What Would You Say To Your 20-Year-Old Self?


"Blogger Cassie Boorn, 22, of Davenport, Iowa, asked older fellow bloggers to write letters to themselves when they were in their 20s so she could learn from their advice. She says she learned not to take herself so seriously and to appreciate herself more."

I heard this story on NPR and could not resist taking a stab at writing to my 20-something self from my perch here at 44. There is so much my long-ago self desperately needs to know. My advice tumbled out urgently. Here it is:

Celebrate, cherish and linger over every single second you have with your brother. He will die when you are 43 and he is 37 and you will be cheated out of an entire life you are now confident you are guaranteed.
Nothing is permanent so don't hang on so tight.
Study abroad in college. Doesn't matter where.
Study in college.
Make peace.
Go to more baseball games.
Your parents are human. Deal with it.
Hang out more with your college pals. Those friendships will be life long.
Holding a grudge is like swallowing rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.
You are anxious about the wrong things.
Breathe more deeply. Breathe deeply more. (This is the most practical and useful solution to so much, but the thing you are least likely to do.)
Seek help.
Don't say it.
I promise you will have children.
You will spend years anguishing about how much you miss your family and how important they are to you, and how terrible it is to live 2,000 miles away from them, and then when they call you will be curt, dismissive and distant. What is wrong with you? Don't do that.
Don't be so judgmental.
After the vagaries of pregnancy and lengthy breastfeeding, go to a fancy department store's lingerie salon, have one of those old-school saleswomen fit you for an appallingly expensive and finely crafted bra and buy six.
It's okay to sit cross-legged on the sidewalk in front of the news box and stare at your front-page byline.
Having children is so much better than sitting in front of a news box staring at your name on the front page. It's okay you don't know that yet. In fact, it's for the best.

Grief sucks. It's not a linear process. It doesn't actually feel like a process at all, more like a gigantic black hole that swallows you in and then you claw your way out for a bit of air before getting sucked back in again.

Go. There is no choice here. Choice is a mirage.
Stop obsessing. (Just kidding.)

Men who can't decide have decided.

You will love teaching.

Start running sooner.
You will live through your daughter's first year. Expect bliss, despair, belly laughs, picnics, moments of deep but unofficial psychosis and unspeakable gratitude.
Say it.
Lean on your friends.
Letting people comfort you is the answer to so much that ails you. And better living through chemistry.
If there's a non-cheesy way to say ‘live in the moment,' without actually saying it, then that's the thing I want to say.
Always come through for your friends. They are going to be there for you in ways you cannot now fathom.
Olive oil cures cradle cap.
Know what you are worth.
Perform spoken-word poetry.
Have children sooner.
Say yes to every mental health professional who suggests you might want to consider medication (that is to say, every mental health professional you've ever met.)
I cannot bring myself to be all, ‘love your body,' but....your body will perform spectacular feats of reproductive magic.Stop talking trash about it.
Don't give away your power without a bloody battle.
Do not make decisions out of fear.
You are right to panic.

Sometimes there simply are no silver linings. Don't punish yourself for not finding them where they do not exist.

You will hold titles as both the 'worst mother in the universe' and the 'greatest, most wonderful mother in the universe.' Sometimes in the same afternoon.
Go to law school and rabbinical school. Seriously.
Whatever the question, the jitterbug is the answer.
Exercise is not about body size or weight: It's about balancing body chemistry so you're not such a whack job.
Listen to your instincts and act on them.
You have no idea how much you are going to LOVE being a mom.
Negotiate like a man.
Write everything down.
Say yes more. Publish more. Read more. Swim more. Sing more. Shop more (or less). Buy those absurd shoes and then dance until the heels break off.
Stop cutting your hair yourself. Would you do your own root canal?
Be more honest.
Be less blunt.
Don't be silenced.

Forgive yourself.

About the Author

Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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