What would I say, if I could, to my younger self? You know, if we went for drinks at a Mexican joint, and I began a sentence with, “Okay, there’s something you should know…” what would follow? It’s easy to tent a blanket of “Don’t take life so seriously” on it, but that’s like telling someone to “relax.” The words are there, we hear them, but they don’t make us feel any differently. It’s too easy. It’s lazy advice. Here’s what’s harder to say:
Keep a diary. And when you write in it, try not to dot your i’s with hearts or fat little circles. Try to write about something other than the opposite sex or the fights you have with friends. I wish I knew, when I was younger, to write about the good in my friendships and family, to document the loving moments. Write about your relationship with your cousins, with your grandfather, with your parents. I need to take this advice now, too.
Nobody cares if you bite your nails. No guy is going to notice what shoes you’re wearing, and if he does, he’s the wrong guy.
You actually look beautiful, and can leave the house, without makeup.
Learn how to keep track of your spending and realize no amount of shopping will give you real self-esteem. Even the have-to-have handbag or shoes. But, it’s okay to like nice things. Don’t be too hard on yourself for buying into consumerism. There are worse things.
Be kinder. Try to treat people as if it’s your last interaction, but at the same time, care less, a lot less, about what other people think. Read that again. Stop caring what other people think. How? Understand that this is your life, not theirs, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if things don’t work out the way you’d hoped. At a certain point, you have to stop pointing fingers behind you toward your childhood. You cannot be walking around worried about what people will think of you. At the end of the day, all that really matters is what YOU think of you. Even if people say great things. Horrible things. Their opinion shouldn’t matter more than your own.
Don’t worry about appearing braggy or narcissistic. It’s called having self-esteem, valuing yourself enough to think people might care about what you have to say. Don’t be ashamed about anything because all our embarrassments are part of the human condition.
Don’t play music on your outgoing answering machine message. I know you think it sounds good and everyone else does it. Don’t.
You’ll make friendships anywhere you go, so stop worrying about the right places, schools, cities, apartment complexes, neighborhoods.
Whatever decision you’re worried about, right now, whether you should do this or that, however important it feels to you, just stop. Look Up. Remember, when you’re feeling like crap, to just step away from it, for fifteen minutes and just try, TRY, to enjoy the view. Yeah, the stars shine bright deep in the heart of Texas, but I’ve preached this before. Now that I’m in, what I consider to be, the ‘burbs, I never think, “I wish I were living in the city.” But when I lived in Manhattan, I always wished for stars, stairs, and a view. So look up wherever you are and realize a world goes on outside your dramas. Really, all of it will pass, will be worked out.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. I’m not saying to discount the consequences of your actions, but try to worry less about choosing wrong. We weigh ourselves down in it. Second-guessing ourselves. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes because, really, you learn so much when you risk. So really, it’s never a mistake. Unless it involves wearing the color orange or anything to do with a hat. These are usually mistakes best to avoid.
Ditch negative people. Don’t keep them around because you feel guilty. Hold onto your strong female friends, even if you’ve had a pissy fight. They’re really important.
I wouldn’t tell my younger self to listen more, or to be compassionate as well as passionate. I think I knew those things then. Yeah, yeah, live in the moment, in the now. I already knew that. Heard and knew the words. That’s not something I needed to hear, and it’s still not. I would have liked to have known that the truly big moments aren’t as important as the smaller quiet ones. The sidelines matter more. When traveling, I’m never impressed by the main attraction; I remember, more, the smaller moments, the little girl, when I was in Madrid, dressed in “her Sundays.” She saw me watching her walk by as I sat on a bench. She kept turning to look at me. I remember those moments most. “Keep paying attention to the smaller things,” I would say. “That’s where the good stuff is.”
Don’t be so damn hard on yourself. Yeah, you screwed up. You’re not perfect, fine. Learn from it. But don’t punish yourself. Be kind to you, even when you screw up. You’ll bounce back eventually. You’ll make up for it.
You are not fat. You are within a healthy weight range. As long as your doctor isn’t talking to you about health risks, you are not fat. Even if your fat pants no longer fit. Try, as hard as it is, to realize how good you look now. Here’s what I’ve learned. When I’m a size four, I’m usually miserable and anxious. Then, at a size ten, I’m happy in my life (miserable that I cannot fit into my wardrobe, but actually happy in my life), but as happy as I am, I long to be the miserable size four again. It’s lame-ass behavior. Stop worrying about it. Your weight issues aren’t going away, so just deal and learn to love yourself at whateverthehell size you are. Just deal.
The man should love the woman just a smidge more. Many wise woman I know have told me this (after the fact). I wish someone had said it to me once upon a time. I would have listened. Life is too short to learn everything the hard way. At some point, it helps to listen. Yes, you have to experience some things for yourself, but the things I’m saying here, and especially if I had a “back to the future moment,” and it was coming from ME, I absolutely would have listened and reacted… at least while it was top of mind. I hope to look back on this one day and just add to it. I hope to keep this list top of mind, too. Especially the bit about writing about the good. As for the man loving the woman more bit, I’ve been in relationships where I just *knew* I loved him more… and in relationships where I totally just *knew* he loved me a little more… I still loved him completely, but knew, I guess, that he adored me and would never do anything to screw things up.
Don’t cling to what you know. Holy shit. This would have saved me some therapy. Push your boundaries, explore; don’t rely on the familiar. Move. Make new friends. Go out alone, and don’t be afraid of what others think about it. No one else is just like you, and you, just as you are, are important. I wish I knew and believed that then. Much more important that sunblock. Okay, just as important, anyway.
Compliment people. When people receive a compliment studies have shown that their blood pressure is actually lowered. People are immediately set at ease.
Accept compliments graciously. Don’t pull the old, “oh stop,” or “ew, no I don’t.” Don’t roll your eyes. Take it in, and really accept it. Shake your head and respond with a heartfelt, “thank you.”
Get a pet. You live longer and happier when you can care for it properly. When you’re older, you tend to live longer if you have a pet. It’s an activity; something is relying on you. You matter, even when the kids are too busy. They also lower your blood pressure.
When you feel blue, have a “self-esteem” music mix at the ready to lift your mood. Then force yourself to take a walk, wear the anxiety tired.
Eat three meals a day. Try not to snack. I don’t care what you’ve heard about grazing and blood sugar. You know you and the way you can’t stop once you start. Stick to three hots.
Realize your life is not like the movies. It’s not supposed to be a Mark Ruffalo film.
Pointing out how the fake MIT Sunscreen speech of Vonnegut did it better? Better re-read the title and figure out the author is doing more than “internalizing things;” she’s tipping her proverbial hat. Not a case of sloppy seconds, thank you very much. Again, try not to expect the worst from people.