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What Advice Would You Give Yourself Ten Years Ago?

unnamed-3The other day I got an email from DW reader Veritek33 that inspired this question: If you could go back in time to ten years ago, what advice would you give your younger self? Ten years ago I was 27 (that’s me in the photo exactly ten years ago), living alone in Chicago, going to grad school for something I didn’t think I wanted to do (teach English), and dating a guy I’d just met a few weeks earlier and would date for nearly a year. This month, ten years ago, was significant because I started blogging, which has led to all sorts of opportunities and revelations, most of which have been pleasant and welcome, that I never would have expected.

When I think back to where I was 10 years ago, it’s with bittersweetness that I remember that time. It was exciting and scary and anxious and sometimes lonely. I was on the cusp of some of the most important moments and meetings and discoveries of my life, but I didn’t know it. I was racked with self-doubt and a lot of worry about my future (and my present). Both my love life and my school/career situation would consume most of my thoughts over the next, well, several years, but the next two years would prove to be especially challenging in those areas. On the friendship front and the fitness front, and in just overall well-being in other aspects of my life, things were great. (Well, except for finances). I had a wonderful circle of friends and plenty of time to devote to them. I lived close to the lake, and I loved spending tons of time at the beach and going swimming and jogging and bike riding. In many ways, life was good.

If I could go back in time ten years and give myself advice, this is what I would say:

1. Three months is enough time to see if a relationship “works.” If it’s not working by the end of three months, MOA.

2. You have free tuition and a monthly stipend through your research assistantships. If you still need money to live on, either live more frugally or get a job. Taking out 40K in student loans that you don’t need for a degree you aren’t even sure you’re going to use is fucking stupid.

3. If you’re going to go into that kind of debt, at least spend it doing some great traveling and not blowing it all on dumb shit, like clothes you’ll only wear a season and too many nights out.

4. Wear sunscreen every day on every bit of exposed skin.

5. Don’t spend too much time dissecting negative internet comments. Just MOA.

6. Trust your gut more.

7. Don’t volunteer to be a hair model for student stylists.

What advice would you give yourself ten years in the past?


Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar Lucy May 15, 2014, 3:04 pm

“Don’t marry him.”

Crochet.Ninja Crochet.Ninja May 15, 2014, 3:06 pm

“Hang on, it’s going to get better in the next year, promise.”

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana May 15, 2014, 3:11 pm

“take a gap year or 3 before going to college, which you aren’t sold on anyways”

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana May 15, 2014, 3:18 pm

Also don’t break up with X because you are afraid to kiss him, you will end up dating him for four years anyways and it could have all started in a much easier and better fashion if you weren’t such a scaredy cat.

And-find relevant internships in your summers off.

Kate B. Kate B. May 15, 2014, 3:11 pm

When that man says he thinks you should date, run.

Diablo Diablo May 15, 2014, 3:14 pm

If I was to go back ten years, I’d really only tell myself to give up on this one job where I was selling myself short. If I could go back 20 years, though, I could really have saved myself some grief. “I would say, give up now on this idea that you can scrape by teaching as a part-time lecturer and work toward a job with some potential to meet your needs both financially and personally.” I eventually got there, but i could have made more money, accomplished more worthwhile objectives, and been a bit closer to being able to retire. (Yes, I am far from retirement age, but being an English major didn’t exactly lead to a rosy financial picture early on, or even recently.) For quite a few years, M and I hoped to retire by being set adrift on an ice floe. However, what with the polar cap melting, I now believe we’ll be forced to keep going until rapture or apocalypse takes us. Unless we can cash in on some lucrative personal injury suit.

avatar Christy May 15, 2014, 3:14 pm

Your parents won’t flip out if you’re gay. Transfer to a public school, where you don’t have to repress your sexual orientation. Remember that you’re interested in engineering so you can apply to a school that has it.

lemongrass lemongrass May 15, 2014, 3:15 pm

10 years ago I was 15, the advice I would give myself is:
1. High school fucking sucks for most people, don’t give it so much thought.
2. Just because you haven’t been doing something for a long time (sports, playing an instrument) doesn’t mean you can’t start now.
3. Yes, you will get hooked on cigarettes even if you just try it once in a while.
4. Not all attention is good attention.
5. Love yourself.

lemongrass lemongrass May 15, 2014, 4:07 pm

Oh- and that depression that you have, you will grow out of it. You will be happier than you ever thought possible, happier than you have ever felt and you will feel that every day, even the hard days. But for now please know that your depression isn’t just hard on you, it is hard on everyone around you and that it too much to ask of some people. That is okay, people have limits and you should respect that.

avatar McLovin May 15, 2014, 3:19 pm

Be nicer, to everyone. Call your Mom more often.

avatar bethany May 15, 2014, 3:20 pm

Hmmm… Don’t move in with Jenna. Big mistake. BIG. Also, Greg is never going to love you, and even if he did, he’s not someone who you really want to love. And lastly, quit buying so much stuff. Get out of debt while it’s still easy!

avatar bethany May 15, 2014, 3:59 pm

I just realized that this was weird for me, because oddly enough, most of my decisions in the past 10 years have been really good ones. I made a lot of poor decisions from like 17-22, but after that, I feel like I was pretty self aware and kinda smart. That is really weird for me to say.

lemongrass lemongrass May 15, 2014, 4:50 pm

You know, I don’t really have any regrets post age 16. I think a lot of my behaviour was immature and I cringe at some of the stuff I say but the decisions that I made shaped my life and who I am. Frankly, I like where I have ended up so I don’t regret much.

avatar No Pants May 15, 2014, 4:58 pm

You know what’s funny? I don’t mind all of the dumb things I did in my 20s, but I do regret how hard I was on myself afterward.

GatorGirl GatorGirl May 15, 2014, 3:22 pm

Ugh, don’t take out so many damn student loans. Your private liberal arts school isn’t going to be worth it. (But then I never would have met GGuy, so maybe the price I have for him is $40k in loans??)

Wear more clothes.

Listen to your parents. They might actually know a thing or two.

Addie Pray Addie Pray May 15, 2014, 4:25 pm

Aw, $40k in student loans isn’t so bad! I have a friends with undergrad / grad school loans into the 6 figures – yikes.

avatar Holly May 15, 2014, 3:23 pm

1. You will get out of this terrible household, will go to college, get a degree and live on your own. Just hold out for one more year, I promise.

2. You are lovable. You will date several incredible people who will, over time, get you to appreciate and truly love yourself. You’ll have all those experiences you dreamed of but thought were out of reach.

3. That said, dear GOD, if they dump you, just accept it and MOA. Don’t beg for them to stay (on your knees, seriously!!) and don’t pine for them forever and ever. They aren’t worth it because they don’t want you – and there’s any other wonderful people out there that will.

4. On a related note, don’t take back a guy that cheats on you (or sexually assaults you.) You’re worth more than that.

5. It’s okay to ask for help, to go into therapy, and to get on anti-depressants. It really is okay.

MaterialsGirl MaterialsGirl May 15, 2014, 3:25 pm

Don’t stress so much and remember to stop making out with Tom so you can focus on your grades (he’ll refuse to sleep with you and that’s not the kind of relationship you want).


MaterialsGirl MaterialsGirl May 15, 2014, 5:06 pm

and probably something like: don’t use your credit card for stupid purchases

theattack theattack May 15, 2014, 3:28 pm

Stop taking your friends for granted. Date that boy that you’re in love with and stop telling him that you don’t care. It’s okay to feel things. Get help with algebra now and stop avoiding it because you’re embarrassed. Go ahead and join that independent research club instead of being embarrassed. Try harder at your instrument.

theattack theattack May 15, 2014, 3:40 pm

Oh, and just have sex with somebody if you want to.

avatar applescruffs May 15, 2014, 3:33 pm

1. Eat! You look beautiful and there’s no reason to starve yourself.
2. Assertiveness. Learn and practice.
3. Learn Spanish
4. Keep playing the piano. And practice the guitar a little more. You’ll be happy you did.
5. You’re 18. Dye your hair purple. You can look professional a little later
6. It’s ok, you didn’t inherit the substance abuse genes. Go ahead and try pot, and a little more if you want.
7. Stop worrying so much. I promise it’ll all be fine. You’re going to go to college, graduate, graduate a few more times, live in some cool places, date some cool dudes, and eventually meet a good one. Relax and let it happen.
8. And study abroad. Or at least buy a ticket and hostel hop. Paris is worth going to because it’s Paris – it’s better to go alone than not go at all.

othy othy May 15, 2014, 3:37 pm

I love your #5. I wish I’d been more adventuresome with my hair when I was younger.

theattack theattack May 15, 2014, 3:37 pm

Omg I love the “dye your hair purple” one. I dreamed of having hot pink hair as a teenager, and I always just thought I would do it when I was an adult and no one could tell me what to do. Doesn’t exactly work that way for most adults, and now I have boring virgin hair.

GatorGirl GatorGirl May 15, 2014, 3:45 pm

Oh yeah. Eat should be on my list too.

avatar Portia May 15, 2014, 4:04 pm

I would tell myself 14-16 years ago to eat, too.

Addie Pray Addie Pray May 15, 2014, 4:26 pm

Now see, re 1, I’d tell myself: stop eating so much you idiot – soon you’re going to blow out your knee and good luck losing weight when you’re forced to stop running.

othy othy May 15, 2014, 3:35 pm

Invest in Apple.

avatar No Pants May 15, 2014, 3:35 pm

Wear the sh$t out of your eyebrow barbell before you are too corporate to do so.

TaraMonster TaraMonster May 15, 2014, 3:37 pm

If I tried to give meaningful advice to my 18-year-old self she wouldn’t take any of it. She was a brat. Maybe I’d tell her to stop being such a brat! And to dump her HS boyfriend before she goes to college.

avatar SpaceySteph May 15, 2014, 3:37 pm

Ack, 10 years ago last week I graduated from high school. What would I tell high school graduate me?
1. Take a lunch break
I had my first job that summer and I was only part time, but it seemed like a waste to take a lunch break so I just worked straight through 6 hours a day and ate my sandwich at my desk. I actually got in trouble because it violated some labor law, but the actual reason for my advice is because there’s plenty of time to work through lunch when you’ve got a salaried job and don’t get breaks… enjoy your freedom.

2. Exercise more
Back then I was taking 14 credit hours and had a 10 hour a week job and zero commute (I was an RA, so I literally lived and worked in the same room) and I had plenty of time to spend a couple hours a week at the gym or running around. Sadly I didn’t get into running until my senior year, and now that I have a full time job and an hour commute I have so much less time to work out. I hate thinking of those wasted years I could have been running free and wasn’t.

3. The right guy WILL like you
At 18 I was so worried about how my best friend had already had tons of boyfriends and lots of sex, and I’d never been kissed. I got my first kiss at 21, had sex for the first time at 21, and at 26 got married 3 weeks after that same best friend. What a waste of time it was, being envious that boys liked her. 20 sexual partners or 2, all that matters is that you end up with the right one.

gigi gigi May 15, 2014, 3:38 pm

Don’t give away so much of yourself trying to keep your marriage together, he is going to leave anyway. And it will be OK, and it will be better. And seriously- hide the kids’ bank accounts now!!!!

avatar sarahhhh May 15, 2014, 3:43 pm

1. Sex is great, but don’t be so eager to find that out that you waste your first time.
2. You can’t find the love that you are looking for from boys your age.
3. Look up narcissistic personality disorder. That’s mom. I don’t know if reddit is a thing yet but look for support on the internet. You are not alone. The sooner you understand, the sooner you can cope. Also, the sooner you can identify other people like that and run the other direction. (I don’t know if I really would have wanted this advice though, because my ex is just like my mom and for all that he put me through, I also got a wonderful daughter out of it)
4. Being a mom at 17 will turn out ok, but it will turn out even better if you get the hell away from the guy who got you pregnant immediately. Use your energy bettering your own circumstances, not trying to fix him. He isn’t fixable.
5. Write more thank you notes.
6. Don’t stop writing, in general. It is hard to pick back up once you stop.
7. Don’t let other people use utilities/storage units/anything that affects your credit in your name. Are you crazy?

avatar sarahhhh May 15, 2014, 3:56 pm

8. Be nicer to your sisters. They grow up to be your best friends in the world and would do literally anything for you.
9. Try more food. It turns out that you love guacamole, hummus, black beans, and all kinds of things you’re probably too scared to try.
10. Be nicer and more engaging to your grandparents. You may not realize it yet but they are the ones who did a lot of what your mom should have done. They shower you with kindness! Don’t be so awkward about it.
11. Don’t have political arguments on the internet, or in general. You aren’t going to change anyone’s mind.
12. You are a feminist. Find out what that means.
13. Go to the dentist as much as possible while someone else is still paying for it. Talk to Dad about it, because obviously Mom won’t want to spend the money.

I wonder what I will know in 10 more years that I don’t know now.

avatar DesiDad May 16, 2014, 4:31 pm

Loved your points, sarahhhh!