I’m working through Emilie Wapnick’s excellent eBook The Renaissance Business and the second chapter challenged me to consider what advice I’d give if I met myself five years ago. This is the resulting letter. If personal insights aren’t your thing, feel free to pass on this one. If you think tough love can be constructive and uplifting, read on. (Warning: it’s long. I was in a crummy place five years ago.)
You’re about to go to college, congrats! This is you/me from five years into your future–it’s currently 2013 and I’ve been out of college for a year already. (Spoiler: you graduate on time, yay!) I have some pearls of wisdom I’ve choked on over the last few years that you’ll find useful, but before I get to that I want to give you a few quick mood-boosters right off the bat: you do get your double major and minor, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude. Dude, nice job!
More spoilers! Within the next five years, you will: go to three different countries because you speak the languages; start a blog; have your worldview shattered and reformed through life-changing revelations about health, relationships, friendships, identity, money, and more; go to the hospital twice; move to two different states; meet some frikkin’ amazing people; participate in the largest nationwide protests this nation has ever seen; start your own business; and be happier than you currently think possible.
There will be rough patches. You’ll stay in a relationship until things fall apart beyond repair and you work up the courage to walk away for your own good. Heads up: that’ll hurt beyond imagination. You’ll also push yourself harder than is smart in junior and senior year, to the point where breakdowns and internal-compression freakouts occur monthly. Those will also suck. And you’ll get through it.
I’ve learned so much in the last year I’m having trouble condensing it into advice…
Okay first, good job keeping up a (fairly) reasonable sleep schedule. It’s a major reason why you don’t completely lose your shit from stress over the next few years.
Second, kudos on mostly intelligent food choices. Try to cut out more sugar, increase the amount of dark leafy greens you eat, and front-load calories in the morning. Oh and stop eating gluten, but you’ll figure that out in about a year.
Next, remember all that exercise you got from colour guard in high school? Aside from keeping you fit, it was also keeping you sane. News flash, past self: you get anxious has hell when you don’t exercise. No really. Yoga is amazing and saves my sanity. Try that coupled with tai chi and maybe something with cardio, your choice.
So many health concerns. Here’s another: don’t wait to get scoliosis treatment. I am dead serious. Those headaches you get? Yeah, that’s from your back. Too much sitting, too much head tilted down to read. The exercise you’ll get from the previous advice will help, but don’t push yourself too hard. Toughing it out until you’re limping doesn’t win you any points. If people think it does, stop hanging out with them, they’re poisonous. You’re allowed to be picky about who gets your time– if they doubt you, ditch them.
I think that’s it for physical health– WAIT I LIED! Take fish oil, calcium, and vitamins D and all the B’s. Your cramps will stop. Start studying herbalism while you’re at it.
Okay, actually done with health tips now. What’s next, productivity? You’re going to learn time-management skills over the next few years. Write down all your assignments, keep a weekly list of thing you need to get done, and schedule out your time. Use the Pomodoro method to help with focus and switch up tasks if necessary. Set goals, tell people about them so they hold you accountable. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet them. Perseverance is key here.
Now for advice that sounds scary up-front: start thinking about what you want your life to look like. Paint a vivid picture of your ideal day from start to finish. Ditch the idea that you’ll be poor forever (you won’t be) or that you’re bound to hate your job (who said anything about a job?)
I’ll say it outright: you are brilliant and determined, a powerful combination in life. You are literally designed to break the status quo. Hell, your very existence breaks the status quo–wait ’til you see what happens when you put some energy behind that. We are building a life where we enjoy our work, can travel as we’d like, study what/when/where/how we’d like, all while helping a lot of people. The faster you realize how frikin’ talented you are, the faster we reach that future.
That free time you have? Use it to keep writing. Stop selling yourself short: you’re good at it. Expand beyond fanfics to include a blog (doesn’t have to be niche-specific) and be confident knowing you have done, are doing, and will do astounding things. You’re not going to be poor; you’re not going to fail at life; you’re not going to lose your dreams. In fact, you’re going to grow bigger ones. And achieve them. Fantastic things are coming your way– people, opportunities, experiences. Enjoy them, learn from them, and know that your future fucking rocks, for one reason above all others:
You built it that way.
tl;dr: Stop doubting yourself, you’re badass!
From the future with love,
P.ostS.cript: I’m living on a farm right now. It’s fun, you’ll like it.
What advice would you give your past self of five years ago?