Good morning, World 🙂
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? How’ve you been?
Today is my 30th birthday. That’s right, 30.
Many women find this day to be a distressing landmark, because come on, who wants to say goodbye to their 20’s?
But as vexing as the idea of getting older is, I’m glad to finally close the door on the past decade of my life.
Over the last ten years, I’ve faced heartbreaks and obstacles that could have stopped me in my tracks if I let them. The shadow of pain and loss – both of my family members and my closest friends, and both to death as well as to severance – served as an ever present reminder of impermanence. Be thankful for every moment, the universe might say. Or else.
Harrowing though this decade may have been, dawn broke.
And when it did, it did so in such an amazing, life-giving way that I could not have possibly asked for a happier ending to this volume of my life.
I found my true love and married him. I had a baby, moved to Brooklyn, then Massachusetts. I reconnected with my mother and my younger sister.
I wrote three books: “The Satin Rose” (independently published through Noble Romance Publishing), “Warmth: A Paranormal Romance Novella” (self-pubbed through amazon KDP), and “Inside the Pearl,” a book of poems that still sits on my shelf with longing eyes.
I even joined the military (and got kicked out, thanks colon) and earned my associate’s degree in Liberal Arts. My bachelor’s degree in psychology took the back seat to everything else, and still requires another semester for completion.
All in all, I’m happy with how my twenties went. I had some crazy adventures and misadventures.
If I could go back in time and talk to my 20 year old self, there’s plenty of advice I would be tempted to give myself. The gist of it, however, would boil down to:
- Stop investing yourself so deeply in people who are not invested in you at all.
This goes for romantic relationships, friendships, you name it. If someone is not willing or able to match your level of devotion to them, whether it’s a romantic partner who views you as an escapist fantasy, or friends who talk shit about you behind you back, you don’t need them.
- Be a better friend.
By the same token, there are eras of my life that I look back on and realize that I should have treated the people who stuck by me better. I wish I had been less of a mooch, less helplessly unable to help myself, less self-absorbed in the face of grief, less pugnacious, and more kind-spirited and honest. I am eternally thankful that I have friends from middle school who have stuck by me for this long, in spite of how we’ve taken turns dicking each other over with our own emotional problems.
These are the people who actually matter: the ones who do not abandon you, despite the disagreements you may have along your journey together. These people are gold, and I will make it a priority to treat them with the care and dignity they deserve. If you’re reading this, friend, I love you so, so much.
- Figure out what goals you actually care about.
This is a big one. When I was in my twenties, I desperately wanted to prove myself academically. I wanted to get a Ph.D – in what, I had no idea, this changed every month – and once and for all prove to the world that I’m not a flakey, useless failure who can’t even function. Then, once I had finally established myself as “somebody,” I could crack down on writing fiction, and eventually, if I were lucky, achieve my heart’s ambition of being a fulltime writer.
What ended up happening was, I fizzled out on everything I tried.
I changed course too frequently to make any progress on any goal I set, because once the going got tough – and it always will, don’t kid yourself – I found that I did not care enough about my goal to continue my pursuit. I changed majors, changed goals, felt refreshed for a moment, and repeated this cycle for damn near a decade. I acquired a scattered skillset and a passing knowledge on an array of subjects, but no accomplishments. Nothing that made me any more qualified for a career than when I had started.
What if I had just bothered to be honest with myself from the beginning?
Writing has been with me since I was a child. Creating worlds and stories and characters from thin air is my shit. What if I had just said “To hell you with neigh sayers, I’m going to make this work no matter what, go fuck yourself,” and put my shoulder to the wheel with reinforced vigour?
If you don’t actually care about a goal, you will not achieve it. The garden of your spirit will grow a bountiful crop of excuses, self-doubt, and procrastination that will last every winter of your life.
- Start quantifying your efforts toward this goal with charts and schedules.
If there’s one thing my stint in the Navy taught me, it’s that the only way you can tell if you’re making progress is by actively recording your objectives and analyzing your mission. BE ORGANISED AND DILIGENT.
This runs against the grain of a creative temperament, and the psychologist in the Navy told me that this would be my biggest obstacle as a sailor — I was extremely high in trait openness, but low in conscientiousness. Not to mention that a shit attention span, especially under chronic stress.
I was perfectly content to flit from idea to idea like a fly at a buffet, tasting everything, committing to nothing. And this gets nothing done. Crack down and treat your shit like it’s an operation, because it is.
- Take care of your health.
Your body is a machine. If you treat it like shit, it will fall apart faster. I can at least be thankful that I was observant of nutrients and exercise. Those two matter, damn it. But I was deeply negligent of my ulcerative colitis until it landed me in the hospital, and I did my fair share of drinking and smoking cigarettes for a couple of years. Ah, college. And don’t forget your sunscreen, either.
It may be too late to go back and give myself this advice now, but that’s alright. I can follow this advice now. I still have life left in me, words to write, goals to accomplish.
So let’s do this.
Let’s fill the next ten years with love, understanding, growth, and maybe a little dose of some seriously hard fucking work.
What would you go back in time and tell your 20-year old self? Let me know, let’s spread some wisdom.
P.S. For the historical record, here is my face. No makeup, no photo editing, no filters, no nothing. Figured this might be fun by the time I’m forty, eh?