Do you remember this awesome post about lessons learned in her 20’s from my dear friend Jodie? I wish that everyone had a Jodie Curtis in their life. She is fall-on-the-ground hysterical, a loyal friend, she regularly stays up all hours of the night to bake for all of her co-workers (I used to be one of them!), she is thoughtful and honest, and I’m so glad to have her on my blog today!
A few years ago Amanda asked me to take over her blog for a day. I’m not a culinary genius and I haven’t traveled the world and most of my photography lives on my iPhone – so I live in awe of her. At the time, I hadn’t quite reached my thirties yet and I wrote a list of things I would have told my 20-year-old self. Well, time marched and the 30th birthday mark hit. I didn’t melt into a pile on the floor, but life did a change a bit. It got messy. Life hit a little harder. So in the spirit of being very frank and honest I present the revised lessons I’d pass along to every 20 year old girl …
Your parents are living it up now. Sometimes you’ll call and you won’t be able to reach them. Hypothetically they might be at a Steak & Shake at 3am and they forgot to let anyone know. You gave them enough heart attacks during high school that they have earned these moments. There might also be a time when you call and ask what to do about a second degree oven burn and they tell you to just “Google it.” They love you, but they’re a little tired of parenting. Tell them to be careful, check in with someone and let those crazy kids have fun. Because we all know they spent far too many sleepless nights helping with a book presentation we didn’t remember we had until 1am. There are moments when you will call and no one picks up the other line, and then you imagine having to live life without them one day – and at that moment you literally can’t breathe. Tell them thank you.
Be ready to have your faith shaken. Life is not fair. I had obviously heard this often but knew it to be true in the most superficial of ways – as in, sometimes the nice girl doesn’t win homecoming queen or you get the squeaky wheel cart at the grocery store. It’s much crueler than that. Over the past few years I’ve seen friends struggle to have children, I’ve watched marriages crumble, I lost a wonderful healthy charismatic friend in his thirties to cancer. No, life is not fair. So unfair there were a couple of days I stayed inside my apartment. Not only did I not feel too Christian, I barely felt human. The lights stayed off and the doors stay locked and I swore I wouldn’t breathe in the direction of anything I cared about for fear it might be next to crumble. I love God, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t days I wasn’t livid at His reasoning … whatever it might be. The sooner we realize we aren’t the only ones yelling in the valley the better chance we have of finding a hand out of there.
Less is more. I recently moved into a studio apartment in the city. I live in 490 square feet. I can open my refrigerator from my couch. I had to get rid of half of my clothes to fit them in my sad little closet. For a year and a half I had a 12 inch television that I watched on a TV tray. There’s not much of anything hanging on my walls. If I want to eat at a dinner table (and I use that term loosely) it requires moving all three pieces of furniture I own. I can put something in the oven and dust my bookshelf at the same time. I sold my car. I walk everywhere. All of that to say, I thought this would kill me. I thought I would go crazy. I thought I’d miss “things.” It turns out life is simpler. However, much you have right now – trust me it’s more than enough.
No one has their sh** together. I see a lot of beautiful people in DC with polished nails and townhomes and handbags from designers I can’t even pronounce. I see them glide seamlessly from their job to their children to their well-manicured lawns – most of them younger than me, all of them (I assume) more successful than me. I can’t walk five blocks to work without spilling coffee on myself or realizing my shirt is unbuttoned. Yes, I own a pair of Tory Burch flats … but there’s a hole in one of them and duct tape on the bottom of the other. I’m a cobbled together mess. The truth is there is a lot that goes on behind closed doors that none of us know anything about. And because we live on social media we only see the best parts of everyone’s life. No one openly posts about credit card debt or kids with behavior issues or absent husbands and self-doubt. We show everyone the shiniest parts of our lives and secretly hope know one looks under that metaphorical couch for the mounds of disappointment we’ve stashed there. Don’t feed yourself the lie that everyone else has it all figured out. Be kind. The person whom you find most difficult is likely facing a multitude of things you know nothing about.
You’re still skinny enough. Seriously, I cannot say this enough. No one has fun at dinner with the girl who orders a salad. No one wants to see your calorie journal. Everyone is uncomfortable when you don’t eat a piece of your own birthday cake. I’m not a guy but I’m willing to bet a girl who is ten pounds heavier but confident and comfortable in her own skin, trumps the girl who’s ten pounds lighter but couldn’t possibly eat burgers two nights in a row.
Crazy people hide it well. Specifically people I’ve dated. Someone once told me that it takes a good six months before someone’s true colors show … sometimes longer. Yes, crazy people can hide their craziness like champs. The key is just not to go crazy with them. I dated one guy who conveniently left his wallet at home for around three months. Another guy who I swore was the love of my life preferred not to be seen in public together and usually insisted we take separate cars. Another guy never technically broke up with me, he just said he needed to remodel his kitchen and then I never heard from him again. It must be one heck of a kitchen. My point being my dating track record reads like a Criminal Minds B.A.U. unsub list – and yet still I have to give myself a break and realize we’ve all been duped by people who hid their true colors well. When you see the first red flag, jump ship. At the very least remember, it’s much better to happy alone than miserable together.
Be where you are. Single people want to get married or married couples want to not feel so tied down. Women with five kids fantasize occasionally, whether they admit it or not, about their bachelorette days. Those with the small town life want the big city glamour …when really there’s no glamour at all and we’re all trying to scramble away to the country. We want the promotion we think we deserve, the job at the bigger corporation, the boyfriend that got away, the children we think we’ll never have, or the days when we were 20 and single and life was simpler. We wish away the moment we’re living in and are ready to trade it in for anything else. I’m convinced it’s the greatest injustice we can do ourselves. Be where you are. The moment is fleeting and five years from now, you’ll be wishing for this day.
God determines your worth. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t seek input from others. However, a lot of people will offer unsolicited loud opinions. Some of them will make you feel like a million bucks and others will leave you in sweatpants for days. As much as you shouldn’t let a man determine your worth, you really shouldn’t let other women do it either. (Let’s be honest, some of us are brutal and catty.)
Show up early and leave late. We’ve all been told during the course of our lives that we’re special. Well, quite frankly, not everyone can be special. The harsh truth is the person signing your check in the payroll department doesn’t exactly care how special your parents thought you were. Work the late shifts without grumbling. Pick up a weekend here and there. Realize work is hard. Work will occasionally make you feel like the worst version of yourself. But you’re not. You’re employed. And one of the greatest blessings in life is showing up every day to a job you’ve dreamed of with co-workers who have become your best friends. If that happens, then yes – you are special.
Don’t be afraid to do things alone. At some point if you want to experience life – you have to be willing to do it alone. Once I realized this, life became a lot more about experiences and a lot less about Law & Order SVU Marathons. (Don’t get me wrong, Detective Elliot Stabler will always have a piece of my heart.) I took a solo vacation to Florida to experience Nationals Spring Training. Yes, I dined alone in a restaurant. Multiple times. No I did not die of embarrassment. I ended up eating with the Gulf Coast League team. I had never seen Gettysburg – so I drove there. I ended up in a pub downtown with some really interesting locals who told me the CVS across the street used to be a Civil War hospital. I wanted to be at Derek Jeter’s retirement ceremony, so I took the train and met the most fantastic Scottish guy who’s a huge fan of American baseball. Lonely is a state of mind not a relationship status. You can wait for someone to offer you a ride to enjoy life, or you can start doing it yourself.
Be grateful for the “No.” There were things I prayed desperately for … literally begging God. I would play the bargain game – we’ve all done it. We offer God everything just short of joining the convent, if he’ll just answer a prayer or two. Then you find out the answer is no. The door shuts. And if you’re not paying attention it shuts in a way that nearly takes off your fingers as you try to keep your shoe wedged in the doorway. Accept the no and be grateful. The things I prayed so fervently for over the past few years God denied in such a heart-wrenching way I would have sworn I couldn’t put one foot in front of another. It was only months down the road I was able to be grateful for the “No.” And in those wasted months, I spent a lot of time being mad at God for saving me from myself. Don’t waste the time I did.
Time really does heal all wounds. No less than 75 people told me this during my darkest days. All 75 of them I wanted to punch in the face. (Sorry guys, but it’s true.) Sometimes the best medicine to get over disappointment, heartache, frustration, you name it – is just putting one foot in front of the other. You let the hands on the clock tick away and it hurts a little less every day. I know it feels like you’ll never get over him. I know it seems a better job will never come. I know you swear the friendship won’t be mended or the financial situation will never change. This too shall pass.
If you check back in with me in two years, I might have scrapped this all and have thrown it out the window. Be wary of anyone who tells you they have life figured out, we’re all learning as we go. Remember, that occasionally it’s okay to be a mess. Just laugh. Especially on the darkest day. Be kind. We’re all in this together.