So it happened that on an early Saturday evening in London, I was seated in a Thai restaurant with my 5-year-old daughter. It was one of those places where everyone shares tables and politely tries not to bump elbows. All of a sudden in a flurry of handbags and click-clacking heels, a group of five girls descended on our table. They were all dressed to the nines and were clearly grabbing a quick bite before heading out to a nearby club. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop and discovered one was celebrating her 20th birthday — they ordered Prosecco to celebrate. And then some more …
My 5-year-old gaped at them as they reapplied their lipstick and gossiped — barely stopping to breathe. I listened as one lamented about some boy who hadn’t called her back; another was hoping a guy was going to be there that night while all her friends tut-tutted and said he was bad news. While I told my kid to finish her noodles, we needed to get home for bath and bedtime, I watched enviously as they sipped fizz and enthused about the evening ahead.
Oh to be young, I thought. Oh to have all those adventures ahead of you.
But as I sat on the train home, my child asleep on my lap, I thought back to the angst of my twenties — the insecurity, the lack of self-belief, the crappy jobs, the annoying roommates, the horrific dates, the heartbreaks, having no money. It made me realize how happy I am to be here — at 43 — in a much more peaceful place. I no longer envied those girls, with their endless wardrobes and energy; instead I thought of all the things I wish I had known in my twenties, that I know now for certain in my forties. Here are 21 of them.
1. Explore the world as much as you can before you have kids.
Live in another country for several months or longer, and immerse yourself in its culture. Between the time you leave home for college and the time you settle down to have a family, those are the freedom years — use them wisely!
2. Don’t think he hasn’t called you back because he is busy.
He didn’t make time for you and that says it all. Time to move on.
3. Listen more to your mom.
She has been there!
4. Make sure the job you are in works with having a family.
If you intend to have kids, it is imperative you either have family near by to help, a great nanny, or a flexible employer. Or better still — all three.
5. Use sunscreen.
ALWAYS. Even on cloudy days.
6. Look after your body — you are gonna need it a long time.
All those late night drinks and takeouts will catch up with you eventually. A NutriBullet is a good idea. Exercise for your mind, as much as toning your abs.
7. Get as much sleep as is possible.
You will miss sleep more than words in the baby years …
8. Stop worrying about finding Mr. Right.
Yes, of course you’ve gotta get out there to meet him, but he will find his way to you sooner or later. Just concentrate on enjoying your life and let the universe take care of the rest.
9. Let go of trying to please everyone.
The sooner you do that — the lighter you will feel.
10. Trust your gut.
You are a better decision maker than you think.
11. The most important person to respect? Yourself.
12. Remember that no one can make you FEEL anything.
YOU decide how you react to a situation. So refuse to let yourself get stressed over a job, or angry about a flaky friend. Breathe, let go, and move on.
13. That old phrase, “It ain’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” is very true.
So buckle up and enjoy the ride. Don’t keep moving the goalposts thinking, When I get that job/apartment/boyfriend I’ll be happy, because then you miss out on all the fun you could be having right now.
14. Judge a man by how he treats his mom.
If he treats her with respect, he knows how to treat women with respect.
15. Always do what makes you happy job-wise.
Life is too short. You won’t regret making a leap out of a dull job — go on, dive in. Take a risk. They usually pay off.
16. What everyone else thinks of you is frankly none of your business.
Don’t sweat it. I spent too long caring about what everyone thought of me and trying to be someone I was not. Now I dance to my own tune, but I wish I had learnt this 20 years back. If they don’t like it —- they don’t need to hang out with me. Win-win for all.
17. It is OK to screw up.
What’s important is after, how you get up.
18. Let certain friendships run their course.
That friend that only calls when she needs a place to stay in the city? Or the one who rings you crying — daily — and drains the life out of you? How much are YOU getting out of those relationships? It doesn’t matter if you have known them since high school; people change and evolve. It is OK to let these friendships run their course. Focus on those who energize and encourage you — who make you feel good about you.
19. Believe in yourself.
You don’t need validation from a thousand people that you are great at what you do. You know your own worth. Insecure people are easy to spot — their smile never meets their eyes. Often if people try to put you down or one-up you, usually it is because they are threatened by you. See it as a compliment!
20. Time is the most precious thing you can ever have – so give it wisely.
Don’t waste it on things you don’t care about. You’ll regret it — trust me.
21. You will face rejection, people will let you down, and life will be unfair.
But the things you will remember are those who showed you love, those who supported you, and the sweet rewards you received for working hard. Things usually work out better than we think they will.