I started this blog five years ago, when I was 25. Back then, I was living in Tokyo and going through a major quarter life crisis. I’d spent the previous three three years living in Brooklyn and then working on a cruise ship, followed by a four month backpacking trip in India. I’d only been home a few weeks when I’d suddenly upped and moved to Tokyo, without a job or a visa and with only a couple of thousand dollars in my bank account. It was a huge gamble and while it worked out (I found a job, got a visa and taught ESl for over a year) it probably wasn’t something that I would want to repeat now that I’m older (and somewhat wiser. Ha. Keyword here being SOMEWHAT). Anyway, that year of my life was angst-ridden and stressful. I spent a lot of time worrying about the future and agonizing over what I was supposed to do with my life. It makes me sick now to think about how I placed so much pressure on myself to figure everything out. What a complete waste of energy that was!
Anyway, here’s a list of things I would tell my younger self if I could go back in time.
You don’t have to have everything figured out
How many times did I wail to friends and family: “I have no idea what I’m doing with life?” Gosh, it felt like the end of the world that I didn’t know where my life was headed. The end of the world! I wish I’d been able to let go of the anxiety I had about my uncertain future – I think I would have enjoyed my early and mid-twenties a lot more if I had just given up the quest to find my life’s purpose and just went with the flow. I wish I had trusted that everything would work out.
You don’t have to get married and have kids before 30
30 was my deadline. I had to be married and pregnant by then or I’d feel like this huge failure. It was funny, because I didn’t even know if I wanted kids (I still don’t) but I’d set 30 as that magical deadline anyway. I realize now that deadline has come and gone (I’ll turn 31 in October) that that was nuts. No one cares that I’m 30 and still single and childless…least of all me. I’m happy. That’s what counts.
People don’t care what you do/don’t do with your life half as much as you think that they do
I used to worry so much that friends and family would view me as a failure if I didn’t hit those certain life milestones (college, career, marriage, baby, white picket fence). But while my mom still pesters me with “When am I going to have grand kids?”-type questions on occasion, I’ve realized that most people simply don’t care. They want me to be happy – how I do that is up to me. It was such a relief to realize this – I mean, really, truly realize this. No one is judging me for what I have or haven’t done with my life; mostly because they’re too busy judging themselves.
One day, you’ll look back at these painful years and think it was worth it
Being 25 was hard. Really hard. So was being 23, 22 and 21…Those seven years or so in my early and mid 20s were certainly a doozy! But it was all worth it in the end. I grew and learned so much and I don’t regret any of it. I needed those crazy years so that I could become the stronger, more confident person I am today. I just wish I’d known that at the time! Being able to see the value in the pain and knowing that there was a light at the end of it would have made it easier. But alas, hindsight is everything, isn’t it?
You’re pretty. Stop telling yourself that you aren’t and flaunt what you’ve got while you’ve still got it!
The other day I was looking at photos of a trip I took to Paris when I was 22. There I am, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, skinnier and tanner than I’ve ever been in my life, and I’m scowling in embarrassment into the camera; no doubt self-conscious that my shirt had ridden up a bit and exposed what I perceived to be smidge of belly fat. In reality, I was underweight at the time (living off a college student’s diet of cigarettes and coffee will do that to you) but I’d never known it. Now that I’m about 30 pounds heavier and have sprouted my first gray hairs, I look back at that time of my life and want to shake myself and shout “Get over yourself, you crazy insecure girl you!”
Comparing yourself to others is the worst thing you can do
Everyone’s life unfolds at a different pace but at 25, I was convinced I was SO FAR BEHIND everyone else because I was broke and living with 11 people in this tiny apartment in Tokyo and working at a job that I wasn’t all that passionate about. Looking back now, I see that my life back then was amazing. I was living in one of the biggest, most fascinating cities in the world, and working at a job that while stressful, demanded very little of me. I had a lot of free time; time that I spent touring South Korea and Hong Kong, snowboarding in the Japanese Alps and dancing until six in the morning in Japanese discos. How I could think that my life was anything short of awesome, I have no idea. I wish I hadn’t been so obsessed with comparing myself to my friends (friends, who by the way, were busy comparing themselves to me!) and had realized how good I’d had it.