Our twenty-something years are nothing if not ever-changing. We’re all going through so many transitions in our twenties. Milestones like graduating from college, getting married, starting a family, landing a career, and more are just a few stages we experience during this wild ride of a decade in our lives.
Looking back on where I came from, the challenges I’ve faced, and the goals I’ve reached over the years has been a very big part of my personal growth in my twenties. I often reflect on how I thought and behaved during my teen years, how that changed during my early twenties, and how I’ve changed still now that I am in my late twenties.
In short, I’ve learned a lot, matured a ton, and feel more like “myself” than I ever thought I would. It’s freeing to finally feel like you are the person you were always meant to be. I had to learn some tough lessons to get to this place, but such is life.
You don’t know it when it’s happening, but looking back you see it all much clearer. If only we could tell our past selves so we didn’t have to learn the hard way, right?
5 Things I Would Tell My Past Self
If I could, here are a few things I would tell my past self to make sure younger Rachael knew then what older Rachael knows now:
1. You’re going to love your body in all its flaws.
I’ve battled with my weight most of my life. I’ve tried it all: green tea pills to enhance my metabolism; Slim Fast drinks to shed pounds; calorie counting to manage portions; Weight Watchers programs to monitor daily food intake; etc. I’ve lost weight, gained weighed, and still battle with it every single day. But you know what? It doesn’t matter.
Life isn’t about looking a certain way or fitting into a specific size of pants. I now know it’s about my health and how I feel. Sure, I want to look good but more so, I want to be healthy.
Focusing on giving my body what it needs has made me love my body more than I ever thought I would. And to the haters who judge my body: worry about perfecting your own before you judge mine. Also, mind your business!
2. Someday you’ll learn that family isn’t what you’re born into, it’s who you choose.
I’ve faced quite a bit of loss in my life. I’ve lost friendships over the years that were once really important to me. I don’t speak to the majority of my relatives for various personal reasons. I’ve made connections with former colleagues, only to lose touch with them after changing careers.
Loss is a big part of life, but it’s made me stronger and more confident in the relationships I do have.
I’ve learned that you choose who you let into your life and that blood is not always as strong as you might think. I’ve built my tribe and I am happy with the choices I’ve made.
Looking back, I had so many more relationships, but the quality of many of them just wasn’t strong enough to be sustainable. Some were even toxic. I now look at the people in my tribe and I see just how important it is to build a life with those who stick by you and show up for you.
Younger Rachael wanted to please everyone, but now? I know I have to put my happiness first and keep those around who actually matter.
3. After college, no one cares about your grades.
I used to agonize over getting the best G.P.A. I could when I was in college. I’d obsess over my papers until they were perfect. I had the best attendance in my classes. I was so stuck on being an elite student, and it came at a cost.
I didn’t spend much time on my college campus because I was a commuter student. I didn’t have many friends at school because I was hardly there. My life back then was all about school, my part-time job, and writing. It wasn’t bad and I don’t necessarily have regrets, but I didn’t have the traditional college experience most students do.
I wish Younger Rachael knew then that having an impressive G.P.A. doesn’t equate to a high-paying career. Younger Rachael should know that a field of study is not directly correlated with a guaranteed job in that field. Most importantly, I wish Younger Rachael understood back then that getting a college degree doesn’t make you any better than someone who doesn’t have one.
I’ve learned as I’ve aged that some of the smartest people I know never went to college and they actually make more money, have better job security, and more job satisfaction than others who have a college degree.
4. Stop worrying… you’ll fall in love someday.
As aforementioned, I was a commuter student and hardly spent time on campus. As such, I had a hard time meeting people and didn’t date all that much. I went on a few dates, sure, but I only had one serious relationship before meeting my current boyfriend, and back then I used to worry I would die alone. Dramatic? Sure, Younger Rachael could be at times. But in the moment, it felt like I wasn’t ever going to meet someone.
If I could, I would tell younger Rachael to stop worrying because she is going to meet the best guy during her senior year of college. I would tell her to be patient because good things come in time. I would remind her it’s better to be alone than with the wrong person because the right person is worth waiting for.
I would tell Younger Rachael she is going to be just fine in the love department because I now know that I’m with the perfect guy who accepts me and loves me just as I am.
5. You’re going to put your happiness above everything else and it’ll be worth it.
Over the years I’ve thought a lot about the balance of being a responsible, financially comfortable adult while also being happy. It can feel overwhelming to have to work a lot to pay the bills but also make time for doing the things you enjoy doing.
Younger Rachael thought work and school had to come before fun. Maybe it did at the time, but I’ve since learned that life is short. I work my full-time job, I pay my bills, but I refuse to spend my free time doing anything but enjoying life.
I am happy and I want to keep it that way. Yes, I do my work. Yeah, I handle all of my chores. But I make time for binge-watching my favorite shows, going shopping with my mom, having date night with my boyfriend, and spending time with my dogs.
At the end of my life I want to know I put happiness first. Younger Rachael didn’t always think about that, but I do now.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to warn our past selves about the future. We don’t always know the consequences that come with making certain decisions.
You don’t know when we’ll lose someone important to us or how to make the best choices. We won’t be able to guarantee certain things, like a job or a relationship. All we can do is take risks and hope for the best.
My past self wasn’t always the smartest, most mature, or happiest. There were times I had misguided judgement and lost sight of what really mattered. But now? Life has come together for me. I am in my late twenties and can honestly say I’ve never been happier with where things stand. I still have my whole life ahead of me, but for now I am happy. I wish my past self knew that things would end up working out in the future.