Ever wish you could get a glimpse into your future by getting a visit from your future self? Bet you’d listen to guidance from yourself on what to do or not to do more than any well-meaning teacher, parent or coach. I know I would. What if I am that future self and can go to a place in my past- what advice would I give? I’d choose to visit my 20-year-old self.
While High School was filled with angst and missed opportunities, it’s really the time that follows when advice is needed most. At age 20, you’re just beginning to live a life apart from watchful parental eyes. It’s an age when you first experiment with the freedom of choice. Such as the freedom to choose not to eat vegetables and go straight to dessert or the freedom to choose to call in sick to go with your friend on a day trip to the beach. This is also the age when you quickly discover the need to balance that freedom of choice with new responsibilities like paying bills on time or making sure laundry is washed before you run out of clean clothes to wear.
Here are the three tips I would give my 20-year-old self:
You are not beholden to the first person you have sex with.
At 20, I was several arguments and tearful nights into a two-year relationship that never should have become anything more than my first sexual experience. Ideally, we are having sex with someone we love, who also loves us, but if it is apparent that the two of you do not have something beyond an initial physical attraction, it’s okay to leave. Sex is not love. No amount of guilt or wishful thinking should keep you in a relationship you do not want to be in.
These may not be the best years of your life.
The worst bit of advice I have ever received came from my grandma when I was 13 and about to enter High School. She told me the next four years would be the best years of my life. Admittedly, I do have some great High School memories, but I also spent part of those years overwhelmed by anxiety and depression. I remember thinking, “If these are the best four years, the rest of my life is going to be a huge let down”. Just in case there are more grandmas out there lamenting their own youth by telling you how young and beautiful you are and that these are the best years of your life- it’s a lie. Yes, you are young and beginning to feel desirable and free, but you may also feel uncertain as you get used to a new level of responsibility and respect from the adults around you. You should enjoy today, but know there are a lot of good times still to come.
You are in control.
Life is not something that happens to you, but something you make happen. Granted, not everyone has the same experiences or opportunities, but you should not be passive about the direction your life takes. If you’ve ever found yourself saying, “What is meant to be, will be”, remind yourself you do have control over some things. Participate in your life.
Time machines may only exist in fantasy fiction, but there is wisdom in listening to yourself right now. The same tips I would tell my 20-year-old self turn out to be pretty good advice at any age.
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