I was reading one of those Facebook posts about lessons to learn in life and had one of those moments where I started thinking about my 20-year-old self and what an adventure she had ahead of her. So much unknown road ahead. So then I decided that I wanted to kind of write a letter to that girl… I know she doesn’t exist anymore (or does she? What is time, anyway… maybe everything exists at once…) but other young girls do. Sure, you might not listen to some random 34-year-old, or even your 34-year-old sister, the way you’d listen to a 34-year-old-self who came back to impart wisdom. But hey. I feel like doing it, so I’m doing it. And then when I’m 50 I’ll write one to my 34 year old self, and when I’m 80 I’ll be time traveling and saying it in person… but for now, these are some things I would tell her.
It’s all your fault.
That’s right. Everything is your fault. You decided to move to _____, you decided to pursue _____ as a career, you decided to date _____. Everything you decide to do won’t turn out the way you’d like it to, unfortunately. And those things you didn’t want to do today, for example practice French or the guitar… well guess whose fault it is now when you’re not that good at it? Not somebody else’s. You decide what to prioritize, what to push yourself with, and every decision you make shapes your future. You decide how your time is spent.
But that’s the good thing, too. You decide. You have control. OK, not 100% control, but your decisions and your attitude determine a lot. When you succeed, it was most likely because you were ready for the opportunity, you took action to meet your goals, and you got out there and met the right people.
Get advice from people who know what they’re talking about, and follow that advice. Be wary of advice coming from people who haven’t achieved the goal you’re aiming for. But backing up to that other advice, also remember that what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. But try it anyway.
It’s not your fault.
Sometimes things are just out of your control. You can do your best and react to situations, but there are so many factors in an outcome. Don’t beat yourself up over it. All the “what ifs” in the world won’t change it. Learn from it and do better in the future, if you think doing something differently may change the outcome. If you know you did your best, then be OK with that. You can’t do better than your best. It’s not your fault if you get robbed, or assaulted – you didn’t make that happen, they did. Nobody asks to be robbed or assaulted. And if you were acting with good intentions, with kindness and love in any kind of relationship… you did your best, but sometimes when it comes to other people, it just won’t be enough.
Whenever you have honestly done your best… it’s not your fault if it doesn’t go as planned. You may not always have the facts, the knowledge, or the experience to make a choice other than what you made, and other people will also make decisions that will affect you but have more to do with them than with you. Do the best with what you have, where you are.
It’s not you, it’s me.
You control how you react to other people’s behaviour. Your thoughts are a product of how you choose to view the world and the people around you. They may trigger your insecurities, but with a little work you can learn to rise above it.
It’s not me, it’s you.
Everyone else has issues too. And they may take it out on you. They may not know what the hell they’re doing, just stumbling through life, and knocking you down on their way past. Whatever awful thing they do to you was not about you. Because remember, you’re doing your best, right?! And as you control how you react to others, they also control how they react to you – though they may not be aware of this and may simply be responding to their own insecurities and taking it out on you. Some people (well, most people, you included, at times) simply assume things and don’t bother to clarify, then make their decisions based on this poor judgement. Some people will steal, assuming that you’re rich. Some people will flake on you, assuming that you won’t be inconvenienced or let down. Some people won’t communicate with you, assuming you already know how they feel and that they know how you feel. These people have not done the self-work that I’m asking of you. They simply go along with the flow and behave like the rest of the herd, even if it’s not the kind and loving way to be human.
Not everyone tries their best. Or maybe that is their best, at this point in time. In either case, they’re in their own world. You can’t place the same expectations on them as you place on yourself. And if their best is not respectful, thoughtful, or understanding, then let them go on their merry way, because you deserve better. You need to surround yourself with amazing people. Some people may respond to a gentle wake-up call, but others will not, and you can’t control how anybody behaves. Try as you might to convince someone that they are dishonest, or manipulative, or _fill-in-the-blank_, nobody wants to think of themselves as a bad person, so they will never see what you see. And if they haven’t learned to be honest with themselves, they will find a way to defend their behaviour rather than….
Say you’re sorry.
Don’t be too proud to admit when you’re wrong or you’ve done the wrong thing. Remember when you were little, and you accidentally kicked a hole in Dad’s Chair? What did you decide to do? Yep, you went straight to Mom and confessed. You knew it was better than the alternative. Sure, there were other times where you knew you did something wrong and didn’t confess to it. And what about that time – oh wait, it happened after you were 20, should I tell you this? Well, since this is what you did then perhaps it was because I told you to now! If you should find yourself in a fragile state while in a collapsing relationship, and you get a little too close to another man… take responsibility for it. Tell your partner that you know you didn’t make the best decision you could have (even though who really makes good decisions when they’re having a breakdown?). Be honest without being mean. Apologizing isn’t only about being kind to another person. Apologizing is being aware of your shortcomings. And apologizing is taking your power back. Crazy angry people don’t expect you to agree with them. You want to de-escalate a situation? Be a bigger person and apologize (unless you really think you have no reason to, but maybe you can find something to apologize for that you can mean). That’s usually what they want, and then you can try to move forward.
If you’re trying to do your best, you know when you’ve fallen short. You know when you’ve messed up. So just admit it. Yes, there may be consequences. Deal with them. But always say you’re sorry.
(Also see It’s all your fault)
But don’t apologize for following your heart, for doing what you know is right. Don’t sell yourself short and apologize in any way for who you are. Don’t rely on the approval of others to define who you are. You’re not inferior. You’re human just like everyone else. Be confident in who you are and what you have to offer the world. Don’t apologize for your existence or your opinion…. you have the right to both.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
You don’t live in a vacuum, or on an island… the internet can only take you so far. To meet your goals you need to meet and work with other people. Find those passionate, motivated people and collaborate. Make yourself useful, be of service, and widen your circle of friends and acquaintances. Work through your shyness and anxiety. It’ll be worth it.
Never rely on anybody.
Although you need to know people and have friends… never rely on other people too much. People are self-absorbed and people can be flaky. Yes, we have to put our faith in other people, we don’t really have a choice. We have to believe that they’ll show up for work, or do as they say, if they haven’t given us reason to doubt them… but also know that people can and will let you down. They may for example tell you they want you for their film, and that they’ll call you…. and they won’t. Learn to get their number as well as giving them yours. They still may not return your call, but at least you were proactive. They may, in a relationship, talk to you about the future and make you feel loved…. and then simply disappear. If you’ve determined that they haven’t been hit by a bus… you’ve just learned not to rely on that person. Always be able to pick up and continue when someone lets you down. You’ve done your best, told the truth, been reliable and just AWESOME, so keep moving on (and see It’s not me, it’s you). You may cry out “But you SAID _____, how could you do this??” but the truth is, people sometimes don’t know what the f@#k they’re saying or doing because they’re just too self-centered to think about other people. As long as they aren’t getting hurt, they don’t care if they hurt someone else. Wish it wasn’t so, but it is.
Parting words of advice
Some random advice I keep rolling around in my head that probably would have helped you out…
Have courage, and be kind. (Cinderella, 2015)
Be of service.
…. maybe I’ll add on more later, since there’s always more to learn. 🙂 Good luck out there.