We live in a cult of youth. This is nothing new, especially if, like me, you grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s and every bit of our pop culture pointed at old people and laughed. I always assumed I would never be one of them, or, as Deanna Carter sings in the 1995 country song “Strawberry Wine,” “I still remember when 30 was old.”
Not much has changed these days except semantics. Now it’s all about the millenial demographic…but why? My high school days were so bad that I used to say, “If anyone offered me $10 million to be 16 again I’d punch ‘em in the throat.” While my 20’s and 30’s were better, I still feel the same (minus the physicality) because, despite my back starting to ache and my body breaking down in ways I’d only ever read about, I finally realized that I get better as I get older.
When I was 25, I was a brash, bold, smack-talking, I-can-do-anything kind of girl on the outside. But in reality, I was insecure, terrified and basically just stumbling through life hoping to get it right. And while I don’t regret anything – I wouldn’t be who I am today without the stumbles along the way – there are some things I wish people had warned me about.
But then again, let’s be honest: I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway.
1. Those awesome breakouts you get once a month? They don’t go away. Stop picking at the zits. It will give you scars. If you can’t leave your face alone, just wait for your mid-thirties and the chin hair. Without tweezers, you could actually audition for the role of the Bearded Lady.
2. Wear a hat and sunscreen. Sun damage sucks, especially the kind that costs around $4,500 a year to laser off and still doesn’t go away permanently. I grew up with the Coppertone baby and the Ban de Soleil chick whose face looked like a coach bag – one that we all wanted. And now, at the age of 42 with permanent brown and white splotches on my face from lying out with baby oil and iodine, it would have been nice if I’d actually listened to all those people who told me to cover up.
3. No matter what your anxiety tells you, nothing really needs to happen right now. Before you speak, act or do much of anything, take a hot minute, a few deep breaths and ask yourself, “Should I really be doing this?”
4. Most friends aren’t for life. It’s a weird thing to acknowledge. I used to pride myself on collecting friends and making lasting friendships – and that’s a good thing…except when the other person isn’t really a keeper. Sometimes, people come into our lives for a short amount of time, attracted to the life space we are in at the moment. Feeling blue? Having a bad year? There are people who like that and use it to feed themselves and their weird energy. Get rid of them. Or, in the case of the energy vampires, make them “small dose” friends – people you only see a few times a year in very small doses because you need a long nap afterwards.
5. You’re most likely going to get fired at least once in your life. And that is (more than) okay. It wasn’t the right job for you anyway, and they just saved you two to five years of misery. Don’t let it freak you out.
6. That guy you’re dating probably isn’t the one. (Sorry.)
7. Listening is the most powerful thing you can do. As the author Ambrose Bierce once wrote, “Bore, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
8. KIM: Keep It Moving. Remember when you were a kid and you’d fall down and look around to see other people’s reactions before you decided to bust out crying? Quit. It. Pick up, dust off and keep it moving.
9. Stop blaming your parents for everything, even if they were truly awful. Be proactive and see a shrink. And by a shrink, I don’t mean your best friend.
10. You’re going to look back at all those pictures you think are so awful (“Ugh, I hate myself in pictures,” “Oof, my nose looks so big,” “Yuck, I look hideous”) and think, “Wow. I was adorable. I just felt like shit inside.” Remember this when you take a picture now, think, “Oh, I probably look great!” and smile. Big.
11. Cut out the cursing. It ain’t pretty – ever.
12. If anyone says you can’t do something or implies you’re not good enough, walk away. Now.
13. Always use a condom. Back when I was a youngster and everyone tested for HIV and AIDS, no one knew about HPV – and no one tested for it or knew the cancerous damages it could cause. As a result, according to Women’s Health, more than 75 percent of women contracted some form of it. Imagine all the other things they haven’t found yet.
14. Take yourself on a date. Because you’re worth it.
15. You are going to be horribly, awfully, painfully lonely at times. Revel in it. And use that time to remember what YOU like to do and what makes YOU happy.
16. That girl who seems to have it all is probably wishing she had your life. Or she will in 10 years. That old adage of “You never know what someone’s going through until you walk a mile in their shoes” is true. And all those people who have perfect lives on Facebook and Instagram? They’re probably one scotch and soda away from checking themselves into rehab.
17. Nothing is pretty about gossip. Yes, as a former gossip columnist I am aware of the irony of this statement. But if someone gossips to you, they will gossip about you. Not to mention, as I get older, I started to realize that there are many, many things I just don’t need to know.
18. Give yourself a break. We all fuck up, and that’s okay. Learn from your mistakes (you will make them again and again, but each time with less magnitude), and forgive yourself.
19. Be your loudest cheerleader – and quit it with the self-deprecation. People are sheep, and if something is spoken loudly and often enough they will believe it (how do you think Donald Trump has gotten so far?), even if it’s spoken in jest.
20. Travel somewhere alone each year for at least a long weekend to recharge and rethink your life and what you’re doing. When you travel alone, there are no distractions, no one else to worry about or keep tabs on and, more importantly, no one else around to reinforce their beliefs about you on you. So go – do something you’ve always wanted to do and inspire yourself.
21. Forgive yourself and those closest to you for things that may have happened in the past. You can’t move on otherwise. I’m not saying be besties with the chick that bad mouthed you behind your back to your boss or that guy who cheated on you with your friend, but understand they are probably just behaving the only way they know how.
22. Fall in love with yourself before you fall in love with anyone else. As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
23. Live alone at least once in your life for a significant period of time.
24. Hold things loosely. The tighter you cling to something, the farther away it gets from you. Trust.
25. Be humble and celebrate others’ success. There is nothing more gracious, loving or humble than looking at someone and being truly happy for them, and not just because you believe that it comes back around hundred-fold. If we all do well, it is a good thing.