I read a brief blog entry yesterday that asked what advice you would give to your five year-old self, had you the opportunity to have such a conversation.
Having read only the title of the entry on my Facebook newsfeed, my brain immediately started navigating through my life experiences, filtering through the good, the bad, and the haircuts – taking note of the exciting and irrelevant, the unfortunate and the victorious. And while doing this, I suddenly developed an unexpected feeling – I started feeling protective. I soon realized that I had developed an almost motherly defensiveness for a five year-old human being that was no more… a desire to protect an innocent five year-old who was not only actually 27 years-old, but technically me.
While thinking about it, however, I realized part of the overall lightness of the original post was probably due to the fact that a 5 year-old is more of a big ball of “why” questions and Fun Dip than he or she is concerned about some of the things that I felt came to my mind during this exercise. Because of this, I decided to change it up just a bit as far as age goes and add five more years to my hypothetical self meet-and-greet.
I get it. If today-you advises your five, ten, or twenty year-old self based on the experiences you’ve had thus far, you may have had completely different experiences, thus, not becoming the awesome humanoid that you have become today. Butterfly effect, grandfather paradox, Ashton Kutcher, ahhh! Time travel theories and arguments aside, here are my things. Not everything is serious, but everything had an impact on my life in some way -whether it be positively or negatively, they shaped me. And while I have learned lessons from them, YES, some are based on regrets – because anyone who says they have no regrets has never purchased the Kelly Clarkson Christmas album – so without further disclaimer, if I had the opportunity to take a walk with ten year-old me, here is some of the advice I would give her:
1. Stop worrying. That thing you do, the one where you worry about everyone else’s feelings and put them ahead of yours, it’s what makes you a good person. But you have to do the same for yourself sometimes too, or you’ll eventually burn out. Don’t let the fear of hurting someone’s feelings be the sole reason you make decisions; consider your own well-being, and consider it equally.
2. Your parents will love you no matter who you choose to live with.
3. You’re not fat. At all. Stop thinking you’re fat. Just stop.
4. The girls in school with the perfume and lip-gloss in the front pouch of their backpacks are not better than you. They’re also not lesser. Treat them the same way you’d treat any human being, but do not let them make your feel like you’re any less beautiful or important. This will be the beginning of you developing an irrational feeling that certain people are more deserving than you. Cut it off right here.
5. Don’t TP Tim Goodrich’s house.
6. Don’t settle. At some point you’ll start using the word “realistic” as a way to avoid saying that you’re just settling. Don’t and don’t.
7. No one knows what he or she is doing. It will seem like they do, but everyone’s just finding their way through the maze like you. Be confident in yourself and your abilities – fake it until you make it, but help others along the way, just as you sometimes wish someone would help you. Don’t give up on something because you think everyone is already ahead of you.
8. Smile at people in the hallway, and say hello back if you’re greeted. Chew with your mouth shut. Let people exit the elevator before you go in. Hold the door open for people; say, “Thank you,” when someone does the same for you. Don’t get so overwhelmed with introducing yourself to someone that you forget to hear the other person’s name. Be late sometimes. Make plans and reschedule if you have to. Experiment with clothes. Take a wrong turn. Laugh at something that sounds dirty. Unapologetically wear white after labor day. Hair is just hair, unless it’s a mullet. Follow your moral compass, not simply a rulebook.
9. Sex, fashion, yoga, networking events. If it feels weird… don’t.
10. Senior year of high school, a girl is going to pour a giant cup of pink lemonade over your head in the middle of the cafeteria. You’ll feel overwhelmed and flustered. Don’t. When she gets close and starts yelling at you, calmly take your open hand and bitch slap it across her stupid face – just once and as hard as you can. Your mom won’t be mad, and you’re going to get suspended regardless.
11. Go after what you want before it’s too late. And remember: it’s never too late, and what you want is allowed to change.
12. Take advantage of opportunities, not people.
13. At 2:59pm on the last day of fifth grade, a girl in class is going to tell a boy in your class that you have a crush on him – in front of everyone. He is going to say, “I don’t like girls,” and you will feel embarrassed and rejected. Don’t take it personally. He really doesn’t like girls. On a similar note, Lance Bass and Zachary Quinto turn out to be gay.
14. A smart ass is always more appealing than a dumb ass. Know your shit and then you can mouth off.
15. Be kind to yourself. Listen to your heart, your spirit, and your body. You have to live your entire life with you – Trust yourself; respect yourself.
I can’t help but wonder why I don’t still feel that way towards myself, that protective feeling, but I also can’t help but believe that it must be common for all of us to lose a little bit of that as we go along – to misplace or displace our value. And while writing some of these, it occurred to me that these are things that I may find myself saying again in 17 years – that I may still be hyper-critical of my appearance while looking back at photos and thinking I looked wonderful at 27, that I’ll still be worried about hurting others, and terrified of standing up for myself.
So I think the truth is that if I actually met my five or ten year-old self, I’d probably just hug her, tell her she’s brave and beautiful and wonderful. And maybe brush her damn hair.