What I Would Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

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Image via Galit Breen

When I was 20 years old, I was neither here nor there about anything.

I wanted to be a teacher … or an ad executive.

I wanted to spend every minute with my girlfriends … or spend the next year abroad.

I wanted to talk to my mom every single day … or keep her “back at home.”

I wanted to stop time, still it, pause everything, let myself be right there, right then, and let time wash over me because everything was so very wonderful! … or reinvent myself, start over, be someone I never imagined I could be.

It's been awhile since I've felt the back and forth of uncertainty. It's exhausting but also exciting because not Knowing – with a capital K – is a branch of wonder, and wonder is where possibility lies.

So I would tell myself only one thing: It's OK.

It's OK to be wishy-washy, to change your mind, to flex who you are, to tiptoe in one direction, then skip the other. There's no better time to dabble in ideas. And the reason each of these choices feel like magnets, is because they're all so very good, and each have their own “right” about them. Trust yourself.

It's OK.

What would we tell our younger, pre-married, pre-kid, angsty selves? Four women answer just that.

Kathy
Image via Kathy

Kathy writes a weekly essay about her life as a wife to one, mom of three, and being the owner of a possessed kitchen appliance on her blog, My Dishwasher's Possessed.

About what she'd tell her 20-year-old self, Kathy says, “At 20, I was terrified of letting anyone know what I really thought or how I felt about anything, big or small. I spent hours worrying about what people thought about me and would do my best to contort myself into someone else's idea of the perfect girl.

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“I would tell that very young girl to start speaking her truth today this minute. And if you don't know what that is yet, that's OK to admit. Don't worry, you will find out. True, some people won't like you that way. That's fine. Those are the people that aren't worth your precious time. One more thing: when you are about to turn thirty, and you want to try to recapture your ‘youth,' listen to the sales lady at Bloomingdales–don't buy the black lipstick.”

Tara Pohlkotte
Image via Tara Pohlkotte

Tara Pohlkotte's blog, Pohlkotte Press, is where she writes about being a mama to two sweet souls, weaves memory and place, and tries to catch the story living in us all.

About what she'd tell her 20-year-old self, Tara says, “At 20, I was newly married, determined to do life and everything in it just right. I weighed myself, literally and figuratively, against other people's standards. Afraid if I missed a step they would see I didn't really know what I was doing and that I didn't belong.

“A decade later, I would tell myself to trust in my instincts–in my ability to create a beautiful life surrounded by a brilliant muddle of mistakes, to know that I can make brave and strong decisions and not try to rid myself of my sensitivity. I would say to laugh more often, seek out joy more freely, and for the love of everything – eat that piece of cake you keep staring at.”

Elisa Bernick
Image via Elisa Bernick

Elisa Bernick is the author of The Family Sabbatical Handbook: The Budget Guide to Living Abroad With Your Children.

About what she'd tell her 20-year-old self, Elisa says,When I was 20, I thought I could recover from a dysfunctional family by keeping tight control over everything in my life: Food. Friends. Work. School. Love. I would tell myself now that control is an illusion and a losing battle. Even though it seems non-intuitive (and hard as hell), the real power comes from letting go and learning to ride what comes your way.”

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Image via Estelle Sobel Erasmus

Estelle Sobel Erasmus is a journalist, author, Huffpo Contributor, and blogger at Musings on Motherhood and Midlife about her transformative journey through motherhood, marriage, and midlife.

About what she'd tell her 20-year-old self Estelle says,“In my twenties I was extremely naive and extremely idealistic, with large ambitions but no way to realize them. I also had no idea of how to deal with men, and couldn't possibly imagine being married or having a child. I read romance novels and thought that was what love was, and real life never measured up. I would tell myself that it will take years, and lots of time learning about yourself and your true needs, but in midlife you will meet and marry the man you have waited for and finally earned, and shortly after you will have a daughter and you will be a wonderful mother, because you will finally be ready to be a mother. So don't be fretful or sad, and enjoy your time and freedom as a single woman, because eventually your life will take a 180 degree turn.

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“Your career will have ups and downs, but you will finally realize that despite being a magazine editor-in-chief for several publications, working in medical education, rebuilding a national non-profit and managing a board, your true calling is to write. That is your destiny. So go after it with gusto.”

{ MORE: 4 Things That Totally Count When You’re a Mom }

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What I Would Tell My 20-Year-Old Self

Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online. She has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in human development and was a classroom and reading teacher for ten years. In 2009, she launched a career as a freelance writer entrenched in social media. Since then, her work has been featured in various online magazines including Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, TIME, and xoJane. Breen lives in Minnesota with her h ... More

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