I have never been terribly good at punctuality. I’m generally late for just about everything. Granted, I was born early but that may, in fact, be the very last time I was even remotely on time. Thus it is perfectly fitting that I am only now writing the column – months after the fact – marking the occasion of the 20th anniversary of my entrance into adulthood.
In truth, I think I may be having a mid-life crisis – sans the sports car and the comb-over. I have spent much time lately dwelling on the past. Where did twenty years go? How is it that I’ve been a “grown up” longer than I was a child? When did the soundtrack of my life end up on the classic oldies station?
What would I do over?
Tell. The funny thing is that as corny country song as it is, what I wish more than anything is that I could go back for just one day, face my 18 year old self, and tell her all the things I wish I had known back then.
That the harder you work the luckier you are. For pretty much everything you do in life, you get out exactly what you put in.
That life isn’t fair. It really isn’t. Not “he got a bigger cookie ” unfair, but rather “people can die in the blink of an eye” unfair. Prepare for that.
That no matter how kind and polite and thoughtful you try to be, there may just be someone who doesn’t like you or what you stand for, so stop trying to please everyone. If you plan to become a writer – this will be doubly true.
That a size nine isn’t “fat.”
That you will never, ever need advanced algebra.
That you will need sunscreen.
That you really should “save for a rainy day.” Yes, I know the Firebird and the Guess jeans are a lot more enticing, but they are absolutely useless when it finally “rains.” And trust me, it will rain. So save a little money from every paycheck, even if it’s only ten dollars.
That under no circumstances should you accept all those credit card offers you are going to get within minutes of turning eighteen. Really. Trust me on this.
That you will never, ever, look good in either short hair or a spiral perm. I really can’t stress this enough.
That if you act stupid to attract boys, you will attract stupid boys. I spent a lot of time in high school “dumbing down” because I thought that’s what guys liked. It turns out only dumb guys like that. You are not going to marry a dumb guy. I promise.
If you do, however, date a dumb boy you will not “change” him. Your love will not “save” him and no, he won’t be nicer/different/better when you are married (and/or pregnant).
That you should cherish your hometown. You will not live there “your whole life” (or much longer) and you will miss it dearly later on.
That God is real and you should listen to him. Always.
That you should realize how smart the adults in your life really are. Hush up. Take notes if necessary. You will wish you had listened more. I know this will come as a shock but having a complete set of Led Zeppelin cassettes and a car payment does not make you wise. You really don’t know everything.
That you are no longer a child and in virtually every important aspect of your life there will be no “do-overs.” Think carefully before you burn bridges. Getting the last word may seem like a pleasant victory – but you can win the argument and still lose it all. Really.
Finally, I would tell my eighteen year old self that if you learn nothing else you should pay attention to that very small voice from within – even when it gives you that uncomfortable feeling that questions certain life choices. Especially then.Try and listen to it because that voice will – more than once – try mightily to direct you down the right path.
And if that voice should happen to sound a lot like a pushy, know-it-all, twenty years older (and thus totally ancient) you – listen to her.
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