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?


  1. “Don’t marry him.”

  2. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

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

    1. Avatar photo muchachaenlaventana says:

      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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. lemongrass says:

    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.

    1. lemongrass says:

      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.

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

  8. 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!

    1. 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.

      1. lemongrass says:

        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.

      2. 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.

  9. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

    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.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

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

  10. 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.

  11. Avatar photo MaterialsGirl says:

    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).


    1. Avatar photo MaterialsGirl says:

      Oh and NO TANNING BEDS!
      and probably something like: don’t use your credit card for stupid purchases

  12. Avatar photo theattack says:

    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.

    1. Avatar photo theattack says:

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

  13. applescruffs says:

    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.

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

    2. Avatar photo theattack says:

      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.

    3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      Oh yeah. Eat should be on my list too.

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

    5. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      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.

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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?

    1. 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.

      1. Loved your points, sarahhhh!

  17. I was 18 ten years ago, about to break up with my first serious boyfriend because I had met someone else. I think I would have told myself that it’s okay to break up with someone as long as you’re kind about the way you go about it, and to be more careful with people’s feelings. You can break with someone and be the “bad guy” without being a bad PERSON. I think I’d also tell myself not to make so many decisions based around men, and to not be so afraid of take chances and try something different. I really didn’t need to go to grad school at my alma mater after four years of undergrad there – I should have gone outside of my comfort zone and moved somewhere exciting. Then again, had I done that, I might not have a job I love as much as the one I have and would probably not have met my fiance, so perhaps alls well that ends well.

  18. 10 years ago, I was just graduating from law school and trying to figure out what to do next, so a lot of my advice would be career-driven.

    1. Don’t do what you’re supposed to do just because you’re “supposed” to do it.

    2. If you do end up doing what you’re “supposed” to do just because you’re supposed to do it, don’t be afraid to leave it when it makes you unhappy.

    3. You can live on half that salary, student loans and all. I promise. Don’t sell your happiness for a nicer car.

  19. Avatar photo mrmidtwenties says:

    Damn…must not get sad and teary in the airport here. Spend more time with Dad, it’ll be gone before you think, never move in with a certain co-worker, being forced to move out by him will cost you time with your dad. Wear a condom always, the scares aren’t worth it. You’re a decent looking dude, start asking girls out. Never work in retail, no matter the promises, it will render your education irrelevant and you’ll get stuck.

    1. Avatar photo mrmidtwenties says:

      shit…most of this advice I needed to give myself 6 months ago

      1. Hugs.

        If I wasn’t at work, I’d swing by the airport and have a drink with you!

      2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I’m missing you in the Philly airport by 48 hours πŸ™

      3. Avatar photo Northern Mermaid says:

        air hug, mrmid.

      4. Hugs from Philly, Mr. Mid.

      5. So sorry, mrmid.

    2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      A big hug to you!

    3. Avatar photo iwannatalktosampson says:

      Mr. Mid this is so sad. I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine losing a parent right now.

      1. Avatar photo mrmidtwenties says:

        thanks everybody, I really appreciate it. In other news, my last flight was 45 mins late and was only like a 30 seater plane, so pretty much everyone missed their connections and were really pissed off. I found a sick humour in it. The only person I felt really bad for was this lady doing her first trip outside the country ever to France and they were telling how she would have to wait two days etc. Anyways, I’m stuck in Philly now for three hours. I hope I got this job.

  20. Nothing from 10 years ago, but from 20:

    Enjoy your 30’s because you will never be that young or vital again. When I look at pics of me in my 30’s I realize how totally unaware I was that I would never look like that again – I totally took it granted. That sounds shallow – but, it feels deep. Appreciate your 30 & 40 something bodies!

    1. lemongrass says:

      That is something that I realized after giving birth. Before I hated my body, always feeling inadequate and like I was never X enough. I do still have some body issues but I know now that someday I will be shaking my head at 25 year old me saying I WISH that I still looked like that.

      1. You guys, I totally had something for the deleted thread about this…But I forgot yesterday, so here it is: Last fall I decided that I probably was never going to look any better than I do right now, so I had my husband take some classy/artsy photos of me. nude. I have one hanging up in my closet and I made a book for myself with about 25 of the pictures, too!!

      2. I have a ton too! Well, OK some of them might not be so classy ha ha, but not gross either, just pretty suggestive & um.. X-rated. But who in the hell will I ever show them too, when I’m old? Certainly not my kids or grandkids! So sad…also the dilemma, when do you hit the delete button so they don’t find those pics when you are gone?

      3. lemongrass says:

        You find a trusted friend and they should delete all incriminating photos, delete your browser history and burn your sex toys when you die. Your children will thank you.

        I had boudoir photos done as a wedding gift to Mr. Grass and I am so happy I did that, I looked good!!!

      4. Oh gosh, yes, and if you have any porn saved anywhere, have a “porn buddy” who’ll get to everything for you before your family can find it. There’s some things about my grandpa that my dad can’t unknow. I’m so glad he spared the rest of us.

      5. Thank you so much for the “Coupling” reference, I like starting Friday with a laugh.

      6. YES! Let’s start a giggle loop.

      7. applescruffs says:

        I did boudoir photos last fall! They were just for me, and I’m so happy I have them.

    2. I do, I never take it for granted now like I did in my 20’s.

      1. Oh shit. That’s what I’m afraid of in my 40s. Just turned 39. The only two things I can think of are, SERIOUSLY wear the amount of sunscreen every day that they tell you to wear, and BREAK UP WITH RR NOW, and never, ever get back together with him.

      2. YES x 10000 to sunscreen.

  21. 1. The future is pretty much what you wanted it to be, so just keep going on that path
    2. It’s ok to not have a boyfriend. You are surrounded by losers anyway.
    3. Don’t worry, all the cool girls had a modeling career for 0.2 seconds and broke up with their boyfriend. Their life is not better than what you’ll have.

    1. I don’t know what’s up with me but while I’m in engineering, 3 out of 5 of my childhood friends went into modelling. Our lives have zero things in common anymore, those girls really became complete strangers to me.

      1. Avatar photo MaterialsGirl says:

        STICK WITH ENGINEERING YOU WILL BE SO HAPPY THAT YOU DID.. and then think about getting an MBA or at least minoring in Business

      2. I did my undergrad in physics and now I’m doing a PhD in Engineering. I will be good with that.

      3. Avatar photo MaterialsGirl says:

        ah didn’t know you weren’t in UG. Congrats! You planning to be a professor?

      4. No, working in the industry. I’m in biomedical engineering, so that’s a discipline where the only way to work in research and development is with a PhD. The people with bachelor degrees usually are confined to management or sales position. I want to actually invent new things and see them on the market later.

      5. Avatar photo MaterialsGirl says:

        Right-on. I have a friend doing post-doc right now at National Health Institute. 10 years ago BME was the ‘new’ engineering major!

  22. The only piece of advice I’d give 18-year-old Portia would be to please look for a job or internship in something you might like, or find a summer program in some foreign country and learn another language. My summer job was fine in high school, but boring, and I didn’t really pursue anything over the summers in college, so once I decided I didn’t want to be in academia, I hit a real wall. It would have been nice to have some other experience to fall back on or to have some more interesting experiences. Also, join more organizations in undergrad. I didn’t start doing that until grad school and really should have started earlier.
    I’m actually torn on whether to tell myself 10 years ago to stop dating my high school boyfriend, I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. Maybe tell her not to waffle so much when breaking up with him, those couple of months would have been way more fun with Bassanio…

    1. Eh, maybe I’d say break up with him and just have fun.

      1. Especially with that guy from orientation. Only good things could come from a tongue that long…

    2. Also, go see that new movie Mean Girls. It will explain what happened in junior high.

      1. More specifically, please take senior ditch day off, it’s your birthday! Getting your yearbook that day is not worth it. And then go see Mean Girls with your day off. Live a little more dangerously.

  23. BriarRose says:

    10 years ago I was about 3 months pregnant with my daughter, and had been married for just 9 months. So any advice I could have given myself about not marrying your high school sweetheart would come too late. Not to mention my awesome little baby lady wouldn’t be in existence if I hadn’t married him.
    This is a tricky thing. If I give myself all sorts of advice about how to better my marriage maybe I wouldn’t have gotten divorced. But I also wouldn’t have grown into the person I am today (who is awesome) and I wouldn’t be with my current boyfriend (who is as close to “THE ONE” as I’m going to get). So I would say to 24 year old (and pregnant) BR to prep her for the life that is to come:
    1. Don’t quit your job to depend on your husband. Work part-time if you have to, anything to keep your resume current. Save for your retirement as well, not just his. Don’t get into significant debt.
    2. Be more patient with your daughter. Spend more time with her when she’s little–it will go way too fast. Sleep when she sleeps (even though that’s just about never).
    3. For the love of all that is holy, don’t spend 2+ years trying to make him fall back in love with you. And don’t be so damn nice during the divorce thinking you’ll stay friends. You won’t and that will be just fine.

  24. Also, quit the special snowflake crap and just admit that you don’t want to get your MFA and you like 401ks. Write more about your grandparents in your Livejournal (instead of writing about those dudes from 2005 – 2008) because you will really miss them, and some of your memories may fade. Never stop eating avocados!

  25. I was about 5 months into living in NYC (first major city I’d ever lived in) and moved there to really figure out who I was and what I wanted. Some advice I would give myself for the next few years would be:

    1. Stop using credit cards. If you can’t pay cash, you don’t need it.
    2. People who choose to be in your life probably are there because they want to be, so stop being insecure about your friendships and enjoy them already!
    3. Go see more Broadway shows (but don’t use a credit card to buy the tickets!).
    4. If a guy says he doesn’t want to be with you, believe him and stop trying so hard to change that. Even IF the sex is really, really good.
    5. When student loan companies tell you they’ll give you $12,000 a semester, know that you don’t need to take the full disbursement.

  26. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

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

  27. TheRascal says:

    To my 22 year old self:

    The people in your life — your friends and family — love you dearly. Embrace that.

    You cannot fix a person who does not want fixing.

    To emote is not weakness; it is strength.

  28. hey, younger self:
    – When you go to Greece, don’t get your expectations high with that guy. he is nice but you both are not in the right place right now. flirt, flirt, flirt and carry on with your life. don’t send back his gifts and that letter… cheesy as hell!
    – that blond guy in your masters? i don’t have to tell you he’s an idiot, you already know that; so why bother?
    – that other guy? i guess you have to go through it again to learn what you know now, but in the moments of darkness, just remember you’ll have so many great things after you’re out of there
    – handsome/smart as hell/sexy guy alert. no advice here, go ahead and do what i did: marry him!!!
    – go to a fertility doctor way before I did
    – don’t go to the chiropractor that summer day after class: you’re going to crash your car
    – don’t plan your trip to central america with your sister in law: you’ll save a lot of money
    – initiate sex more often!
    – exercise more often after that trip to mexico in 2008. you don’t look that bad now but i don’t want you to have the back problems i have now πŸ™
    – visit your aunt in 2012, you won’t see her again
    – tell your boyfriend (now husband, yay!) to pick up his DJ stuff after that new year’s party and ask him to tell the manager to check the kitchen because has a gas leak and that will avoid the fire after midnight.

  29. Laura Hope says:

    Eat! You will lose years of your life to anorexia.

  30. Oh man, this is pretty timely, as I turn 30 next Friday. So..what would I tell my 19 almost 20 year old self…

    – Don’t try to “open” your relationship with him just to make him happy. It will just make you miserable. In fact, maybe now would be a great time to break up with him, instead of dating him for almost 4 more years. You can (and will) do better.

    – Stop with the credit cards. Just stop. Get a cheaper apartment, or move back on campus next year, and learn to cook real food so your choices aren’t ramen, frozen pizza, or fast food.

    – In addition to eating real food instead of crap, maybe try exercising once in a while.

    – Get involved more in school. Participate in the student council maybe, or at the very least go to THON.

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      THON!!!!! <3 PSU.

      1. πŸ™‚ Seriously, I never went though. How lame was I? I wish I were involved more, but I spent all my time with the boyfriend referenced in the first piece of advice, haha.

        Also, I haven’t been back to PSU in… 2.5 years? I’m so antsy to get back, but it’ll be a while before I can swing it.

      2. kerrycontrary says:

        I went but I wasn’t involved. I taught English as a Second Language and was president of the history club (NERD ALERT). I spent a lot of time with my college boyfriend too though…so I know how that is πŸ™‚

  31. Sunshine Brite says:

    Dear 16 year old Me:
    You aren’t fat. Learn to talk to people you’re attracted to. Eat healthily and quit skipping meals. Quit going on pro eating disorder websites even out of curiousity, it gets to you… “adult” websites too. Accept your dad’s offer of help if he asks – you definitely have some anxiety or depression going on and that’s fine. Consider practicality as you start looking up schools but don’t be afraid to reach further.

  32. The biggest 2 pieces of advice I would give myself ten years ago are:
    1. You have a full ride scholarship to a school you don’t like. It’s only 3 more years so stick with it and you won’t have most of the student loan debt you have now.

    2. It’s ok to leave someone even if there’s not technically a specific reason. The fact that you just don’t like him anymore is good enough. Don’t date him for another 2 years, hating every minute of it.

    1. Ooo I forgot one:
      3. When the doctor offers to put you on depo and says that most people don’t gain weight and those that do it’s only 5-10, DON’T LISTEN! It’s a trap! You’ll gain 60lbs in 6 months without any lifestyle change and never, ever lose it (at least not for the next 10 years). And the later in your 20s you are, the harder it will be to lose it.

  33. “Keep on keeping on, it works out, I promise.
    But you should go see a doc and get on those happy pills at 18 instead of 24 so you don’t spend all of college depressed. And get on birth control while you’re at it. You will be amazed how much it helps your cramps ”

    I actually am really happy with how my life is at this point and I’m scared that one change could change it all!

  34. Avatar photo thewriteway says:

    1. Go to college undeclared. Give yourself time to explore options and don’t just rush into a career.

    2. Take chances while you’re in school. It’s harder to do once you’re out and tied to a full-time job.

    3. Life doesn’t have to be all about work. Have some fun once in a while too.

    4. Get your driver’s license now so you’re not still struggling to get it with a 15-year-old car that has a ton of issues when you’re in your late 20s.

    5. Keep up with your health now and don’t let yourself gain so much weight that taking it off later is a pain in the ass.

  35. 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.

  36. 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!!!!

  37. kerrycontrary says:

    I was 16 so…..Stop being so judgmental, there’s a lot more gray in the world than there is black and white. Don’t worry that you suck at math, you won’t use anything beyond algebra in your real life. Ditch your shitty friends, most of them become drug addicts anyways and befriend the smart kids. Don’t worry about boys too much—you will go to college where all of the men are more attractive and a lot more interested in you. Don’t cut your hair at the end of your junior year, you’ll miss having it long and it will take most of senior year for it to grow back. Keep exercising for the rest of your life. Stop having a crush on that one guy, you two will grow apart and you won’t end up together anyways–and by the time you are 18 you will fall in love with someone else and completely lose interest in him.

    1. kerrycontrary says:

      Oh, and 16 was hard but 17 and beyond is awesome. So I’d tell myself that life is just about to get amazing.

  38. 1. Keep that Othello fellow around. He’s going to turn out quite well.
    2. You’ll be leaving for a 3 week trip to Italy, enjoy it! And, spend more money on experiences rather than crap to take back home. That overpriced sweatshirt will shrink horribly the first time you wash it. And wouldn’t you rather have gone to that extra museum?
    3. Your first job out of college will suck. And you will be bad at it. And it won’t pay you near enough. But, use it as a learning experience. And it’s not the end of the world when you get fired from it.
    4. Start working out now. Don’t go to yoga once every 2-3 months and call it enough. And even though you’re poor (see #3), there are still plenty of free activities that you can do. You live in an area with lots of outdoors activities to keep involved with.
    5. Nurture your college friendships more post college. Don’t be afraid of the telephone, and call them once in a while. Talking is way more personal than email/Facebook (you’ll find out about that it about 6 months) ever will be.

  39. Hmmm, I feel like just-turned-17 me didn’t need as much as advice as 22 year old me did. I would probably just tell 17 year old me secrets? Or… sex-crets. Like– 1.) yeah, that guy you have a crush on, who used to be your friend, who now isn’t talking to you anymore? You’ll bang him in 4-5 years, & his dick’s not that impressive. He’ll also apologize for his dumb high school behavior, & you’ll feel mildly vindicated but not even that much. 2.) You’ll get to explore your bisexuality soon! Not that long. Don’t worry. 3.) It won’t be with the girl you’re obsessed with currently, though. Although you will run into her all the time post-high school, & she’ll always tell you you’re pretty. 4.) The guy you dated for, like, a month last month & didn’t even get to bang? Yeah, you’ll bang him soon. And his twin, too. But later. Much later.
    etc. etc. haha. But, okay, I’d throw in some advice too. 1.) Party less. Yeah, yeah, you only just started, but you can wait a bit more to get into it. You think you’ll be done partying by 21, for some reason, but you won’t be. So chill. And study.

    1. AND okay, for some more serious stuff… STOP being afraid? Raise your hand more. Talk to people. You’re fine once you start talking, but do it right away or else you just forget & then you feel weird. You will get better at this, but start doing it now. Also, be more decisive. Weighing every decision doesn’t make you smarter, it makes you less likely to act & more likely to just think life is a joke? Which leads to poor decisions. Poor decisions that you’ll pass of as jokes, but will feel actually shitty about.

    2. I’m so intrigued by your life.

  40. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    I’d tell my 25 year old self to relax, enjoy your friends, don’t worry about the future so much everything will be fine, figure out what you enjoy and do that, make relationships your priority so you can get really good at them – or else you’ll suck at them at 35 you idiot.

  41. NUMBER 1: Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of you!

    NUMBER 2: People have their own shit and it’s rarely about you, so stop being so sensitive.

    NUMBER 3: It’s ok to speak up for yourself.

    You’ll be a much happier person much sooner in life if you follow these three pieces of advice.

  42. 10 years ago I had just grdauated from college. I would tell myself to enjoy my early twenties more. That it was ok to move in with my family for a few years, a much better idea than living with a new co-worker. Even though it seems like it will be fun, it’s end up being a bad decision. Spend those five years you’re at home spending much time with your family. You’ll appreciate it later. Eventually you’ll end up married (something you won’t believe would happen at 22) and living in another state doing a job you never would have thought you would want. But, you’re happier than you imagined you’d be, so it’s all worth it.

    1. so many mistakes in my post. i probably shouldn’t put things on the internet after taking cough syrup!

  43. I love this idea. My advice would be:

    Don’t do drugs. And don’t fool yourself into thinking prescription drugs aren’t real drugs.

    Don’t drop out of high school.

    It’s okay to not have a relationship with your parents or siblings. The sooner you figure that out, the better your life will become.

    But, really, a little fucking up is good, and you wouldn’t turn out the same way if you hadnt done those things.

  44. Oh man, things have changed so much since 16 year old Lyra…

    1. Just ask the dudes out. What do you have to lose? Don’t obsess about them.
    2. Never date a trombone player. I know they’re hot, but seriously. Don’t.
    3. You don’t know as much as you think you do.
    4. Get out more in college. Meet more people. Don’t sit in your dorm so much.
    5. Stop freaking out about everything. It always works out.
    6. Cherish the time you get to spend with your friends! They’ll be your friends for a long time. You won’t talk to them all the time in college or beyond, but they will always love you.
    7. Let a guy go the first time.
    8. Go in for the kiss.
    9. Practice your flute more.
    10. Don’t stress so much.

    1. Avatar photo MaterialsGirl says:

      i agree. NEVER DATE TROMBONE PLAYERS. I was obsessed with one all throughout high school. Didn’t actually make stuff happen until a few weeks over summer after freshman year of college, but it was not worth pining over him for years and years

      1. Hahaha I crushed on the entire section at one point. πŸ™‚

    2. I’m glad my mom didn’t listen to your ‘don’t date a trombone player advice’ – my dad was one πŸ™‚

      1. There ARE decent trombone players. It’s just the maturity level sometimes…especially in my high school band!

      2. Well, he was a college band student when he met my mom πŸ™‚
        Although, my older brother, who also plays the trombone, definitely had some maturity level issues.

      3. My philosophy is the farther back you get in the band the lower the maturity level. πŸ™‚

      4. I should also mention I now teach band and I have tested my philosophy many many many times.

      5. Avatar photo theattack says:

        hahahaha, i love this!

    3. Avatar photo theattack says:

      For real about trombone players. My weakness was the euphoniums, who were honestly just as ridiculous. They were just quieter about it.

      1. I totes had a crush on a euphonium player all through high school. I even asked him out in freshman year! And he turned me down. And I spent that night wallowing in my Celine Dion albums haha. (I can’t believe I just admitted that…is this still a deleted thread?) His parents also goes to my parents’ church so I see him ever Easter and Christmas from across church. I think he’s even engaged now? So weird.

      2. Avatar photo theattack says:

        Omg Celine Dion albums. hahaha It’s alright. All of DW is basically a deleted thread sometimes with the things we all confess. It really is crazy that you still see him though. The boy I mentioned in my advice to myself was about a euphonium player who for three years I always thought was a missed opportunity because I was too shy to say I admit I wanted to date him when he asked me out. It’s painful remembering how dumb I was sometimes. ha!

      3. I know! It’s still kind of weird seeing him even though it’s only every blue moon. But I’ll always be that one girl who asked him out super awkwardly in freshman year. I’ve known him since kindergarten, and we may catch each other’s eye during Christmas Eve church and it takes me back to that super awkward moment hah. And it’s funny to me now because he’s really NOT very attractive? I remember he was in my gym class in freshman year and during the swimming unit I realized he totally had man boobs.
        OH so his cousin got married a couple years back when I was still with my ex and my ex and I were hired to play at the wedding. We did duets, solos, etc. Ex plays piano and flute so it worked out really well (like the only thing I miss about him haha). And the crush was an usher! So we totally caught each other’s eye every once in a while. He was also at the rehearsal so it was the musicians and like 20 family members and I’m all “hiiiii I asked you out like, 10 years ago…” At the wedding all I could think about was how I was so glad I looked super hot in my dress and red heels and that my then boyfriend was so much hotter than my ex crush.
        Ahhhh high school. Just thinking about it brings out the drama.

      4. This discussion led me to do some Facebook research that brought me back down high school memory lane haha.

    4. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

      I used to play the trombone!! I hope people date me, lol

  45. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really want to give advice to the younger me, because it just makes me think about everything I’ve done that I really regret, which I think about a lot anyway. Maybe I could write a letter to myself and tell myself everything I did right!

    1. Do it!
      I also like to think that I’ve learned from the things I’ve regretted, and that I wouldn’t be me if I’d made different choices.

  46. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

    I wrote a very lengthy blog post to myself and I’m glad Wendy liked the idea. If you want to read my letter to myself, here it is πŸ™‚

    1. This was a great idea. Thank you!

      1. Avatar photo veritek33 says:

        Thank you πŸ™‚

  47. goldele13 says:

    Things I would tell my 13 year old self

    1. Talk to someone about the severe bullying at school (even if it won’t stop it)
    2. Transfer high schools (re: number 1)
    3. Keep on keeping on with your academic superstardom, it will get you places
    4. Appreciate all the cool places you get to visit
    5. Don’t eat your feelings, talk them out

  48. Mine would be:
    -Don’t sleep in and miss the bus so your mom has to drive you to school.
    -Don’t suggest to go a different way to school than what your mom wants.
    -Tell mom not to brake on an icy road.
    -Don’t take anything about your life for granted; it will change in a split second.
    -Dump that dude you’re dating before he cheats on you while you’re in a coma.
    -No one is going to leave you to live in the hospital forever. Stop being scared.
    -Neurological rehabilitation does matter; stop thinking it’s all a nightmare.
    -Work hard at your therapies especially speech therapy or you will end up with a speech impediment.

    1. πŸ™ Yours seem so sad! I hope all is ok now joanna.

      1. I’m doing well now Lyra! It just happens that exactly 10 years ago that happened. I’m the happiest I have ever been though now. I can tell you the story via email if you like or I could make a forum post.

  49. Breezy AM says:

    Yes, he loves you. And yes, you love him. But he is far, far, far more flawed than he even realizes let alone you. Stop trying to tell him he’s fine and there’s nothing wrong with him. He IS as messed up as he claims. You take care of you. Make a career, and not one to please him! Get into organizational development and leadership training now. It’s what you’re best at and where your talents lie. Be more sure of yourself and your boundaries. It will help you, him, and your future children (yes, you’ll have more, don’t fret!) more than anything on earth.

    Work on your temper, and stop drinking to mask the pain. It doesn’t help anyway.

  50. 10 years ago, I was 21. This is depressing on many levels. My advice?

    1. Let your first love go. He’s not worth it. You will fall in love again.
    2. Appreciate your friends more. They are what makes life sweet.
    3. Appreciate your FAMILY more – they are the ones who will always be there for you.
    4. Love yourself. You’re cute, smart, funny, and thin. You’ll never be this thin again, so enjoy it.
    5. Spend more time with your grandmother, because you’ll only get 2 more years with her.

    I need to re-read this every day, methinks.

  51. 10 years ago I was about to start grad school. I still wonder if getting an advanced degree was the right decision. But I don’t think that younger-me would have listened to older-me because it’s worked out pretty OK. I wish I could have had two different older versions of myself- who had taken different tracks in life – would have given me advice.

    1. You had best be ending that thought with, “for joy.”

      1. Orrrrr…Pointer Sisters!!

        Jump for my love
        Jump in and feel my touch
        Jump you want to taste my kisses
        In the night then

        Jump, jump for my love
        Jump, I know my heart can make you happy
        Jump in, you know these arms
        Can feel you up
        Jump, you want to taste my kisses
        In the night then
        Jump, jump for my love

  52. Dear 16 year old me: you were quiet, a good student, and didn’t make any stupid decisions that would affect us later in life. If I could go back and give you some advice, I’d tell you to please start learning to take some risks, speak up more, learn how to talk to new people, kiss a few boys and maybe make a few stupid decisions. Also, just tell your parents that you’re an atheist instead of fighting with them about going to church/youth group stuff without saying why.

  53. 1. Don’t waste your time worrying. Things have a way of working themselves out.
    2. Travel a bit more during undergrad. You did travel some, but travel more. It gets much harder once you’re out of college.
    3. I know you said you wanted to increase your water intake, but perhaps not so much? ‘Cause now you want water all the time, and you have to pee ALL THE TIME.

    Heck, these are valid for me even today (except change ‘out of college’ to ‘eventually have a baby’).

  54. Laura Beth says:

    Awesome idea, Wendy! Taking off my lurker hat for this one.

    Dear 20 year old me:
    1. You are not fat!! But you should exercise anyway, because it will make you feel better. And maybe prevent you from getting fat like I did.
    2. You aren’t as ugly as you think you are, either. Just try to accept yourself. And believe your friends when they tell you they love you. You are lovable!! Work on having that self-confidence, because you are a good person and people want to spend time with you. No, really!
    3. Twenty is too late to avoid living with that horrible roommate, but *high five* cause we got through it! She was crazy and you should forget all those awful things she said to you – they weren’t true.
    4. In a few years, when you move to New Orleans, don’t roll your eyes at your dad when he tells you to leave town because a hurricane is coming. Also, bring more than just 1 t-shirt and two pairs of yoga pants!! You won’t be back in your apartment for several months. And don’t bother bringing your law books.
    5. When you start to feel too tired to function, get yourself to an endocrinologist and INSIST that they look at your thyroid. You are NOT the laziest and most useless person on the planet – you need medicine!! Seriously, this will save you a lot of grief and days of sleeping 17 hours at a time.

  55. Avatar photo suzyinthesky says:

    10 years ago I was 19 and in my first semester at university. I’d tell myself:
    1) Love yourself. Don’t depend on attention from boys to feel good. And sex is not love, stop sleeping with boys hoping they will fall in love with you.
    2) work harder at developing good study habits. Yes, you’ve always had it easy and yes, most of the curriculum is classical literature. But your lack of discipline will bite you in the ass in three years’ time.
    3) Be sensible, save money. Don’t spend everything on going out. You’ll need money in ten years to get a mortgage in order to buy into your SO’s amazing, gigantic flat.
    4) Stop throwing up your food: bulimia is horrible.

  56. Be kinder to yourself please, there’s more in your past than you even know.

  57. 1. You know that law isn’t for you, don’t suffer for two more years trying to change that. Go find a way into the crazy policy wonk world now so you won’t be years behind your peers professionally and will have some solid experience when things in your field get rough in 5 years.
    2. Make an effort to keep in touch with people. You aren’t actually forgotten as soon as you’re out of sight, but you need to reach out once in a while.
    3. You are likable (and lovable!) to people outside your family, but you have to let them get to know you. So be your quirky, geeky self and let people decide for themselves whether or not they want you around, quit trying to go unnoticed because you assume that calling attention to yourself will just lead to rejection.

  58. 16-year-old KKZ, heed these words…
    1. Bullying.
    Verbal abuse DOES count as bullying, and yes, you were bullied pretty terribly. By now you’ve given up trying to get adults involved to stop it, but I urge you to keep trying. Not only will all those nasty comments still come up on the therapist’s couch 10 years later, but you’re also learning to not take verbal abuse seriously, and that will have very severe consequences for your love life.
    2. Parents.
    They’re only as hard on you as they are because you are testing every boundary put in front of you, and they’re scared you’re going to hurt yourself. They have a point. The good news is, once you figure that out, you’ll get to be good friends with them. They’re actually pretty cool.
    3. It’s not a race.
    You are going to feel compelled to rush through life and check off all the boxes as fast as possible – experiment sexually, graduate, get a job, get married, buy a house. I know it makes you feel All Grown Up, but the reality is: No one is handing out blue ribbons for hitting all of life’s milestones by the time you’re 21. You won’t get these years back, so slow the fuck down already and stop trying to prove yourself to everyone.
    And a few quickies…
    College is awesome and you’re really going to miss it when it’s over. Savor it. (And STUDY ABROAD because you will kick yourself later that you didn’t.)
    26-year-old KKZ is very jealous of all the time you get to spend writing. Keep it up – writing is your One True Love and will carry you forward in ways you can’t imagine.
    It’s awesome to be weird and nerdy. Embrace it. Fellow nerds are some of the best friends you’ll ever have.
    But here’s the thing that will really shock you: Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is just figuring this shit out as they go. Even people decades older than you still manage to fuck up their lives, don’t automatically know what to do in every situation, and can be just as immature as those high school bullies. Adulthood is an illusion.
    What this means for you: You can stop trying to be perfect, the Model Responsible Adult. Let yourself mess up, royally at times, and take it in stride. Because once you leave school, you’re not being graded anymore. Which means no more instant hits of validation when you do well enough for an A+, because the real world sucks like that, but it also means you don’t have to set such high expectations for yourself that you spin out into a depression when (not if, WHEN) you fail. (And when that does happen – there’s no shame in therapy. Really.)
    Sigh, I could probably go on for days with this….

    1. Hell yes to the ‘nobody knows how to be an adult’ bit, I STILL have to remind myself of that.

      1. Admittedly that advice would apply better to 18-year-old me, because from 18-22 or so, I was trying so so so hard to be an adult and wasted so much time and energy on it.

  59. applescruffs says:

    I forgot these:
    9: You’re not out of shape. You just have asthma. Go get diagnosed.
    10: You’re not an idiot. You just have a math disability. Go get tested.
    And that math teacher who told Dad you just “aren’t very bright?” One day you and I are going to find her and tell her about that doctorate we were bright enough to get. We haven’t yet…maybe 38 year old self can tell us where to look.

  60. I actually wish 10 years from now Elin would show up today and give me HER advice.

    1. Laura Beth says:

      Yes I want this to happen, too!

  61. Avatar photo possumgirl says:

    medication won’t change you. get help.

  62. Sue Jones says:

    10 years ago is way too recent for me and I wasn’t much younger than I am now, so I will go back 20, no 30 years! “Break up with your loser hippie boyfriend today. Don’t get involved with the new guy, but take the money you earned and go to India and study yoga. And stay away from more loser boyfriends while you are at it. Just focus on yourself for once.”

    1. Sue Jones says:


  63. Open a credit card. Charge it once, pay it off, then cut it to shreds.

    Start an exercise routine. Even if it’s just 30 minutes twice a week. Also, you’re not as fat as you think you are. Don’t let that stop you from having fun.

    Wear sunscreen. EVERY DAY. That beautiful tan you have every summer isn’t worth the freckles all over your chest and arms later on.

    Focus more on your friends than your boyfriends. It’s hard to get them back once the boy is gone.

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