Despite the physical evidence, you cannot afford this wardrobe.
Upon turning 30 years old, I dusted off a handful of journals that I’d used to document my 20s for a trip down memory lane. I immediately regretted this birthday tradition, tossing aside the books full of painful and traumatic moments. My post-college era was now defined by troubled love affairs, insurmountable insecurity and family tragedy. A total birthday bummer.
I always think of my journals as a sort-of letter to my future self. But on my 30th, it felt fitting to write a letter from my future self, offering some hope that my life would be “okay.” So here it goes.
It’s you, 10 years from now. Great shoes, by the way. You are so much cuter than you think.
I’m writing to tell you about some of great things you have to look forward to in life. What follows are moments I hope you’ll take the time to document during your 20s. There is good stuff happening in your life beyond all that heartbreak that you’re absorbed in.
For starters, during the next decade you will, by some miracle, travel to Mexico, Ireland, Jamaica, Chicago, Vegas, Virginia, New York, Texas, Seattle and Bali despite your lack of financial stability or ability to budget or pre-plan.
You will also jump out of an airplane, host an ‘80s themed roller skating birthday party, see your photo and name in print often, go on road trips and cruises, start a career and then abandon it and tattoo your body with a coy fish of ridiculous proportion. You’ll also meet celebrities you admire, ride in an ambulance, adopt a Shih Tzu and live in 15 different homes including two high rise apartments and one house in vibrant East L.A. with roommates you’d never met prior to moving in together.
You will also sing karaoke, miss a few flights, sleep with a couple of virgins, fight with a few friends, dance on few stages, eat sushi and break a suitcase while tumbling down an escalator at the airport. You’ll survive a scary car accident, own a completely impractical convertible, pet an elephant, play poker (well), and take the train to work like you always imagined. You will experiment with your fashion and hairstyles, experience a few dating misadventures and a couple of really good love stories.
Here’s a few things you’ll learn how to do: sneak your way into the VIP section of a Vegas nightclub, talk to strangers, negotiate, get out of a gym membership (a feat worthy of writing to you about), close a sale, bluff, ask for a raise, face rejection, lease an apartment, get fired gracefully, and buy a car. You will help to plan parties, fashion shows, photo shoots, weddings, funerals and a high school reunion and be surprisingly good at it.
You will come to finally understand how business, taxes and the government work, how to stand up for yourself at work and in love and how to let go of relationships that just aren’t working. You’ll also come to know that even if you can’t pay all of your bills, that you should always scrounge up enough to cover your car insurance and your rent. You’ll also learn that there is absolutely no excuse to miss a court date for minor traffic violations. Please start reading your mail. You will come to terms with the fact that despite the physical evidence, you cannot afford the wardrobe you maintain.
On a serious note, you will experience the heartache and chaotic aftermath that follow death, including the times that follow the loss of your grandmother, a friend, your dear cousin, your uncle and your father. You will have moments when you feel as if despair and sorrow are your only companions, but the pain of life will compel you to explore new spiritual philosophies– and, therapy.
But, you will be ok.
In your career, you will work so hard and feel underpaid most of the time. It’s called paying your dues, kid. You’re not indispensable (yet). You will learn that just because a job may promise a lucrative income, if it doesn’t make your soul sing, It’s not worth doing. No matter how hard you try, your career path will always lead you back to the things that do make your soul sing– writing and human rights issues.
When it comes to money, you will face difficult and humbling moments when all you can afford is a bag of rice to get you through a week of dinners, all the while reflecting upon the moments when you dropped $100 on a single meal. Even though you will spend many moments accompanied by fear, you will find that the universe tends to provide for and guide you even in the most hopeless of circumstances.
Your desire to explore the world will never leave you and your decision to move outside of your home state and comfort zone will be right choice. Finally, (and maybe you should sit down for this one), more than one psychic will tell you that you will be a mother and they are correct. Don’t worry, when this moment comes, you will be ready for it and you will accept the responsibility with an open, joyful heart full of gratitude and awe.
Also, here’s a few things for you and all 20-somethings should know:
You spend too much time worrying.
Some of your most productive work will be directly correlated with the nights that you let loose at that one dive bar. It’s okay to have fun.
When it comes to big decisions, listen to your inner voice.
The older you get, the more you’ll start to tap into your voice within. Trust her.
You really can’t change a person, and it’s not your place to try and help them change.
This applies to both friendships and relationships. And also your friends’ relationships. Try not to judge your friend for going back to Mr. or Mrs. Wrong over and over again for they are marching on their own path and experiencing their own life lessons. You are seriously not the authority on healthy dating.
You spread yourself too thin.
You will enjoy the next 10 years more if you stop over committing yourself to every fly-by-night friend, fad, hot spot and hobby.
Beware of the “Comparathon”
Like most people, you’ll spend your 20s comparing your success against the accomplishments of your peers, friends, acquaintances, and friends of acquaintances. Remember, there is no age at which you should have been, done or accomplished anything at all. Your perceived lack of success is grossly out of proportion with reality, and 10 years from now, you will finally realize how far you’ve come.
Forget your life plan
It’s okay to feel unsure about what to do with the “rest of your life” at 23 (ya friggin’ overachieving perfectionist). There is so much life to live after age 30, so don’t feel like you need to cram it all into the next decade.
Do the “wrong” thing sometimes
Please, enjoy those irresponsible, adventurous and, yes, tumultuous moments reserved for one’s 20s. (There is a deadline for which it is socially acceptable to dress like this for Halloween). It’s okay to live your life with reckless abandon sometimes.
Good luck and enjoy the aforementioned moments rather than the ones you spent time scrawling into the pages of your journal– it will make your 30th birthday a lot more enjoyable.
Shameless‘ Frank Gallagher was my father… but we never let him sleep outside in the snow.
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