Words to My 20-Year-Old Self

Recently, I was reading through some of my old writing and journals because Jim and I couldn’t remember what we were doing this time last year. I don’t know if we were talking about a specific date or just life in general, but I pulled out the archives of my life and started reading.

Out of curiosity, and boredom, I opened up some files from 2010 and 2011 and got hooked on reading through my college years. Some people may never want to look back on those years ever again, some people may not be able to remember college or may only remember hazy, inebriated moments, and others prefer to only remember the good stuff. I, however, wrote it all down. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I wanted to be able to look back on my years of swimming and parties and friends and classes and studying and working and really know what it was like to go through it all. 

It’s so funny and interesting to to see what I was writing and read my thoughts on everything that happened. A little embarrassing at times, too. When I’m reading it, it feels like a different life now. Like I’m reading someone else’s memoir. It’s amazing to see how my whole life has come together. Those times when I was so confused and frustrated and lost, and then it all worked out. That’s the thing about this life – it all works out, even if it doesn’t seem like it will at the time. Even if it’s the most stressful and awful time that you’re going through, eventually it will change. It won’t always be like that. There were so many times in college that I was stressed and overwhelmed and worried about things to come. It felt like I would never get through it. It felt like the weeks when I worked and swam and studied would just never end. But they did.

And now I think back on college, but I never remember the stressful nights and the times I spent worrying about how I would get it all done. I just remember the fun nights, the people I hung out with, the great memories. But to actually read it, I can see it all come together. And I like to see how stressed and worried I was, but it’s a reminder that it really does all get better.

Here I am with the most amazing fiancé. And a kick-ass career as a digital marketing specialist at an amazing company that offers me room to grow. I am on the board of my alumni club. I meet cool people and I have a small group of fantastic friends. I live in a cute little apartment in a quiet city neighborhood, close to the trendy streets, but secluded enough to hear the birds chirping outside my window. I can afford to live on my own, without (much) help from my parents. Jim and I travel a bit and we try new things and eat at new restaurants. We love our life.

All those times in college, I thought my life was so complicated, and I thought it would never work itself out. I cried over my relationships with friends and swimming and tests. I thought my heart would break into a million pieces so many times.

But I made it. I’m here, at this perfect place in my life.

I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self not to worry so much. I wish I could tell her not to be so hard on herself, not to be caught up in trivialities. I would tell her that confidence is the key to life and success, in anything, and that she doesn’t have to be perfect at it yet, but it will grow.

I wish I could tell her that even if swimming, at the end, was the hardest thing, it would be the best thing that she quit. I wish I could tell her not to feel like a quitter because of it, and that she would find other ways to stay in shape and other ways to set goals and feel accomplished and push herself.

Look at that girl. So serious. So intense.

Look at that girl. So serious. So intense.

I wish I could tell her that friends will come and go – and that’s okay. I wish I could tell her not to care so much if she doesn’t get along with every single person in the world. I wish I could tell her that the people she meets the first time in college or on a team or at a job don’t have to be her friends for life. It’s okay to meet people and just enjoy their company at the time. I wish I could tell her that the friendships that do stick are important, but sometimes even those you think are there for the long haul aren’t, and you have to be okay with letting go.

It’s okay to let go.

I wish I could tell her not to be so uptight. If she wants to go out and have a fun night she should. If she wants to stay in and watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns, she shouldn’t be ashamed of that either. I wish I could tell her not to care so much what other people think, because that’s a part of her personality that’s going to stick with her for a long time and she should start working on it now.

This is me on my 20th birthday. Not a care in the world right at that moment.

This is me on my 20th birthday. Not a care in the world right at that moment.

If the wise and knowledgable me now had the chance to impart these pieces of wisdom upon 20-year-old me, I’m sure I wouldn’t have listened. I would have said that swimming was the most important thing and my grades would somehow determine career success. I would have been so absorbed with what was right in front of me that I missed the bigger picture. Most of what we learn in life is done the hard way. We have to learn by taking a leap or even a step and falling just a bit, before we even know we had the wings all along.

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