Six Absolutely True Secrets of Life I’d Tell My 18-year-old Self:
1. On your body:
You’re never going to permanently lose those last five or ten pounds. Accept it, rejoice in your plush body, and move on. Spare yourself the needless suffering of trying to get rid of them for the next thirty years.
Men don’t care about those five or ten pounds; they don’t even notice. (Men, not boys. If some guy tells you to lose five pounds, then he’s still a boy, not yet a man.)
Good grooming, a confident posture, and a friendly smile are 3/4 of the battle to being seen as attractive. Yes, your mother was right.
Keep your face out of the sun. Wear hats. You’ll thank me, when you’re in your forties and still getting carded when you buy alcohol.
For that cycle-related acne that nothing has helped: ask your dermatologist about spironolactone. I really, really wish I’d known this.
2. On college:
Later in life, no one cares where you went to school. They won’t ask you what your grades were, either. So it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get into your first-choice college or if you get a B or C. Don’t go into massive debt for your dream college, either, if you have cheaper options. You can get a good education anywhere, if you make the effort to learn. Most real learning is self-directed.
If it’s not at least a little bit difficult, they you’re not going to get any benefit from it.
You’ll remember the experiences you had with your friends, but forget most of your time in the classroom, most of what you’ve read, and someday you’ll re-read your essays and wonder who the heck wrote them.
Balance studying with a social life. Social skills can only be developed in social situations, and social skills will matter just as much — or more — to your future success as your education.
Go abroad junior year, or work abroad right after college (teach English, join the Peace Corps, do whatever you can find). You’ll learn more by living in another country for a year than you will learn the entire rest of your college career.
3. On money:
You already sense this, but it’s true: stay out of debt. It’s like homework: once you get behind, it’s almost impossible to catch up.
Always have a couple thousand dollars of cash in an emergency fund. A credit card is not a proper emergency fund. See above.
It’s way more fun and memorable to figure out creative, cheap solutions and entertainment than it is to buy solutions and entertainment.
It’s never too early to start saving for a house.
4. On relationships:
Wait until you’re at least twenty-eight to even THINK about getting married. You need to fully become your own person before you’ll be able to recognize the person who is right for you. It won’t be who you expect, and he won’t be your usual type.
Have relationships with people you can see almost every day. Long-distance relationships die so slowly, you don’t even recognize that it’s happening.
If you find yourself making excuses for a guy, then something isn’t right. This is a major red flag.
Pay attention to red flags. As Maya Angelou said, “If someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Date happy men. Your love can’t save anyone from their troubles, and troubled guys make lousy boyfriends; they are black holes that devour all your love, and give nothing back except the illusion that you are needed. Can I repeat this piece of advice, several times? Put it in bold? Seriously, listen to it. They need you the same way a leech needs a warm mammal full of blood.
If you wonder ‘is this love’ or ‘is he the guy for me,’ then he probably isn’t. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn a lot from the relationship and have an interesting time. It just means that when it ends, you should let it go. Move on. Don’t try to force it to work.
Everything you learn from dates and relationships that are ‘not quite right’ will make it possible to someday meet a man and know, within the first few minutes, “This is him.”
5. On career:
If you are persistent in the face of adversity, you can have the career you want. And I do mean persistent! Failure and rejection are part of the game. Expect them. And soldier on.
If you don’t know what you want to do, ask some fifty- or sixty-year-olds what type of person they think you are, and what work they think you might enjoy. People that age, with all that experience and knowledge, can see you much more clearly than you can see yourself.
In job interviews, your personality plays a much bigger role than you think. I’ve been on the hiring side, and we chose the less-qualified person who was cheerful and warm over the more-qualified person who was reticent and stiff. If you have to, fake being enthusiastic, happy, and curious.
6. On life:
Loss and pain come to us all. Know that you will endure, and will laugh and feel joy again.
Savor small pleasures and celebrate small successes. Life is happiest when you pay attention to the good parts.