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A Letter To My 22-Year-Old Self

People are going to use you. Let them.

This letter is coming from the 27-year-old you. You may have just graduated college and are about to move to New York City to work on Iron Chef America, but you will never believe all that is in store around the corner. You’ve been dreaming about living in New York your entire life. Everything you’ve wanted and more is about to materialize for you. The next five years are going to be a roller coaster that you will never, ever forget.

You will work on Iron Chef America’s final season. Do not worry about the first show you ever work on getting canceled. It is not an omen. Work is fleeting, and you will need to keep moving and evolving to have the career you want. Know that there is nothing wrong with ping-ponging. You will move from project to project and gain a lifetime’s amount of experience in a few short years. It will pay off in a big way as you start rising through the ranks.

Working on your first show will lead you to find the apartment that I still live in today. This apartment will be your one constant. Make it your home. You will need a place to recharge and feel grounded. There will be times in your life that just about everything else will be in flux. Your parents will move to a new town, and the house you grew up in will no longer be yours. You’ll go from job to job to no job to yet another job, so this apartment will need to be your landing pad. Get nice bedding. You’re going to need it.

Pound the pavement. Pound it hard. Don’t go on lengthy vacations, and don’t say no to jobs or networking opportunities. You’re going to work on a few shows that require you to wake up at 3:45 am. Take those jobs. You will learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. There’s nothing more important than work right now. Yes, date a lot of people, have fun and explore the city, but always remember why you are here, and keep your eye on the prize. All of the hours of being on set for 16 hours a day will pay off in a greater way than you could ever imagine. I’m telling you this from only five years in the future, so think about the possibilities awaiting us in five more years after that.

You are going to meet many amazingly beautiful people in New York. You will amass a large tribe of crazy people just like you. I would go on, but if there’s one thing you know you are good at, it’s making friends and maintaining friendships. I still work and hang out with people who you will meet on Iron Chef America if that is any indication of how deep and meaningful the friendships are that you will create in this huge city.

Always, always, always trust your gut. You’re going to make decisions, career or otherwise, and your first instinct is going to be right one hundred and fifty percent of the time. I’ve kicked myself over and over again for not trusting those gut instincts and allowing myself to explain away the hesitation. It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn. Be patient with and forgive yourself for not listening to the voice inside you.

People are going to use you. They are going to break your heart and take advantage of your generous spirit. They are going to date you while they go through a rough patch because you are grounded and safe. They are going to leave you. You are going to feel that you are not enough. You are going to feel fooled and tricked. You are going to feel like an idiot and be very, very angry with yourself for allowing yourself to be played.

Allow people to do these things to you. Allow them to use you, lie to you, and tell you that you’re not enough. It will make you comfortable with pain and heartache, and that pain is going to become a great motivating force in your life. The most important skill you will learn in the coming years is the ability to harness that heartbreak and use it as fuel for your creative endeavors. This fuel will power you through the next few years, and you’ll stop for gas many times.

There will be a plethora of amazing things born out of your broken heart. Things that other people will read, listen to, and cherish. Through your heartache, you will make a lot of people happy. Remember this when you’re laying in your bed crying while your roommate rubs your back in an attempt to console you. The fire inside you will infect so many people, and they will be thankful that you are so willing to be unapologetically yourself. Never be afraid to light yourself on fire to show others how to burn.

You will not find the love of your life in the next five years. Try your best to accept your singledom. It is hard, and no matter how much you own it, it will always feel like there is something wrong with you. I know that it will feel like it’s branded across your forehead, but I promise you that the world does not see it that way. Accept your loneliness. Marinate in it and make it a part of you. It will be a constant for you, so it’s better that you become comfortable sooner rather than later. Be so lonely that it stops being sad. You will be alone, but alone is your homeostasis, and it’s much better to be at rest all by yourself than needing to cling to someone to feel whole. You already know that, but it’s worth stating.

You will make me, and many other people, so unbelievably proud. If you take nothing else from this letter to heart, know that you are an absolutely out-of-your-mind, batshit crazy, one-of-a-kind, uniquely boisterous whirlwind of a person and there is not even remotely one thing wrong with that. It’s the thing that people like most about you.

I love you. Don’t stop being a tornado.

P.S. – The royal baby will be born on your 23rd birthday and it will be really annoying.  

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