God, let me think clearly and brightly; let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences. -Sylvia Plath
I’ve recently found myself pining for my misspent youth—dreaming about those carefree days that were wide open, when everything was still possible. When my skin was smooth and not puckered. When i was just an innocent little flower about to bloom.
And then I remembered what a total moron I was, and it made me feel a lot better about being old. It also made me think of all the things I wish I’d known back then, the things that can really only be learned the hard way.
So here are the things I’d say to all of my younger selves—the things that I will probably be learning and re-learning for the rest of my life:
- There is very little that can’t be made better by a freshly made bed with sheets just out of the dryer.
- You have so much time. Don’t rush to choose a job or a man or any final destination. You don’t have to have it all figured out yet.
- There’s so little time. Stop wasting it trying to be perfect and just try to be better. Perfectionism is just a search for reasons to hate yourself. Being better is so much more possible—and interesting.
- You’re going to make some mistakes over and over and over again, and you’ll wonder, “How the hell am I back here again?” You’re not. You’re never ‘back here.’ Repeating a mistake doesn’t mean you haven’t made progress, because odds are, it’s not the same exact mistake. Were you a little nicer to yourself than the last time you messed up? Did you apologize after a week instead of two? Were you able to walk away from an unhealthy situation quicker this time? These are the real markers of change, and they aren’t always easy to see. You have to look for them.
- When making macaroni and cheese, never use as much milk as the box tells you.
- When you say you’re going to be somewhere, be there.
- Please stop trying to write poetry. It’s embarrassing.
- Let Mom and Dad off the hook. It will be the most freeing thing you’ll ever do.
- The truth is always many truths snarled together—a ball of knotted string—and the only way to get one parsed out from the rest is to cut it, which, of course, changes that truth entirely. Be brave in the messiness and remember it when trying to understand other people.
- “At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing – a sunset or an old shoe – in absolute and simple amazement.” –Ray Carver
- Life is supposed to hurt sometimes. Don’t struggle against the pain—lean into it.
- Don’t waste your time with Kurt when you wait tables at that country club. He’s a walking cliche who falls asleep right after sex. Just go talk to that adorable chef with the dimples already. You are young and crisp—like a perfect granny smith apple—and it’s summer, when everything is possible. And those dimples.
- Attempts to fill internal voids with anything external will fail every time. Men, sex, shopping, food—they’re all just different versions of the same placeholder, and they’ll all help until they don’t.
- You are worth more than your temptress-quotient.
- Life is not fair—and thank god for that. One day you’ll need grace to work in your life when you least deserve it.
- Humility is mostly about a pause: it’s waiting until help arrives.
- Don’t be a moron and start smoking to impress Dave and his friends. Be cooler than that.
- “Yield up what scares you. Yield up what makes you want to scream and cry. Enter into that quiet. It’s a cathedral. It’s an empty football stadium with all the lights on. Pray to be an instrument of peace.” –Mary Karr
- Fear can make you hallucinate solutions to your life, and those hallucinations can lead you to some dangerous detours.
- Be nicer to yourself. It will make you so much more useful to the world.
- Surrendering to your limitations isn’t the same thing as admitting defeat. To say “I don’t know” or “you can’t be in my life” or “I know I’ve lost” is empowering.
- Naming the things that are ugly about yourself makes them less terrible, and naming the things that scare you makes them less powerful.
- The Knicks will always break your heart. The sooner you accept that, the sooner the healing can begin.
- You’re going to be tempted to do donuts in the parking lot next to school late one winter night. Resist the temptation. There will be a snowbank that comes out of nowhere and rams right into your car, and Dad will never let you live that one down.
- Screw it, do the donuts. They’re worth it.
- Try out for that goddamn play senior year of high school. I know up until then you’ll have only gotten roles like old man, villager #2, and a peacock in peter pan. Do it anyway. Otherwise you’ll find out later that the director thought one of the leads was perfect for you, and the role had been yours before auditions ever took place.
- About anything you will ever do, think or feel: this too shall pass.
- “THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING DANI–IT’S THE SEARCHING. IT’S CONSTANT.” (MITCH, ON A COLD MARCH DAY IN 2010)