~10 Things To Tell My 20-something Self~
In light of my recent 35th birthday, I looked back on where I am now to where I was, or felt I was in my early 20’s. Today I am sharing 10 things I feel I’ve learned about life so far and advice that I would give to little Lauren if I had a time traveling Delorean!
photography by: June and Jae
- Adulting is easy:
Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown-ups. Source: Urban Dictionary.
This term did not yet exist in my 20’s, and even now, spell check does not recognize it. All over the internet we see memes and posts about how hard adulting is and how some people “just can’t today”. But when you actually do it, you find it is not that hard. And in fact, people have been accomplishing this daily throughout history! Maybe it is a Millennial thing? But I would much prefer adulting to the alternative… “Childing”? The time for being whiny and immature has long passed. Taking care of yourself, your own bills and creating a life for yourself is much more rewarding than being taken care of!
I moved to Chicago just after my 22nd birthday. I quit my suburban job, was a full-time student, and had no idea how I would even make my new city life work. But I figured it out, because I HAD to. Moving back to my parents’ let alone my home town was NOT an option. Heck, I even signed my first lease on July 31st, because I HAD to move in August 1st for school. Was that first apartment in Little Italy fantastic? No. Did my bedroom reach temps of 55 degrees because the building was so old. Yes. Could I afford the rent? Barely. But I took 2 restaurant jobs and tutored at my college to make friends and make ends meet. I found that part to be easy, because I wanted a new life, a new city and that sense of pride and progression that comes along with adulting. Adulting IS easy, being childish and scared is what is hard.
- Friendships are like relationships:
Oh how I wish I knew this then! Friendships are like relationships in the way that 2 people are attracted to each other’s energy and the support and companionship that is provided. During our early 20’s and college years we may want to just be included in the group or fit in the circle, or even feel obligated to some friends just because we’ve known them since high school or earlier. But it is extremely draining to spend time with anyone you are not “attracted” to. Attending a birthday party or bridal shower out of sheer obligation, or just so the other girls don’t talk behind your back is a waste of time and energy. If it’s not genuine, no one really benefits and often that very sense obligation is transparent and felt by all parties. It is OKAY to branch out, feed yourself and find new friendships that are more meaningful and reciprocal. As I got older, I sought out new and different friend relationships. I found friendships that were very short-term… “Friend flings” if you will. Some may seem appealing at first, like you have SO much in common and are instant BFFs! Come to find out, she only talks about herself, cries to you all the time, and calls 4 times in a row when you don’t answer your phone. Time to break up! See topic #3. In the end, life is short and the friends who really care, will always be there for you. Might just be a meaningful phone call every few months in between her raising 2 toddlers, or it might be a new friend 10 years younger with a heart of gold and an uncanny understanding of each other. The point is, life is too short to spend any time with people that you don’t long to see and don’t long to see you.
- Women can be crazy:
Including yourself! There is not enough I can say about this…. Every woman everywhere has some cray-cray that lives insider her. The amount that she lets out to you is what varies from female to female. In hindsight, I can pinpoint the similarities in the craziest ones, and honestly I knew it in my gut from the beginning. Just sorry I didn’t listen. Usually you can see the insanity in their eyes. I’m not joking. There is a wide-eyed vampire-like way that the eyes look at you screaming “Feed me!” If she never listens to your stories and only talks about herself or she’s crying to you about something trivial and expecting endless sympathy on a regular basis, RUN. For example, you just moved in together and on the very first day she’s crying about being too fat to go for a boat ride you we’re invited to, then gets mad that you for still going on said boat ride all afternoon instead of organizing the apartment together. Longest lease ever! Or she’s falsely claiming suicidal threats for attention because a d-bag she barely knew and slept with isn’t calling/texting her back. Get a grip! Or she shows up at your apartment unannounced to vent to you for the millionth time about sleeping with 2 guys at work and the drama storm she’s created. Leave me alone! Usually these women are stuck in a “victim mentality”, focus on only the negatives, and think they have the worst lives in the world. So if and when you do not sympathize with them, they act hurt and become angry with you for not placating their nonsense. These vampires are typically also narcissists and can be very manipulative. Trust your gut and recognize these behaviors to cut them from sucking the life out of you as soon as possible. Like the previous topic, it will feel like you’re having to “break up” with them…. And she will probably cry some more.
- Independence is important:
I cannot stress this point strong enough!! Being an independent woman is one of the best feelings in the world! I believe that every single woman should be alone and live alone for at least one year of their life. If you’ve been in a relationship with the same person since high school or college, how will you ever know who YOU really are? If you moved right from living with your parents’ to living with a guy, how will you know if you even can exist on your own? You don’t. And the thought is probably scary… Which is why you should do it. Some girls may be put off by this challenge of their life choices. But know that it comes from a place of love and my best advice. At 35 I’ve been a bridesmaid in 3 weddings that ended in divorce, and know several other couples and friends that have gotten divorced and/or dealt with infidelity. Don’t get me wrong there are the few that really do find their soulmates in their teenage years and beat the odds. My dad first proposed to my mom at 14. True story. They got married at 19. But even they broke up and dated others in high school. My mother has always said she got married too young and it was very challenging to be married when her friends were out and about. Also, don’t try to get engaged because your friends are getting engaged or married. Marriage is not a trend. Are you really ready? Is he? If he’s still hitting the bars with his boys, he’s not ready. If you are meant to be together, you will end up together. But find your independence first. Live in your own apartment, pay your own bills, answer to no one but yourself. I promise it will only make your marriage better in the end. The decade of your 20’s is a precious time to live it up, finishing growing up, work on your career and get to know YOURSELF! I met my husband right after turning 29, got engaged right after 33, and married right after 34. I could not feel more trusting, secure and happy in my marriage! We’ve both agreed that it was best to live on our own and know that this is 1000% what we want. And were able to make that decision as 2 independent adults.
- Live it up lady
Similar to the topic above… life is short and youth is fleeting. Live it up lady!!! Have you always wanted to live in NYC? Have you traveled internationally at all? Have you made out with a random on the dance floor? Go do it! I charged a lot to my credit cards when I was younger. Most of it was foolishly on clothes and shoes. But I wish I would have charged a trip to Europe for myself! Or spent a semester abroad during design school. Most likely you will have debt from college no matter what and spend years paying it off. But an amazing trip will feel much more worth it than piles of dead trends and worn out pumps. Make that leap and move to another state or across the country! Your hometown friends and family will be here if and when you decide to move back. Several girlfriends moved away for 1-5 years and made new, independent lives for themselves, then moved back. Props to them for following their heart and making the most of their youth and independence! I danced on tables at the club, I spent summer days on a boat in Chicago’s PlayPen, I dated who I wanted when I wanted, and I did charge a trip to Hawaii with some girlfriends at 23 and made out with a hunky Marine on the beaches of Oahu. An experience I’ll always cherish, look back on and smile about. Live it up while you can! There will be plenty of time to be settled down as you get older.
- The universe is listening
Always. She is listening to your thoughts, your wishes, your fears and your fantasies. And she will deliver what you wish if you focus on it correctly. Okay, I didn’t believe this either until I started really trying it out…. My last 4 boyfriends (including the one who became my husband) were requested by me from the universe with specific requirements, and they were delivered each time. The hard part is remembering the important specifics! For example, the first time I wanted a guy who lived fairly close to me in the city for convenience, liked to party as much as I, and was in a white collar job. Oh I found him, went on our first date and hit it off immediately. We lived close enough to walk and meet each other halfway in Lakeview, he worked in B2B sales successfully, was handsome and was at the bars every weekend like I was. Perfect? NO. What I did not request or focus on was a guy that was honest, faithful and not a total D-bag.
I also used this method at work. While freelancing, aka waitressing, I needed a certain amount of money to pay the bills. For example, on the way to work I would think to myself, “I’m going to make $313 tonight.” At the end of my shift, after tipping out, I had exactly $313 in my pocket. Now this obviously didn’t work every time, and I had to be sure it was a realistic amount of money to make. But I can’t tell you how many times it DID work! To the point it felt beyond coincidence and I would text the number to my mom just to prove my powers of manifestation were working. Next, after working nights and weekends for 15 years straight (yes, I worked almost Every. Single. Weekend), I nearly lost my mind and became a very negative, bitter person. I asked the universe to finally deliver me a Monday through Friday job, where I could help people. Within a couple of weeks, I had landed a job at a Chiropractic office working Monday through THURSDAY! Oh yes! The universe was listening and rewarded me with 3 day weekends, every weekend, after my years of sacrificing my social life and sanity to design clients, retail and restaurant jobs.
- Healthy equals happy
“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates
It took some time for me to really appreciate and adopt this mantra. I used to only eat out of necessity and cravings. But having been diagnosed with 2 stomach ulcers at the age of 19, I suffered a lot of pain, nausea and struggling to gain weight. After exhausting my efforts, and simultaneously losing faith in Western medicine, a friend turned me on to the Alkaline Food Chart (Google it. Print it. Live it.) My mind exploded with disbelief that ZERO of the countless doctors I saw ever once mentioned this to me! What the heck? Changing your daily diet and the way that you look at food is not something that happens overnight. But the sooner the better. Eating clean changed my life! When you start doing your own food research, reading the labels of all of your groceries and looking at the things you put in your body as Preventative Medicine your mind will be awakened to lies we’ve been told (milk does NOT do a body good!) and you will start to feel SO much better mentally and physically. You’ll be proud of yourself for taking control of your health and making responsible diet decisions. Eating good feels good. And healthy equals happy. Period.
- Stop caring and comparing
This one is a little more difficult, especially as a woman. It feels almost part of our carnal instinct to compare ourselves to other women. And now, in the age of endless social media, this feels even harder to avoid and/or overcome. But I have always hated the feeling of being jealous. What good did that ever do for anyone? This is one of the main reasons that my slogan is “Love Living in YOUR Life”. You better love living in your own life, because it’s the only one you’ve got! You’ll never live someone else’s life, and maybe it’s not even that great after all. It’s so sad to see girls comment on Instagram like, “I wish I had your hair/body!” and “I want to BE you!” or “OMG you’re perfect!” No. They are not perfect. No one is or ever will be. Each and every person has their own struggles and downfalls. Some bigger than others. But you never know what’s going on in someone’s life or how they got to where they are. Not to mention, that I’ve noticed some of the people who try to portray this picture perfect life on social media or in the real world, are some of the most insecure people. If someone is always telling you how great they are, they’re only really trying to convince themselves.
Similarly, once you stop caring so much what others think of you, you’ll be a lot happier. As long as you don’t take it to the extreme of selfishness or narcissism, do what YOU want! Stay true to your own dreams, desires, and most importantly your own morals. As I got older, I really took on an attitude of this is me, love me or not, take it or leave it. You may lose some fake friends, and you’ll probably gain some real ones. This is a great attitude to take towards dating as well. Stop caring what a guy thinks of you so much! Who is he to judge? Does his approval really mean that much to you? You do not need a man to validate you. Don’t cater to his likes, or try to accommodate him so much. You’ll only sacrifice yourself. The right man and your soulmate will love you for you, flaws and all. Spending time with any friend or love interest who does not love you for you is a gigantic waste of your time and energy.
- Everything is temporary
May be my oldest and most favorite mantra to myself. Every single thing in this world is temporary. The universe is constantly changing and evolving. Temporary can mean 15 minutes or 15 million minutes. But it still has and ending. Therefore, the saying has 2 sides. On one hand, everything is temporary and should not be taken for granted. Time with friends, family and loved ones is temporary. Time with your parents and your children is temporary. Time at your favorite job is temporary. Bloomed flowers are temporary. “You’ll never be lovelier than you are right now.” – Brad Pitt, Troy. One of my favorite lines. And movie, because Brad as Achilles? Um yes! Cherish the moment and love living in your current life.
On the other hand, everything is temporary and you can make it through anything. Each class period and each work shift is temporary. Every medical test or procedure is temporary. A bad date or mediocre relationship is temporary. Time spent grieving or feeling depressed is temporary. And you can overcome everything! So when life hands you tough and trying situations, remind yourself that this too shall pass, and everything is temporary.
- You’re doing great lady!
If I really could talk to myself 20-something self, I would tell her what a great job she was doing! Look at you, on your own, miss independent, out there taking risks, doing your best and continuously striving to live the life you imagine. She was always so hard on herself and often felt that herself, her work or her decisions were not good enough. Second guessing and giving herself unnecessary anxiety over people and things that did not deserve that much worry. I would tell her that she is on the right path even though sometimes the path feels like a dark scary Chicago alleyway. To keep following her heart and keep those standards high even though it seems no man could ever meet them. He is out there, and when you find him, he’ll meet them and all that waiting and dating will have been worth it. I would let her know that I am proud of her for coming this far and working so hard on herself and her career, even though some setbacks have landed in your way. I would tell her “You’re doing great lady!” Stay true to yourself and keep fantasizing about your ideal life, the universe is listening and will deliver what you focus on. Keep going and keep on trucking. You ARE enough and I LOVE YOU!