July 2, 2012

10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 20

Study of a Young Woman, by Johannes Vermeer

The wonderful Shelli Johnson blogged this great list a while back, and I thought I’d create my own.

1.      Own it: You’re a writer.  You read voraciously.  You write all the time.  You don’t have to be published to own it.  Other people don’t even have to know that you write.  If you write, you’re a writer, so let yourself imagine the thing you want most in the world.

2.      Being smart and persistent are your greatest assets.  People are always telling you tricks to get ahead, and you want to believe them.  You want to find the magic bullet that will fix everything and make it right ~ that will make you all right.  But, you know, the only thing that’s going to fix it is to think long and hard about it (and write about it) and then persistently follow through on the things that you finally understand.  Yes, the secret to success is pigheadedly showing up every time.

3.      Having a regular schedule and good health habits will get you far.  You know how your family thinks sleep is not only optional but something to fight against?  You know how they consider it a weakness? Bad idea.  If you sleep regularly, you’ll not only feel better but you’ll have the energy to be much more productive than if you stay up late trying to get things done.  Also, that idea that you unconsciously took in that being fat (and your ‘fat’ is most people’s normal) is the worst sin you can commit ~ that idea is wrong. If you let it go and move on, you’ll have all this free time to think about things that really matter.

4.      You don’t have to have a man or be a man to have worth.  You are worth something just because you are you.  Your worth is not connected to who you date.  Your worth is not created by how close you pull men or how far away you push women.  You’re not only okay ~ you are damn fine.  I give you permission to like yourself.

5.      You can get a job with an English degree.  Being raised on a ranch has given you the idea that you have to slave your life away just to get the bare minimum to survive, and therefore you need a good-paying job, not one of those frivolous artsy ones.  But believe me when I say: do what you love and the money will follow.  Sure, you need to make some compromises and work hard, but allow yourself to do what you are passionate about.

6.      You are not measured by what you accomplish.  Contrary to popular belief, you have worth just because you’re you, and you don’t have to burn the candle at both ends to prove to the world the worth of your existence.  Chill.  Take a break and give yourself a break.  You need that down time, and paradoxically you’ll be much more productive by giving yourself that.

7.      It’s okay to be angry.  Anger is not the enemy.  Anger is the call to arms telling you that you’ve been hurt.  It does not matter whether people meant to hurt you or not, and it does not make them bad people. What you do with it is what matters.  If you deny it, it will eat you from the inside out.  You must acknowledge it and use it as fuel for your life.  It’s not lemons into lemonade; it’s raw crude into jet fuel.

8.      It’s okay to dream big.  It doesn’t seem like you’ve gotten much or won much in your life, but you have more than you know.  Get over the fact that past experience has shown that you won’t ever have much and move on.  The only way you’ll ever have anything is if you dream it first.  Look around you and learn how to have a big life.

9.      Love will be more and less than you ever dreamed it would be.  Let me warn you: when you read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, it will knock your socks off.  Love is not just romantic love.  It’s also friendship and caring and kindness and nurturing and commitment.  Love will be a many-faceted jewel that will brilliantly illuminate your life.  However, it will not solve everything.  You can’t look outside yourself at another person to fulfill your every want and need.  You must love and accept yourself first before you can be an equal partner and friend.

10.  Trust the world and yourself and the process of living.  Right now, you are a chaotic and emotional mess. That is true.  But it won’t always be that way.  Don’t panic.  Trust that you can work it out and that the world will provide what you need not only to survive but to thrive.  You have to be patient, but trust this process called life.  You’ll make it.


Ken said...

Extraordinary. I love your list. Number 6 and number 8 give me permission to go back to sleep (Chill, dream big) and .... Seriously, number 9 and number 10 something should be imprinted on our brains before we leave home...but that would require we have the gift of perspective.

Tamara said...

Thank you so much, Ken! Wow. High praise.

So what do you think you'd have told yourself?

~ T