Recently my dad was asked to participate in the collection of essays,Write for the Fight. Partial proceeds for the collection go toward breast cancer research. The collection included four life questions including, “What would you tell your twenty year old self?” I thought it’d be fun to write a blog post based on that question, since I have a different perspective being not yet twenty.
So often I hear adults talking about how stupid they were when they were younger, listing regrets, and if-onlys, and talking about what they’d do differently. For this post I wanted to reflect on what I know now, at seventeen and on the cusp of adulthood, because although the younger generation has a way of getting a reputation of being naïve and making bad decisions, we still have a pretty good idea on how to live. There are five things I’d like to tell my twenty-year-old self, not from the point of view of someone looking back on their life, but from the point of view of a teenager looking forward and striving to remember the oh-so important lessons of youth.
#1: Don’t fall into the mechanics of an ordinary lifestyle, because let’s face it, that’s too boring – I’m the kind of person who can easily fall into a schedule and become lost in it. I like things to be organized and predictable, because order has a way of making things easy. So, to my twenty-year-old self, I say, don’t fall into such habits. My best experiences have come unexpected: a kiss, a sudden opportunity, an impulse. Like when I was in Thailand and got on the back of my friend’s bike with no breaks and took on the big hill, or in Colorado when we suddenly dared to make it to the top of the mountain, or in Texas when I stared out over the thousand-foot drop to the desert beyond in a place called the Window, because it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. The point is, life happens with more thrill when you take risks and embrace the chaos of living.
#2: Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, they make you a better person – I’ve spent my whole life trying to learn from other people’s mistakes. Yet while it’s good to be smart about my decisions, I find that the biggest lessons I’ve learned were not from observing the mistakes from the sidelines, but from making them myself. I have no regrets regarding the mistakes I’ve made, in fact, I’m thankful for all the experiences I’ve had. All of them have led me to where I am now, and in a sense, I am made up of the decisions—good or bad—that I’ve made. So for goodness sake, twenty-year-old self, you better still be taking risks and learning from your failures, because that’s the whole point of becoming a better person and truly experiencing life.
#3: Don’t take yourself too seriously – Sure, by the time I’m twenty I will have had the great opportunity to study writing at my dream college, and will probably be living on my own, and will probably have the responsibility of supporting myself and maintaining income, while juggling the vast waters of friendship and love, but I better still be able to understand the concept of fun. Twenty-year-old self, I want you to remember the joys of toy stores, candy shops, picnics, and exploration. Always embrace your inner child, because being a kid is fantastic and responsibility has no right to get in the way of that.
#4: You can do or be anything you set your mind to – I remember when I was in the second grade and we went around in class talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Kids said things like, “I want to be president” and “I want to be a firefighter” and “I want to be a doctor.” Nothing was off limits, yet by the time high school came around, those aspirations were muffled by the concept of what was realistic. Right now, my dream is writing. My dream is traveling. My dream is cooking. And while I sit here and yearn to say that I better still be writing books every morning, exploring new places every day, and cooking dinner every night when I’m twenty, I can’t. My real advice, twenty-year-old self, is to keep following your dreams. I don’t care what they are, as long as you are dedicated to them. Right now, the path seems pretty clear that writing is my number one passion, and although I don’t foresee that changing, all I want for you to remember at this point is that nothing is too far from your grasp.
#5: Happiness is always worth the risk – This is the hardest and most real of all the things I want to tell my twenty-year-old self. As I venture further into adulthood, I can see the struggles that so many people face, and how happiness is often the compromise: a dead-end job in order to gain steady pay, the sacrifice of a hobby for a spouse, the loss of a dream because of a reality. But no matter how difficult, there is always a way to make time for happiness. The confusing matter is deciding what it truly is that you want. Perhaps the loss of one love is the gain of an even greater one. Despite my youth I recognize that these decisions are what ultimately make up living, the joy and the sorrow that encompasses life. In my final point, twenty-year-old self, I am telling you that no matter what, being happy is the ultimate goal. I want to be able to look back on my life and recognize the ups and downs, the failures and successes, the sadness and the happiness, and be able to confidently say that I enjoyed every second of the ride and always strove to keep a genuine smile on my face.
Nicole is a Fantasy writer who lives on a small farm in the Pacific Northwest. She started seriously writing when she was 13, signed her first contract when she was 16, and has no reason to stop writing now. “I write to explore, to transport myself somewhere new, and uncover the complex minds of my characters. It keeps me sane.” For more information about Nicole, visit her site at http://www.nicolejpersun.com.