Hindsight is 20-20. Sometimes, we'd do things differently if we could go back. We'd avoid that bad marriage, or we'd live in another town. We would have gone away to college instead of staying home to be with friends. Even now, I know I'm not done learning some things the hard way.
There are, however, some very general truths that might have made the decisions I made in my 20s and 30s more in line with the person I am at my core. It's likely that we've all heard these once or twice as kids. But we know kids don't always listen well or take important advice to heart.
It's human nature to discover life on our own terms. If I could go back and offer any guidance to my 19-year-old self, it would look something like this:
1. Attitude makes all the difference.
Times will get tough. Then, they'll get tougher. You're strong enough to make it, as long as you just embrace the positive and let the rest pass by.
Worry and stress pretend to be useful. But really, they’ll rob you of passion, time and health. There won't ever be a time when everything is perfect, so stop waiting to enjoy life until it is.
One day, you'll wonder where all your living went. Look for things to celebrate every day.
Dance more often. Seek laughter everywhere. Embrace love, kindness and compassion, even when you want to shut down.
You’ll thank yourself later. I promise.
2. Don't plan your whole future. Just plan the next step.
The world wants to know your plans in one-year, five-year and 10-year increments. It can be intimidating to believe you should have it all figured out by 19, so let me help you: Enjoy life.
That's the only long-term goal you need to know with certainty at 19. College may not bring you everything you want, especially if you don't take the time to discover your strengths and passions in life.
At the same time, you have to do something because bartending isn't a lifelong goal either. Be curious about your interests, and let them determine your next step. Don't become discouraged by thinking you need to know everything now.
3. You are beautiful.
At 19, you are probably the most physically beautiful you'll ever be. Your breasts are perky, your face is smooth and you still have your innocent glow. Embrace your beauty instead of hiding it under layers of clothing and makeup. Walk with confidence because the things you don't like about yourself will be the things others love.
Remember, even though you may get wrinkles, stretch marks or extra weight, you are still beautiful. It is a reflection of our character that people find attractive. It has nothing to do with the reflection in the mirror. Remind yourself daily of all the beauty within you.
4. You don't need your parents' approval.
You'll want it really, really badly, but you don't need it. You pay your own bills, you live in your own place and you make good decisions. If your parents don't understand, don't shrink your desires and dreams so that they approve or see the purpose. It's time to live your life without worrying that your dreams and authenticity will offend someone else.
They are your dreams, and they don't need anyone else's approval. Be who you are. They'll learn to respect it, or they'll keep their thoughts to themselves. You are strong enough and smart enough to follow your heart when it calls.
5. Take care of your body.
You were born lucky enough to be naturally thin. But if you think you don't have to watch what you eat or exercise, you do. You feel strong and healthy, so seeing a doctor for a check-up without health insurance seems like an unnecessary expense. But it isn't.
I know it all seems silly now, but it's going to be very important that you start taking care of your body now. It's an uphill battle if you wait for something to go wrong.
Eat vegetables, drink water, exercise and get a check-up. Your health is worth the time, money and pain later. Trust me on this.
6. Love yourself like you love your bestie.
Stop being so self-critical and self-sabotaging. Perfection is never going to be achievable, so stop aiming for it. You treat your friends like queens. You’re kind, compassionate and supportive of your besties.
Treat yourself the same way. Give yourself the same patience and understanding you give others.
See the good in yourself, instead of always seeking to celebrate it in someone else. Be proud of your successes, even the little ones. Treat yourself like royalty, and others will treat you that way too. Being kinder to yourself will offer up a new perspective: one you'll actually enjoy.
7. Trust your gut instinct when something doesn't feel right.
There are going to be times when, out of nowhere, you'll feel a sudden pang in your gut and chest. When you get that feeling, stop for a moment to consider whether or not your body is telling you something. I know it's going to feel difficult to do, especially when you are in the 11th hour of a deadline or decision.
It'll take courage to say "no" to your dream job just because it doesn't feel right. You are brave. It'll take conviction to leave when it's easier to stay. You are strong.
Don't let life carry you away to a journey that doesn't feel right to you. You know what's right for you.
8. Your self-worth isn't your net worth.
If you grew up in poverty, you'll always be worried about having enough money. In fact, you might even think people with more money are somehow worth more in society. This will change when you end up dreading every weekday in your corporate role. This will change when you decide money is no longer going to determine who you are and what you're worth.
You are so much more. You are generous, compassionate and trusting. You offer the world so much more than the amount of money you make. Success involves being happy and finding a way to serve the world. The money will follow.
9. Work on creating the life you want every day.
At 19, you believe the world has already created a life for you. That's not true.
You are creating it every day, whether you know it or not. Your thoughts and focus determine what you'll see in life. Make them good.
Instead of focusing on the things you don't want in life, zero in on the things you want. Dream big about the things you desire in life.
Forget the limits others may have set, and don't think about how doing certain things will make you money. Just focus on how you want to feel, and what you want life to be like. Then, do something every day to create this.
10. Even when times suck, be grateful.
When times get rough, you're going to want to give up or complain. It's natural for your age. You're going to have to go through a few rough patches before you realize you'll always make it out the other side. The only thing you can really do to make the experience calmer and less anxiety-ridden is practice gratitude.
Before we can expect to have everything we want in life, we have to be grateful and honor everything we already have. Otherwise, the universe doesn't think we can handle it all, and therefore, it doesn't give it to us. Gratitude prepares us for big dreams.
11. If you have to choose between passion and money, choose passion.
Always choose passion. You can make more money later.
Passion can diminish if you don't feed it. Be inspired by your curiosity, instead of always being motivated by cash flow. When you flow with your core desires, opportunities open up for you.
If you're given the choice to follow your passion or be "practical" (make more money), choose passion. You'll feel challenged, and you will be given the choice almost daily. If you choose money, you'll feel cheap and powerless.
If you choose passion, you'll stay curious and alive. Money doesn't provide long-term happiness: It just makes some things easier. Passion is much more difficult to locate than money.
12. Life isn't black and white.
All of the world isn't as distinct as two buckets. It would be easier if this were the case, but it's just not. By placing things in one of two buckets, we're forced to put things in places where they may not really fit.
Decisions in life are not black and white. You'll be given many choices, and each will have its pros and cons.
You were taught there was a right and wrong to everything, but that's not always true. There are many sides to every story. There are not just two.
Don't focus on categorizing everything. Focus on really seeing things as they are. Make your own truths.
13. Some people will drift out of your life, and that's OK.
You have great friends at 19. You have fun together, share common musical tastes and talk about everything. You cannot imagine what it would be like without her because you've been friends since you were 5.
In your 20s, you're going to find out more about yourself. You're going to learn more about philosophy and politics. You're going to start defining your understanding of the world and culture around you. You're also going to find that some of your old views (and even friends) don't fit.
You may drift away from each other, and you'll spend time wondering what went wrong. Don't.
People drift in and out of our lives for reasons we can't explain. Love them while they're there, and appreciate the mark they left on you when they're gone. It’s OK to outgrow friends. You'll always have enough.
14. Have goals, not expectations.
You are a goal-achieving marvel. You will accomplish everything you choose to do, although you may not see it that way. The problem is, you have expectations.
You want things delivered to you as soon as you expect to see them. But that's not how the universe works. You can ask the universe to give you what you want, but you can't dictate the way it will be delivered.
For instance, say you wanted to go away to college and live in a dorm. It didn't happen. Yet, you'll still get a degree.
It just won't be on the timeline you expect. The goal will still get accomplished. Loosen up your expectations, and you'll be able to see more opportunities that are made just for you.
15. If you have a problem with someone, it's your problem.
You'll spend a huge chunk of time in your 20s complaining about other people. Yes, it's true that there are stupid, rude and inconsiderate people in the world. But it will benefit you to know they are not your problem.
Let me explain: You have more power than you know. So, for example, if you go to work and another person's mistakes creates more work for you, there are many things you can do. You can complain about it, make a stink, get yourself all worked up and even think that if it weren't for her, your life would be easier.
The problem here is, you can't really make her change by focusing on what she's doing in the situation. You are no longer focused on moving things forward. In fact, you're just placing blame.
Is that making your workload easier, or are you choosing to get frustrated over things you can't control? Choose to let go of those things you can't control. Your general stress level will be a fraction of what it is now.
16. The truth does not need to be defended.
These five words will change everything. At 19 (and for some time after), you'll feel the need to prove your intelligence, just so you can be respected in the same way your colleagues are. You'll fight for what you think is right. Most of the time, you will indeed be right.
But are you happy? You can choose to be right, or you can choose to be happy.
Is the battle really worth fighting? Once in a while, it will be. Most of the time, the truth really doesn't need to be defended.
Just because we thought the Earth was flat, that didn't make it so. Frankly, most people's lives didn't change when they learned it wasn't. Choose happiness over being right. Things will work out better.
17. We all get hurt, and we will do things to hurt others.
You aren't going to escape this one. You are going to get hurt, and you are going to be the cause of pain for others. Even worse, you won't even intend to hurt anyone. You'll do it accidentally, through some thoughtless act. It will happen.
Remember to be kind to yourself and others. We are all human. See the difference between intention and impact. If the intention is not to cause pain, have compassion and forgive.
We, as humans, are not a perfect bunch. We're going to make mistakes, and we're going to experience the consequences of other people's mistakes. See this as a part of life, and don't take it personally.
18. Stop chasing perfection.
Perfectionism is fear of losing control. Let me help you out on this one: You'll never really have control of everything. Perfection is a myth because it is in the eye of the beholder.
Every time you behold it, you'll find something else that can be fixed or refined. You will chase perfection like it's the only form of success. But in reality, perfection doesn't lead to success at all.
Instead, try chasing your truth. Be vulnerable, and be open to life perfecting you. Let your experience uncover the person you are at your core. Find perfection that is already there.
19. When you find the one, you'll know.
This is the one you'll want to hear the most, so I purposely kept it for last. I want you to find out who you are first.
Really get to know yourself, and really get to love yourself. Only then will you find a man deserving of your honesty, vulnerability and strength.
You'll know him when you meet him. He'll offer more than you asked for, and you'll have a more honest and intimate connection than you can imagine. You'll just have to wait longer than you'd like.
But it'll be worth skipping all the frogs for. Don't settle for someone who's just "good enough."
He'll shine so brightly, you won't miss him. I promise.
What lessons would you want to tell your younger self?