It’s almost my birthday and for some reason it’s got me feeling a bit introspective about who I am, and who I used to be… maybe it’s because this is the last year that I’ll be in my twenties, and I have a milestone birthday creeping up. Or maybe the last 3 years have been such a big change that I’m just thinking about all the ways it’s changed me… Either way, I’ve been thinking about other milestone birthdays and who I was then… if I could go back, and chat to my younger self, give myself some advice, what would it be?
To my 13-year-old self
You had your birthday party at the bowling alley this year, and you were so excited. Most of the people you invited in the neighborhood are coming, including the boy you had a crush on. You were wearing your favorite outfit, a red halter top and gold glittery jeans, and you begged your sister to french braid your hair. Of all the people in the room, wishing you a happy birthday and offering you a gift, you will only be sure that two of them are really your friends. All of you spend time together during the summer, but you always seem to be the last one invited, and you’ve been left behind on many occasions. You cried about it a few times because it made you feel invisible. Finding where you fit in will plague you for the next few years, and truthfully, you’ll never really feel like you find it. That’s okay. You will eventually find your people, and when you do, you’ll appreciate and love them for exactly who they are and they will do the same for you.
To my 16-year-old self
You opted for low-key celebrations this year. Despite wishing you could be a contender for My Super Sweet Sixteen and dance along to Hilary Duff while your parents presented you with the keys to a new car, you decide instead for a chilled out day at home with your two best friends. You watch movies and bake cookies, eat bowls of ice cream and gossip about all of the people in your year. You’re still slightly reeling from your first heartbreak, followed by your second, and you wonder what’s wrong with you that the boys you like either don’t like you back, or move on almost immediately. It feels like the end of the world, because you give so much of your worth away. I wish I could tell you not to do that. Don’t give your worth away. The first boy to pay attention to you and tell you he thinks you’re pretty, he won’t be the last. It’s going to take you a few years to really understand your worth, but when you do, you will have happy loving relationships with your friends, your family, and even a bit of romance. It’s amazing what can happen when you learn to love yourself.
To my 18-year-old self
This is your time to shine. You’re about to move away from home for the first time and you’re scared and excited. You’ve found a place where you feel like you belong, and you feel like a different person already. Your birthday is another low-key one, as you’ve been focused on working and saving money, and preparing for this big life change coming your way. You will meet so many people, some of whom you love, some you don’t. You experience college parties, and the regrets that follow drinking too much jungle juice when you’re supposed to be the sober driver (the soberest, anyway). You keep things casual, and succeed academically for the first time in your memory. You can feel yourself changing and it feels wonderful. There is the temptation though, to completely veer off course, and become someone so completely different from who you are. You’re surrounded by things you had no previous interest in, and you find yourself partaking, against your better judgement. You just want to be accepted really, There’s no harm in trying new things, but don’t forget who you are along the way, and don’t let people make you feel bad for sticking to your guns.
To my 21-year-old self
You celebrated turning the big 21 with a big night out, a night you don’t actually remember. Your parents bought you your first legal drink (chocolate martini) and then it was off for Mexican food with friends. The next morning you were still drunk and your dad walked in the room to say “Good Morning,” but instead, proclaimed, “Tequila, huh?” which was enough to put you off the stuff forever. You’re about to go into your last year at school and you’re freaking out a bit about the future, because everyone keeps asking what you’re going to do when you finish school. The truth is you have no clue, and you don’t feel quite ready for adulthood yet. Don’t sweat too much about it. Life is going to take you where it takes you. Your tastes and passions will change as you grow. There’s nothing wrong with that, so you don’t have to figure it all out now. Just… breathe.
To my 25-year-old self
You decided to take a different route this birthday and went to brunch with your family. Your parents, your godparents, your cousins and your best friend. You’re figuring out where you stand in life and the things that are important to you. You’ve kissed a few frogs but now you’re in a happy and fulfilling relationship. You’re comfortable with yourself (kind of), and are trying to pursue the things that make you happy, with varying amounts of success. You work 5 part-time jobs and you haven’t quite learned how to take a day off, and treat yourself. Learn how to take a day off, and treat yourself. You don’t have to say yes to everything. In fact, don’t say yes to everything. You will feel exhausted and emotionally drained and a little bit isolated. Don’t forget that you are human and you need some downtime. Spend a little time with yourself… you might find you actually enjoy it!