Letter to Myself at 21

What We’ve Learned Over 21 Years

By Ahmadreza Sajad via Unsplash.

By Ahmadreza Sajad via Unsplash.

People ask, “If you could go back and give your younger self advice, what would it be?” I figure that you’re old enough now to hear what I have to say. Ready? Here we go….

When they take you to lunch in Chinatown today to celebrate your birthday, don’t order the chicken. It will take you years to get over that experience. And then you’ll order the chicken at that Chinese restaurant in Seattle, on that business trip. Let me assure you: that wasn’t chicken. Let’s just leave it at that.

I know it’s the middle of the week and all that, and still living with your parents while working your summer internship, but for the love of god, go out and have a drink. It’s your 21st birthday. Who cares if Mom doesn’t approve? Grow up. Live your own life. Start now.

But steer clear of the wine. You’re allergic to sulfites. I’m hoping that this will save you many headaches and and a great deal of nausea through your 20s.

Can we talk about food? You’ll come to terms with avocados, which really goes hand-in-hand with your acquired love of Mexican food. I know, this is surprising. You’ll also eat Thai, Indian and sushi, and discover that you’ll order almost anything if the menu description involves blue cheese. On the flip side, you’ll spend the next 21 years repulsed by beets, kale, chard, bourbon, salmon and the ridiculous proliferation of pale ales. They may revoke your adult card for this confession, but seriously, some foods are just revolting.

Stop second-guessing yourself. Your best decisions will come from following your gut instincts. Turn down that job in Orlando. Kiss the guy. Quit the job where they insult you.

You’re actually going to have a career as a writer, but it won’t look anything like what you’re expecting.

You’ll be married before you’re 25. That’s probably the most shocking information that I have for you. No, I won’t tell you who he is. Yes, you already know him. And you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt from the first time he kisses you.

You’re going to move to California. 21 years from now, you’ll still find this to be slightly surreal.

You’re going to need a passport. I won’t tell you where you’re going, but you’ll be using that passport at least twice a year starting in 1998.

You’re not always going to be rail-thin like you are now, but that’s ok. You’ll be strong and healthy and much better off than you are today.

You’re going to be a runner. No, really. Seriously. Stop laughing.

You’re also going to coach little league. Wait, come back here! I’m not kidding! Sit down.

You’ll be able to read books on this little mini computer thing called an e-reader. You can carry dozens of books with you wherever you go. You’ll finally have extra space in your carry-on suitcase.

Ok, but there’s some serious stuff, too. Brace yourself.

You’re going to lose Mom too early. When you need Mom and Grandmom and Grace the most, they’ll be gone. But Nana will still be around for a while, and you’re going to become friends, not just family.

You’re going to have a business that repeatedly kicks you in the ass. But you’ll learn more from this than from any of your “real jobs,” so it’ll be worth it. You’ll also have a business that’s successful beyond anything you imagine. Don’t diminish that accomplishment.

There’s going to be a burglary. You’ll be forced to accept that it’s just stuff, but you’ll never quite get over what was lost.

There will be moments where the world seems like a hopeless mess. You can’t fix everything. Do your best to care for your corner of the world, and bring a bit of joy into others’ lives.

But most importantly, the good vastly outweighs the bad. You’re going to be ok.

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