While we may spend a lot of time live-tweeting our quarter-life crisis, at least we do so with the power of some pretty fab advice we’ve collected over our twenty-something years.
Live colorfully. While it’s a motto of an overpriced handbag store (that I adore) and nothing but a marketing ploy, something about that simple phrase resonated deeply within me (and my pocketbook). Whether it’s about wearing obnoxiously bright colors and standing out like a rainbow in a sea of neutrals or proudly being your inner colorful self, it’s a solid mantra for life. Be bold, be courageous, be bright, be beautiful and live colorfully.
History repeats itself. Sitting in a seventh grade classroom with a teacher who had a Hitler ‘stache and hated girls with a fiery passion, I had that notion hammered into my head, and to this day it is one of the best lessons I’ve been taught. Study history, look back, understand what happened, what went wrong, and learn from it. We humans are but simple creatures, and just as every note has already been played, so too has every mistake been made, just with a slightly different tune. We evolve, we adapt, and then we repeat and if we want to know how to solve the problems of the future, simply use the hindsight to what should have been done in the past.
Stop caring what others think about you. My high school history teacher called me aside one day my junior year of school and, in effect, told me to stop trying so hard to be something that other people wanted me to be and to focus on what I wanted for myself… and along the way, maybe I should ditch those friends who weren’t so great for me. I’m indebted to him forever for having the guts to tell me that.
You can’t control anyone but yourself. My mother must be tuckered out from saying this to me so much, but this is honestly the best piece of advice I think anyone can get. It’s easy to get frustrated by wanting others to act a certain way or see your side, but in arguments and leadership roles and even relationships, it’s best to focus on yourself. As soon as you realize that you can’t will others to agree with you or do what you want, your life becomes a lot less frustrating.
Anything you do, do it to the best of your ability. My dad said this to me growing up and it has stuck with me. And it’s true—if your name is attached to it (even if it’s not officially), why wouldn’t you want to know you gave it your best shot?
Figure out what you love to do, then figure out how to make money by doing it. In my first paid magazine gig back in high school, I spent an afternoon listening to a group of local actors read through the script of “The Importance of Being Earnest.” The director was an accomplished and inspiring woman whose generosity and warmth struck me, as well as her insistence that a high school student be given a shot at writing the story. At the end of our first phone interview, she gave me that piece of advice, and as I heard the play come to life in her living room during the following weekend, the pure, authentic fun of it all stayed with me. As I’ve grown older, I’ve been taught that life can become more complicated than simply following your dreams…but what if the big secret is that it actually isn’t more complicated than that? I plan to find out.
Talk less and listen more. As a kid, I was a talker. It wasn’t nonsense, but I would rattle off random things at breakneck speed to anyone who would listen. But one day my grandfather—Oompa—told me what I assumed to be an old tale of a man who was thought to be wildly intelligent because he never talked. When he did, anything he said was taken as wisdom, even though it often made little sense. Years later, I realized Oompa was relaying the plot of the Peter Sellers movie “Being There.” Nonetheless, when I find myself anxiously yammering I think back on that story and try to pipe down. And the way people respond to someone legitimately listening never ceases to make me grateful for that advice.
Take risks (No take backs!) To be very clear, being a risk-taker and being stupid are two very different things, although by necessity there is some overlap. My thinking is that how will you know anything if you don’t, at some point, leap in to experience it? Briefly, think whether you’ll truly regret it when you’re 80 years old, and if not then go for it. Drink a little too much of that margarita, laugh a little too loudly, and dance a little crazy. It might end up being a mistake, but we learn from mistakes and move on to make more well-calculated risks. Live and love passionately.
You can’t do life alone. Even the most introverted and socially awkward among us need people who support us. It might be parents or other family members, or it might be your friends that essentially became your family. Heck, it sometimes might be the suicide hotline. Regardless of the source, we all need people who care about us in our lives—take it from someone who tried to be self-sufficient and fell smack on her ass. That happened several times (I’m stubborn that way), until finally someone told me that and it was kind of a lightbulb moment for me, and I haven’t been able to go back.
Don’t forget to be awesome. The motto of John and Hank Green and all their Nerdfighters. Anytime you do anything, do it the best you can, make it yours, and make it awesome. Don’t let anyone convince you that what you’re doing isn’t cool, or fun, or worth it. If you love it, love it loudly and be proud of your awesomeness in whatever form it shows.
Share your story. Art is nothing if not the translation of the artist’s inner soul reflected onto the canvas, the paper, the melody, the film. Art may not always be an exact representation of our story, but regardless it doesn’t exist without our personal experiences driving us to create. And to craft something out of pain, joy, love, fear or any other human experience is so unbelievably courageous. Brené Brown, one of my favorite authors and spiritual teachers has a quote that I try to remember every day—”Owning our story, and loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” So own it, y’all.
Love yourself the way you love everything else. We all have an innate capacity to love others, our pets and certain aspects of our life, but to love ourselves—really and truly cherish ourselves wholly—I believe, is a learned trait. It took a lot of therapy for me to get this one for myself, but doing so changed my life. They say, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated,” and that is not a joke. Put daily effort into talking to yourself the way you talk to your friends and family. Think you look fat in that outfit? Say, “It’s okay, we all have those days,” instead of, “Damn, you’re a fatty.” Doubt yourself and your career? Remember how far you’ve come in life and work and admire your accomplishments in the same way a proud parent would their child’s. Value yourself, your quirks, your abilities and your faults as much as you do others’. Because when you truly love someone, you always treat them well and make sure they’re the best they can be.[divider][/divider]