When Sarah Von Bargen reached out to see if I’d be interested in participating in her series Notes To My Younger Self in which bloggers give themselves advice, I squealed loudly because 1) her blog Yes and Yes is one of the few I read every. single. day. and, 2) I think this concept is beautiful. It’s introspective, it’s insightful, I think it’s just as helpful to write this as it is to read it.
Notes to My Younger Self is part of Sarah’s “Post College Survival Kit” to help ladies fresh out of school learn some of the things we (individually and collectively) wish a best friend could have told us at that very awkward time. It’s a wonderful series which will be put together as an e-book, so keep checking for it on Yes and Yes to get your copy!
I’m incredibly honored to share with you:
(photo by Marissa Wetzel)
Being yourself is not a phase.
The punk rock kids you meet in high school and college will not only turn out to be some of your best friends, they will show you things that become part of your life and part of you. Social awareness and activism are the foundation of your life’s purpose, crayon-colored hair comes back in your 30’s, and cut and paste ‘zines eventually become “blogs” and set you on the path for an unconventional career.
Tattoos will be embraced by beautiful feminine women with degrees from Ivy League schools, feminism is still very real and important and will be the lens through which you recognize and call out injustices, DIY is still a personal ethos - and - it’s own TV network. Setting up a punk show and cooking for touring bands will give you great experience when, years later, you help organize festivals with thousands of attendees and give public cooking demos to college students. Keep paying attention.
Be the Example, Be the Change.
You are a kind and optimistic person. Some people will see this as: weakness, flakiness, naivety. Some will mistake your sense of wonder for being out of touch with reality. Continue to be kind and optimistic because that’s who you are. You will apply for very real, very grown-up jobs, and those jobs will go to men who were louder, snarkier, schmoozier, and sometimes not very nice. Continue to be kind and optimistic because that’s who you are. Adults still bully other adults even when they are 30, 40, 50 years old. You will be the target of this bullying, from your appearance to your lifestyle to personal projects. Continue to be kind and optimistic because that’s who you are.
You want to live in a world of kindness, and joy, and love, and cooperation. Live these values (even when, especially when) it’s a challenge to do so. You are the creator of your experience. And your experiences influences others. Make it good. Make it authentic.
You are a Super Hot Babe. (So is she.)
Listen. Listen to me. The world is still set up where women learn that how we look is our most important attribute. This notion is reinforced a million times a day through media, society, people we see in our daily lives. It’s no wonder you will spend countless years agonizing over the way you look and if it is “enough” (not knowing what that means). Ironically, to be concerned with your appearance is considered vain, so you shamefully hide the magnitude of how much this affects your daily life, even from your therapists.
And then you start to see the ways that, even as conscious adults, we perpetuate this messed up notion that outer beauty is equal to worth. You will listen to women standing in line at the grocery store, pointing at tabloid covers and remarking of the actress on the front, “She looks terrible, she gained so much weight and never should have cut her hair.” You notice the way other grown adult women insult your body when they are feeling insecure about themselves. You notice the way at a celebration someone will say, “I really shouldn’t eat that piece of cake, that is so bad, but maybe just one. Oh, I’m terrible.” You notice the way your friends try to console you when your ex has a new girlfriend by saying “Who cares? You are so much prettier”.
You recognize this and you begin to compassionately call people out to stop. To stop insulting others as if belittling them is a salve to heal their own heart. Stop making food and weight “good” or “bad”, as though either is a moral issue. Stop using guilt, and shame, and body-slander as a way to make small talk and connect to other women. Find friends who build women up, not tear them down.
Confidence is sexy, and this is true across all areas of life. It will shine through in your appearance, the way you walk into a room, the way you talk to people. No, you will never be taller than 5’3″ without the help of heels, and “tanning” is a foreign concept. But you will learn that pencil skirts were made for hips like yours, and strangers on the street will ask if they can touch your hair because they can’t believe it’s real. Life is better like this. But remember: None of this marks your value as a person.
Make Your Own Milestones.
Marriage. Kids. Home ownership. A 9-5 job with weekends off. It is implied (if not outright stated) that these are markers of success. Sometimes they happen in sequential order and sometimes people skip one altogether, but by and large, this is what we’re all apparently striving for.
So when you’re 30, and you’ve sold your condo and gone back to renting, and feel no rush to be engaged, and have a career of various talents patch-worked together to create an ever-evolving job (this is dubbed a “Portfolio Career” and it will change the way you think about work for the better) it will feel like a small loss when you don’t have all the milestone celebrations others have had. You will be jealous of your friends’ wedding gift registries because damn, you need a new microwave. You will empathize with this episode of Sex and the City. Find ways to celebrate what milestones you do have: the first time you see your new column in print, or the time you bravely and gracefully introduced yourself in real life to someone who trashed you online (boy, did they look embarrassed), or the time you cooked dinner for Joan Jett. These are important moments because YOU say they are. Celebrate accordingly!
It’s OK not to know if you want kids, or to firmly decide you don’t. The first time you become aware you GET to decide will be revelatory. And sometimes “success” means having a really hard year and just coming out the other side of it.
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Don’t forget to stay tuned for the free e-book: Post College Survival Kit