A Letter to Myself at 21
You look good. You don't think so, but trust me, you're lookin' real fly.
We're turning 31 next week and I've been thinking about you a lot lately. In case you're wondering, you pass that Statistics final with a generous bell curve. But there are other, more important things that I want you to know about who you are and what you've become. Here's some advice I want to give you, mostly so you'll stop worrying so much about how your life turns out.
Advice like this:
You'll be righteous about politics and social justice and even what color your roommates should paint the door. You'll take days off work to go to the courthouse and bemoan how rich people spend their money on shitty causes.
You'll get fired up, take action, and then get exhausted. You'll swear off politics and let your roommates paint the door "any fucking color they want" because you'll be too damn tired to care. Learning to choose your battles will be one of the best skills you ever learn. Fight when it matters.
You'll manage people at 24 and feel accomplished. You'll be a temping as a jackasses' secretary at 27 and feel embarrassed. You'll carry both of these emotions around in a cloth knapsack called your "self-esteem". It will make you both an arrogant asshole/ a total bummer on dates. Neither of these jobs will ultimately matter. You'll figure out that sometimes a job is just a job and it can exist independently from how you measure your success.
Buy an air conditioner. It's an investment in your sanity.
When you get diagnosed with HPV at 22, don't go fucking insane about it and do awful things to your body that you read on the internet. It will go away in a few years anyway and you'll regret all the time you spent pushing people away because you thought you were "dirty". There is no such thing as "dirty" or "clean" and for the love of God, stop Googling shit on the internet.
Have sex with Dylan again in the morning. You won't have sex for another 5.5 years after that. You'll write a book about it called Unintentionally Celibate. It will make people laugh but sex will still become a thing.
Stop telling everyone how busy you are. There's nothing impressive or satisfying about being busy. Hustling is overrated and there's no award for sending the most emails. It's ok to go on long meandering walks and watch marathons of The Blacklist.
That being said, sometimes you GOTTA send those damn emails. Figure out how to manage your time. And when you realize you don't know how to do that, pay a coach to help you. It's a smart investment. Sometimes she'll bring you food.
Don't order the sesame chicken.
It's totally possible to get drunk and make out with your best friend, try to date, break up and still be best friends. Ultimately you knew that he was going to wind up with someone that wasn't you, so you'll be so happy when he finds that person.
There will be other people you'll date and break up with and then try to be friends. Your heart will crumple into a tiny little ball every time you see them. Even though you know that they're meant to wind up with someone who isn't you, you'll still feel shitty about it. Learn to gracefully walk away from these people. Eventually it won't be graceful and you'll be acting like a total crazy person on the train until he says, "How long are we gonna do this for?"
Find people who love you. Unconditionally.
Find a community that supports you.
You'll need both when the shit hits the fan.
They might loan you money or time or host a potluck for you when you're knee-deep in your own depression. Make sure you have their backs when they need you too, that’s how lifetime friendships are made.
Your boss and you will fight about your nails. A lot. It isn't really about your nails. It's about how much you value autonomy. That theme is gonna come up again. Your nails are still ugly.
Your mom and you will fight about time. A lot. It isn't really about time. It's about how much you both miss each other and don't know how to say it. Learn to say it. Communication solves a lot of problems.
You're funny. You don't believe it yet but you are.
Invest time and energy in great sex. Maybe go to a class or two. Learn how to say what you want & need and ask your partner what they want & need. Learning to respect your voice will be one of the greatest gifts of your life.
Be grateful for shit.
But seriously, be grateful for shit.
Opportunities. Relationships. Your Body. Be grateful that you woke up this morning and everything still worked.
Stop dating sad men. You can't make them happy. They will just make you sad too.
You'll write some beautiful speeches. There will be days when you'll totally nail it. You'll feel good and talented and know that's what you were meant to do. Other times, there will be meetings, presentations, and conversations when your anxiety will get so high that your face will turn bright right. Blotchy, tomato red. Your voice will quiver and you'll somehow have to figure out how to speak anyway.
So always speak anyway.
Be both generous and vitally protective of your time. How will you know when to do what? You won't until you've had a lot of practice saying both yes and no.
You'll spend a lot of time trying to make peace with yourself. You'll read books and recite affirmations like, "I am enough" and "I am a sex goddess" You'll adopt a morning routine and start to meditate.
And YOU'LL FEEL SO GOOD.
It will radiate off you and they'll call you, "a ray of Sunshine." Everyone will want to date you and you'll be crushing it at your job AND YOU'LL HAVE ALL THE MONEY AND TIME. You'll think, "Wow, I'm living my best life."
Then you'll drop the morning routines, forget the affirmations, lose your job and money and boyfriend and two years later, desperately try to rebuild your self-esteem all over again from ground zero. You'll adopt a new morning routine, find a therapist, start running...
And it's an ongoing cycle of trying to make peace with yourself. One that I hope will end by the time you hit your 40th birthday.
Read books you wanna read, not books you think you should read.
Finally, remember that people are weird. They’ll have a whole slew of reasons for why they behave the way they behave. Most of the reasons are hidden below the surface and they won't be able to explain or communicate them. Try to remember that most people are doing their best in the way they know how. A lot them are trying just as frantically as you to make peace with themselves. That doesn't mean you have to keep them in your life but it also doesn't mean you have to walk around with anger inside of you.
If possible, forgive them. People are complex. So are you.