20 Things I Want To Say To My Twentysomething Self

17 Oct

I recently re-discovered a journal I kept after I graduated from college in 2000.  I was unemployed, seemingly unemployable, broken-hearted, on the brink of adulthood but still so incredibly naïve (something I only recognize now, because I have distance, experience and context).  I was twenty-one years old, feeling grown and wise… and like a failure.  Reading my words in my handwriting was almost like becoming reacquainted with a stranger, a well-meaning, disillusioned stranger.

As I read through the pages of my life, I could hardly recognize myself and I could hardly remember the feelings that inspired the writing.  I know it is cliché, but I could not help but think if only I knew then what I know now, perhaps I would have been more hopeful and less critical.

In order to document reminders for myself in the next ten years, I decided to jot down the things I wish I knew then and things I may need to know again in the next decade of my life.

20 things I wish I could have told my twentysomething self…

  1. You are so ignorant, you don’t even know what you don’t know (yet).  Grown(ass)womanness is a process and is less about age and more about experience.  And learning from experiences.
  2. The things that seem so important right now will not matter in five years.  Hell, it may not matter in one.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the disappointment of rejection or the confusion of disappointment.  Everything truly happens for a reason.
  3. You are beautiful.  Without make up and in the middle of the night and outside of being sexy.  You are beautiful, not because a man says so (and even if/when he doesn’t).  Tell yourself you are beautiful frequently and abundantly. And mean it!
  4. Be kind to yourself.  You tend to be so hard on yourself. 
  5. You are strong (your capacity of strength is so much wider than you think)…
  6. but being a strongblackwoman is not a necessity or responsibility in your life.  Your frailties and vulnerabilities make you human, not weak.
  7. You are a storyteller and people will need your stories. Don’t stop writing them down.
  8. You have incredible discernment—use it.  Do an inventory as often as possible and purge relationships that don’t add to your life, because they will inevitably subtract from it.  Don’t hold on to dead or toxic relationships.
  9. Friendships only matter in quality, not quantity.  You will be grateful for the few amazing people who are there when it counts.  Don’t be friends with someone who is not your friend.  It is not worth it.
  10. Love yourself more—more than anything else and anyone else.  If you don’t, no one else will.
  11. Follow your dreams!  They will take you places you have not even imagined.
  12. Don’t settle.  Life is full of choices, don’t ever let anyone talk you out of having standards.  You are not picky, or greedy, or unrealistic.  You are worth it!
  13. Live passionately!  Tomorrow is not promised and you should always regret what you did do, not what you didn’t do.
  14. Always go home for the holidays.  Spend as much time with your family as possible.  They know who you are and love you anyway.
  15. Your destiny will never walk away.
  16. Your faith will not always look like this. 
  17. Never be tolerant of injustice.
  18. People lie.  Don’t listen to or believe everything people say (to or about you).
  19. Take risks and do things that scare/intimidate/inspire you.
  20. Love deeply, intentionally, reverently.  Even when it hurts!

23 Responses to “20 Things I Want To Say To My Twentysomething Self”

  1. crunktastic October 17, 2011 at 6:18 AM #

    Excellent piece, CF! Thanks for this much needed word on this Monday morning.

  2. postdocfeminist October 17, 2011 at 6:51 AM #

    40-something year old me needs to hear this as well. Thank you for power in your words this Monday morning.

  3. Casey Ericka Bruce October 17, 2011 at 8:05 AM #

    Thank you for this powerful, and wise post. I am 22 years-old and a “writer”… struggling to find myself. All of the things you said in this post are a reflection of what I think about everyday. Thank you for reminding me I am young and full of life.

  4. mkissil4 October 17, 2011 at 9:06 AM #

    I, too, thank you for this piece. Awhile ago, I was trying to write something similar, about conversations that I would have with my younger self. Unfortunately, at the time, it didn’t end up going anywhere for me, but you have given me the encouragement to take another look at it. Have a great day!

  5. Diana October 17, 2011 at 11:33 AM #

    o god thiiiiiiis ❤

    also: read a basic book about how to handle the most basic functions of money (I am 51 and just found 'Women and Money' by Suze Orman, a book I REALLY COULD HAVE USED back in those days…) and be proud of your own bravery in handling stuff, even if it seems there's nothing in your future financially on top of everything else…

    and for those of us that are grown but still kids in many ways: pray for and love your own past selves…it will help them.

    thanks for posting this!

    • Diana October 17, 2011 at 12:36 PM #

      (also: there is no way I could have grown up and learned and EXPERIENCED down to my bones w/o blundering.. those blunders were what I call ‘Sacred Bloopers’) 🙂

  6. Erin October 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM #

    I love this. It saddens me to see people dreading their 30s (I’m 31), and I assert to them that I would never go back to my 20s, for all of the reasons you’ve mentioned here.

  7. Kalisse October 17, 2011 at 12:21 PM #

    This is fantastic! i’m still a 20something and this list will definitely help me!

  8. Lulete Mola October 17, 2011 at 12:22 PM #

    I love this, thank you

  9. M October 17, 2011 at 12:55 PM #

    This list is so wonderful! Thank you

  10. Tracey October 17, 2011 at 1:37 PM #

    Thank you for this. My daughter will be 17 next month and this list was a nice reminder that I have been guiding her in the right direction using many of the principles you listed. More importantly, it served as a gentle reminder that there are some I haven’t touched upon yet (and I need to) and there are some that I must get her to internalize/accept/believe before she heads off to college. Thank you sista-friend.

  11. Laurel (@munineye) October 17, 2011 at 6:51 PM #

    Thank you for this. Some of it feels pretty hokey right now (I’m 27, btw), but I’m doing what I can to accept these types of lists for what they are.
    I’m self-deprecating, afraid, and currently disabled. I have discovered that I have hitched my sense of self to what I could once do with my own two hands, and now I need to think about what I can do with my mind.
    Thank you for your inspiring words.

  12. Mignon Godaintthruwitmeyet Armstead-Johnson October 17, 2011 at 11:55 PM #

    That was a wonderful post. I writing a blog as the first steps toward writing my first book. This is a great reminder that I would love to tell my daughters in the event that I am no longer here. Thanks for sharing.

  13. JazzFest October 18, 2011 at 12:26 AM #

    I turned 21 today, so this is very timely for me!
    Thanks 🙂

  14. Karyn October 18, 2011 at 9:15 AM #

    I’m a new reader to your blog based on some articles on Racialicious and I’m so happy to have found you :). I am so copying this, printing it, posting it in very visable places around my house, and passing it around. Thank you for this.

  15. momsomniac October 18, 2011 at 10:16 AM #

    I’d add “Never work for someone who doesn’t reward you for what you do.” That’s not originally from me, but is one powerful bit of advice from a 60+ professional woman that I wish I’d had earlier.

    I’d nix “everything happens for a reason” but that’s just me.

  16. nemala October 18, 2011 at 2:10 PM #

    i like this. im 19 and sad and feel like the world is so unforgiving. i dont want to die but life jus seems so worthless for someone like me. hopefully it gets better

  17. Nakia Collins October 18, 2011 at 10:05 PM #

    Amen. Thank you for this.

  18. Andrew October 20, 2011 at 4:35 PM #

    Thank you so much for posting this. As a young gay man I was still able to deeply relate to every single post- I have recently moved far from home for work, living all alone in a new city for the first time in my life and have found it different than I expected. Working in a competitive field with people older than myself, I guess i didn’t even realize how deeply I was feeling the feelings you addressed, until I read what you would have told yourself and found myself awakened to my own heart. Thank you so much, and trust me- my older self thanks you for saying what I could not from the future. Myself as I am right now really needed to hear all of these things.

    • pjvetuna October 31, 2011 at 7:16 AM #

      That’s so awesome. A nice reminder that some things – the deepest things – are universal. x

  19. tessism October 24, 2011 at 8:24 AM #

    If only I could have read this then. Yes. That 20-something self knew too much an had no idea. Same thing with the 30-something one. I need to memorize this. Thank you!

  20. pjvetuna October 31, 2011 at 7:13 AM #

    This is wonderful. And I I’d like to echo the sentiments of everyone above who felt like you were speaking to THEM personally with your words, not just your younger self. I’m in my late twenties and would like to go back in time to my teenage self and have similar words. I feel so encouraged from the thought that in ten years I’ll probably (hopefully) have equally wiser words to share with my twenty-something self.

    Printing this list, and committing it to heart.

    LOVE. x


  1. fyah links « Add Fyah And Stir - November 12, 2011

    […] so I’m not 30 but I’m getting there but the wonderful womyn of the crunk feminist collective put out this list 20 things I’d want to say to my 20s self. And who doesn’t wish they […]

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