43 Year Old Wisdom For My 18 Year Old Self

So I am scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning and come across this article entitled 11 Things People Over 50 Wish They'd Done Differently At 25 and the title in itself is A. Lot.
Yet....as someone always interested in self-evaluation, I click and read....and think, not a bad list, but there is something missing...I think of my own niece in the throws of college and choices, my nephews in the middle of high school with all of its challenges...and I think what would I want them to read on a list like this?
....for all of us who don't like the feeling of shoulda, coulda, woulda...
So...I am writing my own which includes some of the ones in the article above (slightly tweaked) and my own additions. ;)
  1. Speak up more. In. Love. One of the biggest lies I learned as a child was that I needed to speak louder or more to be heard. It is a natural offshoot of growing up in a large family and then having a lot of dysfunction occur in your family. It took nearly as long to unwind those bad traits as it took to learn them (that is approximately 20 years if you are curious about the math). I also learned that I needed to be right. To be wrong in our family was bad...very BAD. Today I know that it is better to speak your truth,  share your story, own what you believe....but most importantly be kind and speak in love. You do get more with honey than vinegar. Trust me.
  2. Know when to walk away. Oh and actually walk away. If I had a nickel for every time I said, "This is it." and then caved, I could retire...Today. Games do not work. In school. In friendships. In romantic relationships. In life. As the verse goes, let your yes be yes and your no be no. People deserve and should know where you stand. Know your nonnegotiables (in love, work, relationships, etc.) and then stick to them.
  3. Save more money....and protect your credit score. There are two numbers that can haunt you all your days if unprotected, your social security number and your credit score. Learn early. Be smart. These two matter. Protect them. Also, save. Save. Every little bit counts. I was and have been a pretty good saver, but I wish I had been even better. I made some big financial mistakes that cost me dearly. It is never too soon to develop a financial plan. Find someone you trust that doesn't take half of what you are saving to help you protect it and grow it. Some day you might want to start your own business and believe me, you will need the money to do it. (Slight digression there.)
  4. Re-think a college major. This is a big one for me because I really did not major in what I loved, I majored in what I thought would give me "security" in life. That was a mistake. Now God can make good out of anything, and I am very grateful for my business degrees. My education and work experience have opened a lot of doors for me in my life...BUT, yes there is a but. I wish I had followed the passion in my heart...heck, I wish I had sat still long enough to really know myself and know what my true passion(s) were at 18, 19, 20... I was in too big of a hurry. Too terrified that I couldn't make the next month's rent. I just lived in a lot of fear at that age. Don't let fear rule your choices...especially not in a college major that is going to dictate how you spend four years of your life...and possibly beyond.
  5. Travel more and read. Phew. This one stings because if there is anything I find myself telling high school and college students when I go back to mentor, speak, etc., it is travel...A. Lot. Take every mission trip you can while you are in high school. Read all of the books you can even the ones you don't like; expand your mind. I have traveled considerably as an adult, but I didn't really start doing that until my mid-30s. I spent my 20s with my head down in books and then my head down working. I regret that, and I am someone that hates regret. I recommend that you take a year off between high school and college to travel the world, join the Peace Corps, work in the mission field, do an internship....LIVE. These days you can defer scholarships and acceptance letters, but you cannot defer life. Grab yours and live it. Experience the world around you. Learn more about yourself and others. Take the time to really learn yourself without the safety net of family and school.
  6. Incur less debt. You are probably thinking how do I travel and not incur debt? Well, there are lots of ways...work, fundraise...to name two. Spend your money on travel and not things. Travel light in your 20s, and I mean that literally and figuratively. I remember the futon I spent a precious couple of paychecks for in college that I was SURE I would have forever. #forthelove  Let me assure you I. Did. Not. My entire first apartment was furnished out of my parents' garage and Salvation Army. Today I look at those photos, and it is still one of my favorite spots I ever lived. Trust me, Wal-Mart and Target are too good for your 20s. You need to spend your money on travel...and good food (whether out or cooking via Farmers Markets in your apartment)...and giving back. Learn to cook in your 20s and save the eating out for great food in great restaurants. Attend events that are free. Use a library card instead of Barnes and Noble (there will be plenty of time to build your library). Remember travel light so you can travel. ;)
  7. Wear more sunscreen. Oh how I wish I had never seen a tanning bed. Just say no. Who cares if you are as white as that sheet of notebook paper. Make it work for you. Now in my 40s I get to see a dermatologist every six months, stripped naked while they examine me for odd-shaped moles. Oh and if they see one even slightly suspicious, I get a painful shot and they Cut. It. Off. Are you still with me here??? Just say no. Sunshine is to enjoy in the shade of 50SPF. You will thank me later.
  8. Think carefully before marriage. Now this one is tricky for me. I was engaged in my 20s (somehow my niece didn't know that until a few weeks ago), but he and I while best friends in college figured out midway through our first pre-marriage counseling session that we didn't have a clue. At. All. As we walked to the car that night, we both looked at each other with big doe eyes and then broke out laughing. It was relief and sadness and joy wrapped up in one. We weren't ready and we knew it. Thank God for pre-marriage counseling. He is now very happily married and the father of four. I have not been as blessed, but I had bigger issues that I only started facing head on with God a few years ago. I have hope that God has a man out there...though it will be later in life for me than the average woman....but that is okay. This is my story, and I am owning it. The point is that even at my saddest about being single, I have NEVER EVER been so sad that I would have rather been married to someone that wasn't the one. That is a critical point. Most of the people I knew in my teens and 20s are on second marriages (some more) while others are VERY happily married. I don't think it is the age you marry that matters as much as it is the state of mind you marry in. You both have to really want it...for the long haul....thick and thin, sickness and in health, death do you part...Oh and you have to really love each other....the good and the bad (yup all of those nasty habits), but mostly you have to both love God at the same velocity. If you aren't on the same page about Jesus and where he ranks in your life, you will both be miserable. Imagine my shock when I am dating a Christian and crisis hits and our approaches are so polar opposite this is no recovering for us. Painful. Make sure where you place God is the same place they place God...if not, I am sorry to tell you this, but you are going to be unequally yoked and that is miserable for both of you, and your families, and your children. Remember you date the fantasy, but you marry the reality.
  9. Slow down. I didn't. I regret it. I could write a book on this. I have been too driven since childhood. I wish I had stopped and smelled the roses more. It is not a race to the finish. It took me half my life to realize that.
  10. Get a better education. I love school. I am grateful to have both of my degrees. I dream of another, but God and life keep throwing me curve balls. No one can ever take your education away from you. Study. Learn. And not just the traditional senses. I love vocational and technical schools, art classes, community colleges, photography classes. I have dabbed in it all, and I highly recommend you do too. There are a lot of free or very inexpensive classes all around you. A few clicks in Google will reveal them all to you. Check them out.
  11. Consider health issues. Let me tell you some truths. Your metabolism will slow down. Yikes! Your skin will wrinkle. You will get saggy in places you NEVER worried about. Hair does start to grow in places it SHOULD NOT (it isn't just a man thing). Getting out of bed in the morning does sound a lot like a Rice Krispies commercial all Snap! Crackle! and Pop! Your hair does thin even those of us blessed with a lot of it. It does turn gray and not all fast and beautiful like Emmylou Harris' lovely locks (oh I wish and CANNOT wait), but sporadic and odd to where even those who said they would never cover their gray, do. {My trick is to make it fun...which is one reason I love ombre}. Doctors will tell you that you can no longer eat that, drink that, do that, and you will argue and rebel...and then you will pay dearly. So you will slowly listen. There will also be medical situations that Change. Your. Life., but you will persevere. The point is to enjoy and consider your health when you are young. It does change.
  12. Pray/Meditate/Read Your Bible. Oh how I wish someone had gotten me in my teens and taught me this. It is a game changer and makes all of the items above easier. Your choices are to live your life on your own terms and by your own volition, OR on God's terms and by his will. I wish I had spent all of my days doing the latter. I. Did. Not. Tithe your time to the one that gives you the time.
  13. Find your tribe. I have not always been a good friend. That is hard for me to say. I am not sure I am a good friend now on most days. What I do know is that I am getting better at it. If you choose to live your life on a treadmill by your own volition, you have no time for others. That is a mistake. Life is hard. God did not mean for us to go it alone. Solo was not the point. There was a reason God made Eve. The world was incomplete without her. God knew we needed tribe. Jesus knew it too. He grabbed up the disciples (merry band of misfits that they were) because he needed tribe and so did they. The point is...so do we. My life is so much more richer now that I have a tribe to live it with...to do life with. I wish I had understood tribe in my teens. It takes work, but it is worth it. Cultivate it in your life.
  14. Spend time alone. I once called it "taking a swim in lake you" and lately it has become "spa day" BUT whatever it is...do it. Take a day a month to just BE you. To take care of yourself...mind, body, and spirit. My day (at 43) looks like coffee in bed, reading, a deep tissue massage, a facial, a manicure, a pedicure, a nice dinner, a glass of wine (though not during Lent. Yikes!), and early to bed curled up with another book. It is a day of bliss. Whatever it is for you...do that. Spend time each month restoring yourself. You cannot take care of others if you do not take care of yourself.
  15. Give back. Make sure you are donating/tithing/giving of yourself, your time, your money, your best efforts to others. Sure it looks good on your college applications, your resumes, etc., but what really matters is that it feels really good in your soul. The old adage that it is better to give than receive is true, and there is something about time (and age) that helps you understand that more and more. Make sure that your days are filled with small and large ways of giving back (from buying someone a cup of coffee to volunteering at the homeless shelter).
The funny thing is I think there is more, but I need to get to church and brunch. The truth is that every day is a gift and a lesson that each of us has to unwrap for ourselves. I have no BIG regrets per se, but I do wish I had listened to wiser counsel when I was younger. I wish that God and I had been in sync then as we are today. I have lots of lost wishes. The point is to learn. I am still learning. It is never too late to learn OR share your hard-fought knowledge with others.
Happy Sunday!

"Anyone among the living has hope..." ~ Ecclesiastes 9:4

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Labels: ,