My mother became a mother when she was 21 and I became a mother when I was 21. Then my mom was a grandmother at age 42. She seemed old. So old.
So so old.
Now that I've embarked upon the decade I once considered "old," there are a few things I'd like my 20 (and 30) year-old self to know.
Live in the moment.
Ask yourself, “Is this going to matter in five years, in 10 years?” If the answer is no—don’t worry about it. In fact just stop worrying. Period. Worrying steals your joy. So does comparing. So stop doing that too. This journey is yours. Comparing yourself and your life to anyone else is completely futile.
You probably think you are pretty damn smart.
You actually may even be pretty smart. But when you hit 40 you're going to look back on 20 and 30 and think . . . wow I was really not at all very smart. I suspect 60 year-old me will say the same thing to 40 year-old me too. That's ok. Make some mistakes. Make a lot of mistakes. You're going to keep making them so you should probably get used to it. Don't worry about it. Mistakes are how you are going to learn to be even more awesome.
You're not fat. In fact you look amazing.
Start owning this now. All the little parts of you that you pick apart now will still be there when you're 40. And they'll be even more worthy of being picked apart then. So just stop picking. You are more physically capable than you'll be in 10 or 20 years so embrace that. You're going to have more stretch marks and more wrinkles so just stop fretting. Age is coming for you whether you like it or not. Also your knees and back are going to start hurting. Enjoy them while they don't.
Money isn't everything.
It's going to feel like it is. You may even actually believe this to be true. But if you can eat and pay your bills (even if you occasionally have to struggle) you're doing alright. In 20 years you are going to remember the things you did and felt—not how much money you had. Start a habit of saving now. Really think about whether or not you need something or just want it. Belongings are fleeting. The pair of Lucky jeans I just had to have, I don't even own anymore.
Don't get married because it seems like the logical next step. If you're questioning your choice in a partner (I'm talking about serious doubts, not just cold feet) then STOP. Stop what you're doing and think about it. Are you overlooking things that seem little but will eventually be HUGE? Is he pro-life and you are pro-choice and you think, "Oh it's just a little thing. It's no big deal, really." STOP. If it's important to you, mark my words, it will eventually evolve into a big deal. Make a list of 10 qualities you want in your partner and do not compromise on the first five.
Give it your all.
Once you decide to get married, do it all the way. Don't half-ass your marriage. Don't put your kids before your spouse. Don't put your career before your spouse. Be honest with your partner. If this means having painful conversations, then so be it. Learn how to have them and learn how to own your fears and feelings without blaming your partner. Accept now that everything isn't about you. We all bring a unique set of experiences to the table and they will inevitably bleed into our marriage. If you have a fear of abandonment—that's your fear. Your partner isn't responsible for that.
Take care of yourself. Your mental health. Your physical health. Put yourself first. You aren’t worth a damn to the world if you’re falling apart. Recognize you are flawed and that’s ok. You’re a work in progress. Life is a journey.
If you decide to have some, know this, you are going to love them more than you have loved anything. Ever. More than your dog. More than your cat. More than your stone washed skinny Guess jeans with the zipper up the side of the leg. They are going to rock your world. They are going to turn everything completely upside down in the very best way. Don't worry about being "ready." You're never going to be "ready." Just dive in with both feet. Enjoy them. You're going to be sleep deprived. It'll be ok. Despite the sleep deprivation you are still going to look back on this time fondly. I promise.
Spend time with the people you love.
This includes your kids, your parents, your aunts and uncles, your grandparents. Especially your grandparents . . . even more so your great grandparents (if you're lucky enough to have them). These people and the memories you will have of them will be worth more to you than anything you own. Life is so busy. And it doesn't get any less busy. Figure out your work life balance now.