Monday, June 2, 2008

Advice to my 24-Year-Old Self

I've been keeping a journal since I was fifteen years old and I still have every volume. This morning I leafed through my journal from 1987. Ugh. I had just ditched my boyfriend and well-paying corporate job to move to Chicago and start over. While I searched for a job, I lived in a tiny studio apartment near the lake.

I was lucky to have some good friends in Chicago, but it was still an unsettling time for me. Reading through my journal entries, I can see now that I was insecure. I was lonely. Oh, I have to face it - I was an idiot. Why did I waste so much time obsessing about things that have turned out to be completely unimportant? I wish I could go back and give my 24-year-old self a few sound pieces of advice.

If I could sit myself down over cocktails, here's what I'd tell me:

Shut up, you look great!  Stop being so critical of your appearance.   You're not fat and you're not ugly; you're young and gorgeous. Embrace who you are and stop comparing yourself to other people. Don't take your perky breasts, tiny waist, smooth complexion and bright smile for granted. Give yourself permission to celebrate your body and the unique way you look.

Leave those old boyfriends in the past. You broke up with them for a reason; now let them go. So you haven't found anyone new in Chicago - that doesn't mean you can reel your former lovers back in whenever you need an ego fix. Let those guys get on with their lives and stop depending on them to make you feel good. Move on.

You will not end up alone. Honey, you are just getting started. You're not supposed to have everything all figured out right now. There are a lot of places to go and people to meet, including a charming Irishman who hasn't even set foot on American soil yet.  Relax, enjoy the freedom of being single, and spend some time getting to know you. A lot is still going to happen.

If my younger self were still paying attention, I'd advise me never to perm my hair, wear stirrup pants, or do shots of Jagermeister. I'd also urge me to save more money, visit my grandmother, and join a gym. But by then, my 24-year-old self would be heartily sick of being lectured by some middle-aged shrew and would have slipped off the barstool and out the door to flag down the nearest taxi.

I know there's no rewriting the past. The only self I can influence is the one who is 45 years old, sitting right here and now. Perhaps I'd better focus on the advice that she needs to hear. Anybody got any pearls of wisdom? It's a topic we'll explore next time.

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