Dear 20 year-old Tiffany,
I’m 30 years old now with a small (but growing) family, a steady career and basic necessities taken care of.
On paper it seems like everything is perfect, but in reality I think there’s something more to life than money, security, and doing “what’s right”. The other day I wondered what some of my 40+ yr old friends would tell their 30 year old self (i.e. words of wisdom for me)…but I think it’s a good idea to reflect a bit and think of the top 5 pieces of advice I’d give my 20 year old self.
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re going to have lots of ups and downs – and in the end the failures will make you stronger (not weaker). Your failures are going to shape you into a better person. Anyone who will take your failure and gossip or rub salt in the wound is someone not worthy of your time.
2. Your time is precious – always make time for things that make you happy. University was a hard and busy time. The work seemed endless. Between textbook reading, assignments, exam studying, and any other work I’ve blocked from my memory – there was always something more you could do. I will never regret the time I took trying new activities (squash, yoga, aqua aerobics) or spending evenings getting bubble tea and hanging out with friends vs. staying in to study. Sure I could’ve spent more time studying and had a slightly higher grade point average, but 10 years later would that have really improved my life?
3. Change is usually hard. Prep yourself for the hardship and follow your gut. There was a time in my early career where I was miserable. The hours were long, the expectations were beyond reachable, and at the end of the day you were just a number. As trite and naive as it may sound, the Sophia Kinsella book “The Undomestic Goddess” was my inspiration for leaving that job. It’s like the book knew exactly how I felt and the impact the high-stress career had on me. At the time, leaving the job felt like I was failing. Like I was giving up on the potential success I could have if I just stuck it out longer and worked even harder. In reality, I was leaving because I knew I was unhappy, I wasn’t passionate about the work or the people I worked with and at the end of the day the job wasn’t the best use of my time or my talents. It’s hard to know what you’re meant to do, but each job/hobby/experience you have takes you one step closer to figuring it out. Trust your gut.
4. Don’t be in such a rush to get to the next step. Ever since I was little I always wanted to hurry to the next thing. Whether it was shaving your legs, or graduating elementary school / high school / university…I always believed things would be better at the next stage and whatever problems I was currently facing would magically go away once I reached the next stage. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t, sometimes problems I didn’t know could exist were awaiting me at the next stage. Savour every moment of your journey. Even the ones that make you want to cry. Those will be the moments that let you appreciate just how far you’ve come.
5. Be bold and courageous. Now’s the time to experiment. If you make stupid mistakes, learn from them. I love to reach for the moon. Even if you don’t get there you’ll land among the stars. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in relationships, in where I looked for meaning in life, and in who I trusted with my thoughts and feelings…but I did it all with a passion and a boldness that let me know that I seized the day and gave myself permission to do it with gusto and live to the fullest. Whatever you do – do it with full force and give it your all. Leave no room for regrets that you didn’t live with passion.
As I read through the 5 pieces of advice I gave you, my 20 years old self, I’m starting to think it’s the advice my 30 year old self should listen to too…
Sincerely, 30 year-old Tiffany
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
I’m happy to be where I am in my life (even though I don’t always recognize it), I’m thankful for all the mistakes I’ve made and learned from, and I’m hopeful that I follow the above advice for the next 10 years and that I realize I can find answers within myself, vs. thinking everyone else always has the answers.