go to clubs, go to festivals and see as much life music as you can. Music can transform lives and make memories. Have a great time!
9. Sing, act, and write.
With passion. With abandon. Don’t worry about what others might say. In truth they are wishing they had the courage to get out there too! Write what’s on your mind, and never apologise for creatively expressing yourself. Who cares if no one is reading what you write – do it! It’s your passion! Keep journals so your 40-year-old self will have something to laugh and cry about!
10. Learn how to cook.
It’s important. Food is a journey and something to be cherished and shared. Learn how to cook so that you will always be able to share at your table with friends.
Put money away for a rainy day. Money will come and go but life is much easier with it. You are not the sum of what you have, but life might be easier if you value money more.
Believe that anything is possible. Stop living your life in fear. Yes, you might fail. Damn it yes, you might even succeed. You will never have regret if you try!
13. There are good men in the world!
Men are as clueless about women as we are about them! We are fundamentally different! Accept this and know that people are just people. Embrace and appreciate the differences. Know that not all men are good guys, but not are assholes either!
14. Be more of a rock chic!
Be fearless. Make bolder career and life choices. Say yes more often to opportunities that come your way. Say yes to parties and invitations. Say yes to trying new things – who knows, you might end up having some very cool hobbies, and meet some amazing people.
15. Know your worth!
Don’t ever forget it. If you don’t know it, how will others? Don’t date men who don’t seem to get it!
16. Take more photos!
Believe me, you won’t believe some of the hair styles and outfits you are going to be wearing! Make sure you get evidence! And please woman, keep your shoes and boots from the eighties! You will live to regret that you didn’t.
17. Like yourself.
In fact, learn to love yourself. Embracing who you are now will save you years of doubt and ridiculous worry! Know that you are exactly who you should be and you will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s ok. Always be true to yourself, trust your instincts (you have them for a reason) and believe me, you are going to be ok.
18. Don’t sweat the little things!
Stop worrying about things that you cannot change! This sort of worry is just wasting your time. You can’t save everyone – and not everyone needs or wants to be saved! Believe me, you will face bigger things in life that require your time and attention! Sure you might piss people off sometimes and they will piss you off too – but the sky will not fall down and life will continue on.
19. You are going to be a great mum – you won’t be perfect but no one is! You are without doubt going to make a lot of mistakes but hey, there is no handbook! Love your kids with passion. They won’t always like your crazy taste in music and they might think you haven’t got it going on – but that’s cool! They’ll have plenty of friends – be a great parent! You can’t protect them from everything – teach them to embrace the world, to be proudly individual and not to be sheep.
20. Be kind to yourself. Continue to be authentic. There is no one else like you – we are all individuals. Try not to carry the world on your shoulders. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes that are made. They are just miss-takes…they are life lessons. Just learn from experiences, good and bad. You will always keep evolving – that’s a great gift from the universe. You are stronger than you can even imagine!
I think my twenty year old self knew some of this but believe me it took me to get into my forties to finally embrace who I am, warts and all. Maybe I didn’t embrace life quite as much as I should have but there is still time now! I’m not a great cook, but it’s never too late to learn. I should exercise more (yes, I might get to that tomorrow)! I do have brilliant friends but absolutely, I think I should dance more! I am a former thespian. I am a mother and I am a writer. Like I always say – I am the sum of many things, but I am more than circus tricks!
If you have your time over what would you tell yourself?
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