A year ago I was in a different place. Physically, mentally, emotionally and in every other sense of the word. Looking back, it’s almost like I don’t recognize that girl. Or maybe I don’t want to acknowledge that I’m responsible for her choices and her struggles even though I want to take credit for her growth. She became me, or I became her and somewhere along the way there was a shift. Her insecurities are still there, but my confidence shines through them. I went through hell, but I came out the other side. If I could go back and see her a year ago, this is what I’d say:
1. Trust your instincts. It doesn’t matter how mundane something feels, how irrelevant it seems or how much you imagine it will impact your life. At the end of the day, if something or someone doesn’t feel right, go with your gut. No one knows your needs better than you, and if you don’t know what you need, you owe it to yourself to go find out.
2. Don’t hold back. Putting yourself out there, in any sense, means you’re being set up for failure, humiliation, pain and a host of other things. But all that happens if you hold back is you wonder what would have happened. Life’s too short. Always say what is on your mind, no matter what.
3. Sing in the car every day. It sounds silly, but a jam-sesh on the way to work or a sing along on route to the grocery store does wonders for your mood. Turn the music up loud, put the windows down and belt it out. No one is listening, and that’s the whole point.
4. You are stronger than you know. All those people you look up to. The ones who have overcome something, or gotten out of a bad situation, or found themselves and their passion. You are about to become one of them. People in your life, those close to you and those only tangentially connected will tell you how much you inspire them. Let that soak in, and let it feel good.
5. You’ll still have bad days. Being happy isn’t a constant state of contentment. It’s also not the absence of unhappiness. Being happy can mean still having bad days. But they are few and far between, and positive thoughts make them bearable. It’s not that happy people don’t struggle, but they know how to swim, and can avoid drowning.
6. Everything happens for a reason. The job you didn’t get. The person who distanced themselves. The pain you caused. The words you said or heard that can’t be taken back. There are thousands of threads that lead you to where you are in this moment and at this place in your life. Don’t look back and wish something had happened differently. You have no idea where you would have ended up.
7. You can’t turn off your feelings. You’ll wake up in a cold sweat from a dream that felt more like a nightmare and wonder why your subconscious is feelings things that your conscious mind hasn’t experienced in months. You’ll hear that song, or smell that scent, or hear that name and be transported to a place you swore you’d never revisit. And that’s okay. You’ve done an incredible job of distancing yourself, and of healing, but you can’t turn off the feelings. Acknowledge them, forgive yourself, and move on.
8. Not everyone will understand. In a perfect world every person in your life will be supportive, attentive and want to share your new experiences with you. But some may struggle to keep up. It doesn’t mean you’ll lose them for good, or that you should stop trying, but use the opportunity to take a step back. When you find each other again you may be stronger than before.
9. You’re just getting started. Being in your mid-twenties is strange. You’ve been an adult for a handful of years, you’ve seen and done so much and it’s easy to feel like you’re required to have it all figured out by now. But you’re simultaneously so young and still so naïve to what you want and how to get it. Which isn’t an insult. There is absolutely no reason to freak out that you don’t know which way is up, or to compare yourself to your friends who seem to be on track. I bet if you asked them, they’re just as scared as you are.
10. It will all work out. It seems absurd that you can jump into a new life, chase after a new sense of self and leave everything you know behind and trust it to fall into place. But it will. So close your eyes, leap, and know that nothing will ever be the same. And that’s a beautiful thing.