Last week my family took a vacation to Chicago, where I lived for seven years prior to moving to NYC to close the gap in my long distance relationship with Drew. I typically go back twice a year for long weekend visits to see my close friends who still live there (none of whom have kids, so it’s always a nice break from the parenting world for me). Of course, with the pandemic, this time it was a longer spread between visits – a year and a half – and I stayed for eight whole days to make up for some lost time (and to really give myself a mental palate cleanser after… well, everything). Drew and the kids were with me for the first half of the visit, and then they went back home and I moved from our airbnb into my friends’ place for the remainder of the visit. It was so much fun, and I came back feeling refreshed (which lasted, oh, about 12 hours until the anxiety of… well, everything, settled back in, but that’s a topic for another day). Today I want to talk about a topic a friend in Chicago brought up on our lunch date: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self, using only three words?
My friend didn’t hesitate. Her advice would be: “Don’t leave (the name of her ex-partner).” They’ve been broken up for over 15 years, so I was a little surprised to hear that. She asked me what my advice to my 18-year-old self would be and I couldn’t really think of anything good. I like where I am in life right now and I’d be afraid of retroactively doing anything that might change my trajectory, even if it might mean avoiding some pain. “Maybe ‘wear more sunscreen’?” I said. That’s boring though. I posed the question to a couple other friends I met on the beach later and one immediately said, “Have more sex!” and I was like, “Ok, yeah, that’s mine, too!” (But only if it wouldn’t change the trajectory of my life, and maybe it would have…). I barely had any sex outside my serious relationships and, you know, maybe I missed out on some fun there.
I think another good bit of advice to my younger self could even be summed up in two words instead of three and that would be: “Travel more.” I thought I couldn’t afford it when I was younger and poorer, but the truth is it would’ve been much easier to cut back on other things while I was childfree and carefree than finding the time, budget, and patience to travel with the young kids I’ve had for the past ten years. The window where my relative financial freedom AND my freedom from parenting responsibilities was really short – a few years – and I regret that I didn’t make the travel thing work on a smaller budget in my 20s. (The good news is that it’s MUCH easier to travel with my kids now that they’re older and more independent and mobile, so once it feels safe to do so, I am looking forward to seeing more of the country and world with them!).
Anyway. What advice would you give your own 18-year-old self in three words?