A Long List of Advice to 20-Year Old Me Became Just Five Things

Live to Live Another Day The Best Way You Know How

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I sat down to make a list of advice to my 20-year old self. Don’t date him. Watch out for her. Don’t do that. Don’t go there. Stop! Go! Say Yes! Say No! At this age, I have the benefit of wisdom that she— with her cute lil’ self— didn’t have. The problem with trying to identify the best advice to give my younger self is that if I keep her from making mistakes, she’ll never learn all the things I’ve learned. If I use my wisdom to keep her from the Big Fs: falling, failing, and flipping out, then at this age — with my cute lil’ self— I would be unable to make her a list at all. Then we’d both be an F’d up mess.

I decided to let her fall, fail and flip out as needed. So, my list got drastically shorter. I offered no direct advice on specific people because she’s got to learn how to heal from a broken heart and discern who her real friends are. I removed any advice on how to behave because, well…getting burned is how we learn to avoid the hot stuff. I got rid of every piece of advice about “things” because things change quickly. My multiple-page, laundry list of advice to my 20-year old self got whittled down to a few core messages.

Know Who You Are at Every Moment

“Know who you are” is great advice but there’s more to it. The problem is that you change and grow over time and experience. Who you are at 20 years old will be different at 25 and even more different at 30. Who you are when you become a mother will be different than who you were before your heart started walking around outside of your body. Every experience will change you in some way. Your job is to know how it has changed you and who you are now…in this moment.

Relationships are Good

People will make you laugh and cry. People will bring you joy and make you angry. People will help you and hurt you, love you and loathe you. Sometimes, it’s one person doing it all. No matter what happens or how many times you fall or fail, remember that relationships are good. We were not created to be alone. We were created to do life together. Don’t be afraid of relationships. They are vital to your existence.

You Cannot Ruin Your Whole Life

Relax. There is no single decision that you can make that will derail your entire life forever. You can change where you live, where you work, or even your spouse if it comes down to it. It might not be optimal but it’s doable. You always have a chance to make a better choice next time. As long as you live there will be an opportunity to do life differently. Will it be easy? Not always. The bigger the fall the harder the climb. Make the best decisions you can with what you’ve got at the moment.

You’re the Skipper, Not the Ocean

There’s plenty of debate over God’s existence. The believers cannot definitively prove that God exists. The opposers cannot truly prove that God doesn’t exist. Despite the debate, one thing is for sure— somebody is in control and it’s not us. Life happens. You can make the best choices and have the best plans. Some things will go differently than you expected them to go. I’m not telling you to throw in the towel and leave it all to heaven. You’re the skipper, steering life the best way you can. However, remember to be flexible and agile, ready to shift when needed. The ocean ultimately determines how you steer.

Life is Not a Race

Life is not a sprint. It’s not a marathon, either. Life is not a race at all. Life is not a journey. Life itself is the thing we’re doing. It’s just life. There is nowhere for us to be— to”arrive” or “finish.” Our goals and desires will change because we will change. We’ll have plenty of questions and few absolute answers. There are many different ways to “do life” and so…

My best advice is simply this: “Live to live another day” and do it the best way you know how.

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