In a few weeks from now, I will turn 25-years-old. And throughout these past 25 years, I’ve seen myself grow as a person, learn many new things, and have a lot of interesting experiences.
When I was 18-years-old, I thought life was pretty boring. It all seemed quite predictable. In general, older adults told me that I should go to university, get an important job, get married, have children, get a house, and then I guess that’s it. It all sounded quite generic. Nothing seemed important or meaningful.
But the truth was, I couldn’t actually predict the future. Instead, I was bored because I was too scared to leave my comfort zone and try new things. I wasn’t open to new experiences or even to changing my values or ideals. So, I was bored. Because I was scared to change.
If you put yourself in completely new situations where you cannot possibly predict the outcome, then life becomes much more interesting. For example, in September 2016 I tried to join the McGill Anime Club. I sat and watched a screening of Princess Mononoke and spoke to no one. I went home and thought, well that was no fun at all. And so, from September 2016 until December 2019 I read the anime club weekly e-mail (from the comfort of my own home) describing their activities and thought that was enough. But it wasn’t enough. In December 2019, I finally decided to give the anime club another chance. I tried speaking to others, and slowly, over the next few months, I started making new friends who were different from me in some ways, and life started to become more interesting. These friends challenged me to see things from new perspectives and to become a better person in general. I should have tried speaking to people earlier!
Other experiences like this one have taught me a lot. I would like to go back in time and tell my 18-year-old self all of the new lessons I learned, which would make her life so much easier. Unfortunately, a time-traveling machine does not exist for the moment. Instead, I wrote down 10 lessons that I would have liked to tell my younger self. Additionally, I hope other people can learn from my mistakes.
- Be honest.
Ever since I was young, I’ve always strove to be a nice person. To me, that sometimes included putting other people’s needs above my own. Even for the simplest things. For example, if a friend would ask, is it okay if we do ‘X’? I would always respond with, nope, I don’t mind (even if sometimes I would mind). Amber, stop that. Tell people how you actually feel. They won’t be hurt. They won’t get sad. Instead, they’ll be happy that you were honest with them and that they now understand you on a more personal level. They’ll also have the appropriate information to make a decision on what we should do together.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously.
I used to feel like I needed to be perfect. I had to do well in school and be nice to everyone. I used to think, if I even made one mistake, everyone would be disappointed in me. They’d think less of me. If I wasn’t able to meet everyone’s expectations of me, I was a failure, and they’d point it out. Well, I’m happy to report to my past self that this isn’t actually the case. It only feels true, but this kind of thinking doesn’t actually reflect reality. It is a kind of black and white thinking, with some catastrophizing mixed in. No one expects you to be perfect, that is an expectation that you are placing on yourself. Instead, your peers and family members are proud of you for trying your best, even if you may sometimes fail to meet their expectations.
- No one decision is final.
You can always pivot towards another direction. Decisions are scary, especially if they affect a big part of your life, but even if the decision you make turns out to be the wrong one, that is ok. For example, when I was in CEGEP, I was deathly afraid of choosing a university major. I felt like I was locking myself into a particular future and losing out on a lot of other possible opportunities. I never had a job at that point, so how was I expected to choose which one I wanted to pursue? I ended up choosing to study Mechanical Engineering, which I later found out, was not for me. I would cry every day on my way to class dreading my future as an engineer. And so, I decided to switch to a psychology major, which stressed me out even more. Which future was better for me?, I thought. Engineering? Psychology? Something else entirely? Truth is you don’t know what choice is best until you try. Thinking about it forever won’t help you find the answer you are looking for. Thankfully, I actually enjoyed my psychology degree and made lots of wonderful friends. It was a decision I am very grateful that I made.
- Learn to let go of things you cannot control.
I would like to tell my past self that you cannot control if people like you or not. This is simply not up to you. Yes, you might really love someone but you cannot force them to love you back. And holding onto things you cannot control is just painful for everyone involved. Some people will like you while others will not. And that’s okay. Continue to hang out with people who actually want to be your friends and you will have a much better time.
You cannot control the future. You cannot control what other people think of you. And to some degree, you cannot control your own thoughts and feelings. So, stop trying to control things that you cannot control and let them go.
- Don’t hurt yourself.
For some reason, when you don’t meet your own expectations, for example on an exam or in a social situation, you punish yourself. You tell yourself how you are a useless piece of garbage that shouldn’t be allowed to live. You get really sad for no reason. You wish a car would just hit you. Why you like this bro? Hurting yourself doesn’t solve anything. You don’t need to punish yourself for doing something wrong. Instead, accept that you made mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes help us grow, and punishing yourself limits that growth.
- Liking yourself takes time and hard work.
At 18-years-old, I didn’t particularly like myself, and as I grew up, I liked myself even less. I went through a negative spiral of self-hatred, which resulted in a pretty low sense of self-worth. As I went down this spiral, I thought I had broken myself permanently, and that I’d never gain my happiness back. Thankfully, I was wrong. If you dislike yourself, you can’t expect to change your self-perception overnight. However, through participating in activities you enjoy, interacting with positive people, speaking to others about your problems, and lots of self-reflection you can get better. One thing that can definitely help you like yourself is trying to live life authentically. If you follow your heart and do what you really want to do, then you will feel so much better.
- Don’t be afraid of criticism.
When someone criticizes you, they aren’t attacking you. While it may seem that way, they are usually trying to help you improve. Truthfully, I’m still trying to work on this. When someone tells me that I’ve done or said something wrong, I usually feel personally attacked, which then makes me defensive. Next time someone tells you a way to improve, try to understand where they are coming from. It’s for your own benefit!
- Getting close to people is scary, but also worth it.
I am still very scared of getting close to people, and I know my younger self was too. I’m scared that other people will hurt me or that I will hurt them. Consequently, I used to speak to few people, and of the people I spoke to, I never let anyone get too close to me. I would like to tell my younger self that despite the possibility of hurting others or being hurt or acting awkwardly, getting closer to people is a wonderful experience. It is worth the risk. You never know who you’re going to meet!
- We are all going to die.
When my 18-year-old self realized that she was going to die she became absolutely petrified for months on end. Not only her, but she realized that one day all her friends and family would be gone as well, never to return on earth. I am still scared of this to this day. However, I would like to tell my past self two things regarding this particular subject. One: tell other people how you feel. Everyone feels scared of something, it is nothing to be ashamed of. By speaking up, you can gain the support you need to deal with your fears, and other people can share their own views and perspectives on the subject. And two: just because your life is going to end, doesn’t mean your actions on Earth don’t matter. On the contrary, it makes your actions more important.
- Love you.
If I got the opportunity to speak to my younger self, I would have wanted to tell her that I love her and that everything will be okay.
These would be the main 10 points I would tell my younger self if given the chance. While I do not have the opportunity to tell her all of these things, I hope you readers get something out of it. These are many of the lessons I learned from the first 25 years of my life. I wonder what else I will learn in the years to come?