I know you’re super busy pretending to be the sixth Spice Girl, and sketching designs for your self-titled future line of evening gowns, but if you can give me five minutes of your precious time, things may or may not turn out differently for you.
I understand you might not think it’s really me writing this because my overly-plucked eyebrows eventually grew back in, and my super chunky blonde highlights (a la Kelly Clarkson, thank you) aren’t considered cool anymore, but I’ll prove it by telling you something only we would know. Remember that time when you thought it’d be a genius idea to cheat on your chemistry test by copying the entire periodic table in microscopic handwriting on the tiniest piece of paper that you would end up losing right before the test? Epic fail. Should’ve just studied, girlfriend. So, do I have your attention now? Thought so.
I’m writing you this letter a few months post your semi-traumatic 30th birthday. 30. Ew. I know, it sounds so old. Not to ruin the surprise for you, but this birthday in particular will freak you out more than any others thus far. The good news is that you’ll soften the blow by having an amazing 80’s- and 90’s-themed birthday party surrounded by those you love and who love you just as much in return. Another spoiler alert: none of the people you’re getting ready to go to the mall with this weekend will be at this party. But again, you’ll see how that all plays out and how you will emerge just fine.
I know better than anyone else what goes on inside that “testa dura,” as Nonna would say, of yours; your stubbornness may prevent you from taking this advice to heart. Despite this trait (that is still with you into your 30s, just in case you are wondering,) I simply ask that you hear me out. I feel like in the years post high school, I have lived a lot of life, and could offer some words of wisdom—10 of them to be exact. Hold onto your hat, avoid eye contact with any shiny objects around you, and just stay focused for the next five minutes.
#1 Right now, you are living in a bubble.
High School is where you’re teetering on the verge of being treated like an adult, but are still sheltered and protected. You think you know everything and that you’re virtually untouchable. That mentality will only get you so far and is probably something you should ditch within the next few years. You’re so focused on the boy that sits in front of you in class, what other people think of you, and are forever trying to stay on top of the “it” trend of that week. But what you don’t know just yet is that the boy, the “in crowd” and the clothes do not define you. You are so much more than them and their opinions of you.
#2 Be kind, but don’t be a sucker.
People will try to take advantage of your kind heart, so be aware. Help whoever you can whenever you can, but do not invest in those who are only out to better themselves. Notice who is there for you when you are in need and who is habitually only there when to receive help instead of giving it.
#3 Forgive people faster.
This will be a tough one for you, but the anger and bitterness will only hold you down, not them. It is likened to letting your enemies live rent free in your head, but not realizing yet that your head is valuable real estate. Forgiving does not mean that you forget, nor does it change the past. However, it allows you to enlarge the future. The sooner you realize that you are worthy and deserving of the peace that forgiveness brings, the better off you’ll be.
#4 Stop taking everything for granted.
Just when you think that life is falling into place, life itself will remind you that it can taketh just as easy as it can giveth. Sure, that sounds so cliché, but trust me when I tell you it is oh-so true. You will be reminded of this vulnerability and lack of control more times than you will be able to count.
#5 Don’t be so afraid of making mistakes.
Life’s curveballs can lead to some of the greatest adventures you’ll ever experience. Embrace the stumble and make it part of your dance. Do not let the fears related to failure keep you small and content with complacency. Don’t be afraid to stray from society’s well-walked paths.
#6 Humble yourself.
For if you don’t, the universe will do it for you. The world is much bigger than you, and contrary to how you feel most of the time, it does not revolve around you. True humility does not mean that you have to think less of yourself; it actually means that you think of yourself less.
#7 Just go for things!
Who cares if it is not the “cool” thing to do right now. Do not miss out on opportunities to do things that make you happy because it makes you different. Making independent choices makes you so much cooler in the long run, and your individuality will be the key to your success someday. Just fucking go for it.
#8 Be open to meeting more people.
Cultivating friendships that nourish your soul will be crucial for your mental health and well-being throughout your life. Do not be fooled—friendships are not always reminiscent of the idyllic relationship that Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox share in their quaint, obviously rent-controlled, Manhattan apartment. However, it is true what they say: “When you know, you just know.” Associate yourself with people who make deposits in your life, and avoid those who constantly make withdrawals.
#9 Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Nothing amazing happens within the limits and confines of your comfort zone. You can never cross the ocean if you are perpetually fearful of losing sight of the shore. You’ll have to take my word for it—that everything you want is literally waiting for you at the end of your comfort zone.
There is not just one word that can accurately describe your years post high school, because everyone’s are different, but also kind of the same if that makes any sense at all. Heartache is inevitable, but on a varying scale from person to person. As the years pass, you will attract the tribe that you will need to get you through these heartaches that will seem like they are unrecoverable. Lean on them. That is what they are there for.
#10 Success looks different on everyone and is measured in more ways than you could imagine.
Celebrate all victories. Big ones, small ones, and especially the seemingly insignificant ones. They will all teach you invaluable lessons.
Before you know it, it’s over. Everything that seemed so significant and the problems that seemed like they were matters of life and death, are now merely memories. Whether you like it or not, and whether you are ready or not, life is different now. You are becoming your own person and I could not be prouder of you. You are smart, kind, determined, hilarious (if I do say so myself,) and are the owner of one amazing heart.
Enjoy the momentous moments that are coming your way and be more cognizant of living in these moments as they are happening. You will shortly learn who and what matters, treatment from others that you will not stand for, and the activities that will truly nourish your soul. You will love and you will lose, but you will make it through all of these situations. You will be knocked down and kicked while you are still down, but you will arise stronger than you ever imagined you could before. Always remember that your success rate for surviving and growing from all of these situations thus far is 100 percent, and in my own humble opinion, that’s pretty fucking great.