The last 5 years have been filled with lots of life changes: graduating college, working in NYC, moving to SF, career change, solo travel, heart breaks, making new friends…from all this I put together a little post reflecting on things that I would tell myself 5 years ago when I was 22-years old (which sounds like a lifetime ago, but I guess that’s just life in your 20s!)
Here is a picture of me 5 years ago, fresh out of college and backpacking through Greece! 🙂
10 things I would tell 22 years old me
1. YOU determine your own milestones. My whole life, I’ve always looked forward to the next milestone: starting college, first boyfriend, graduation, first job, promotions…I think a combination of traveling + meeting people with alternative life values made me realize that everyone’s definition of happiness is different around the world, and it’s important to determine what happiness means to you. Your “milestones” might be different from someone else’s, and that’s ok. I’m at an age now where I see my friends going to grad school, getting engaged, buying houses…and I feel at peace not wanting to go on the same life path as my peers.
2. No man will make you feel complete. I was single for over 5 years in my 20s, and I spent a good amount of that time looking for attention/intimacy from men. It took dating a LOT of wrong guys and discovering my self-worth through therapy to realize that no man can ever make you feel complete. Sitting with this prepared my heart to eventually meet Joe and has helped us create healthy boundaries in our relationship.
3. Don’t waste time on someone who makes you feel anxious. On a similar note, I would love to tell 22-year old me to not waste any time on guys who make you feel anxious (this is more relevant if you have an anxious-attachment type like me). I dated SO many guys who spent days texting me back, played mind games, and blamed me for all our issues…which drove my anxiety through the roof. They are just not worth your time. There WILL be someone out there who will treat you with respect, make you feel secure, and completely accept you for YOU.
4. It’s OK to change careers / life direction. I spent the first 3.5 years after college working as an actuary. I spent 50 hours/week at work + 20 hours/week studying for exams…I was super unhappy crunching numbers all day and got anxious imagining doing this for the rest of my life. Most of my actuary peers had similar thoughts and left our company 1-2 years in, and I was literally the last one in my starting class to stay because I was always taught to pick a path, stick with it, and never give up. Well if I were to talk to 22-year old me, I would say it’s absolutely OK to try different careers and pivot your life direction, especially when you’re young! It is not considered a “failure” or “giving up”, because something more amazing can be on the other side. For me, that meant switching into a business development role in tech where I am much happier now.
5. Lean in. The last two years at work have taught me a lot about leadership, both in my professional and personal life. The old me hated confrontation and would avoid making any difficult decision. I was literally mute during uncomfortable situations because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing and I just wanted everyone to like me. I realized to be a leader, you have to go out of your comfort zone and LEAN IN. You need to stand up for what you think is right even if it means others may not like it. It might temporarily annoy some people, but I’ve found in the long run people will respect you more. Not only has this helped me become more confident at work, but it’s also helped me be a more trustworthy friend and stand up for my principles day-to-day.
6. Take up space. I believe it’s so important for women to feel empowered to take up space. A big theme of my 20s has been finding my voice. Especially as a woman of color, I’ve had to learn how to speak up and be more assertive in what is still a man’s world. I used to be really intimidated when I was in settings surrounded by white men, but I’ve learned that every person’s voice matters, so don’t be afraid to TAKE UP SPACE.
7. Stop apologizing. On a similar note, STOP apologizing for things that do not need an apology! I used to literally apologize for everything: responding to an email late, or making a comment I regretted…apologies don’t carry as much weight if you issue them all the time, so stop feeling bad about everything! (Unless you actually did something that warrants an apology).
8. Treasure your friendships. Earlier in my 20s, I had a very black & white view of friendships…you were either my friend or you weren’t based on the “chapter” of my life. But these last few years I’ve learned it’s important to water your friendships, old and new, since it’s harder to meet people as you get older and the friends in your 20s are probably going to be your closest friends forever. These days I’m trying to make more effort to connect with friends, even if it’s a brief comment on social media (which can go a long way especially with long distance friendships). Another point, it used to make me sad that my girlfriends were “settling down” and had less time to hang out, but now I’m trying to be more understanding and just appreciate the time I do get to spend with them, even if it’s only once every few months.
9. To be a good friend: be honest but not judgmental. Also on friendships, when I reflect on who my ride-or-die friends are, they have two traits in common: they are very honest and also remain unconditionally supportive/nonjudgmental. It is an art to be both, and I’ve found the key is to voice your opinion once, and then let your friend do whatever they choose. I once had a falling out with a friend who was having an affair with her married boss, and I beat my dissenting opinion to ground until it eventually drove her away from me…I learned there’s no room for judgment in friendship. The best friends are those who can speak their truth while being supportive.
10. “Unfollow” people you don’t want to follow. Until recently, I was hesitant to unfollow people on Instagram because I didn’t want to offend the person or lose touch with them forever…now I don’t really care. You look at your feed every day and you should fill it with people who you respect and actually want to connect with. Do yourself a favor and cleanse your social media with anyone who makes you feel some kind of way, whether it’s portraying an unrelatable & perfect life or posting content that doesn’t align with your principles.