Advice I Wish I Could Have Given My Young Self And Her Friends

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucious

An old school friend of mine passed away. Over the years we’ve lost others; to suicide, accident, misadventure and illness. But this is the first of my friends who has passed due the cumulative stresses of aging.

I’ve been looking at photos of us all from when we were at school and university, from when we were young and fearless and life was in front of us as an endless rolling wave of possibilities. I can see that this is one of the blessings of youth – to be eager-eyed and unbowed by life experiences. I see that in my friends’ children now and I’m awed by that energy.

But there is a blessing to being older too. And that’s the blessing of wisdom.

If I could teleport back through time here are the things I wish my wise older self could have said to us all back then, back when we were still at school and contemplating the lives we might lead:

  1. Don’t choose a career to please your parents or impress your school or anyone else. Don’t be pressured into making study and career choices that hold no joy except the promise of a prestigious occupation or a big paycheck.
  2. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do when you leave school. Education is important, and those basics of literacy and numeracy will never go out of style. Get an education for the experience of it, and to broaden you, but know that your life may take you far from your starting point, and that’s fine too.
  3. Travel while you’re young. Take a gap year. Take off after you graduate. Take off before there is a mortgage or a partner or the kind of job you won’t be able to leave for more than a week or two at a time.
  4. Don’t do drugs. Not the injectable kind, or the snort up your nose kind, or the magical pill kind. And don’t ever see drugs or alcohol as an escape or a solution. If you need an escape change your life or get some counselling. If you’re depending on drugs or alcohol but you are telling yourself there is no problem – there’s a problem. And don’t drive under the influence of anything, ever!
  5. Don’t stay in a relationship with someone you don’t love, and don’t get married just because everyone else is. Don’t feel pressured, ever, to marry, have kids, or do things you don’t feel ready for. Most importantly don’t do any of these things just to make someone else happy. The cost will be too high.
  6. Have an interest that has nothing to do with your career. Maybe something you enjoy now. Don’t put it down and forget about it when you leave school because you aren’t ever going to set the world on fire or be the next greatest thing with the musical instrument you play, or the sport you enjoy or the craft you do on weekends. Cultivate that as a life-long interest and you’ll be going a long way towards gifting yourself strong mental health.
  7. Learn to cook. Seriously. Just some basics. And learn to clean the house, to manage your finances and other basic adulting skills. This is the stuff that is the background of life, and being able to do these things will give you confidence and freedom.
  8. Have a bucket list. They aren’t just for old people. If you’ve always wanted to surf Indonesia, trek the Himalayas, wander through India or drink espresso in Italy then hold those plans in your mind and work towards them. Keep adding to that bucket list so there is always something to look forward to, even as you tick things off. Don’t leave it till retirement. By then you may be incapable of the things you could have enjoyed more fully when you were younger.
  9. Relationships take work. And there is nothing like a relationship that has weathered the highs and lows of your life to bring you comfort and stability. Put effort into the important ones. Work through your problems and get help if it’s needed. Sometimes we need to learn how to communicate or to break old patterns so that we can move on, together.
  10. Once you have a job or career don’t let it take over your life. Same with family and relationships. Save some time that’s just for you. No time for yourself will breed exhaustion and resentment and is a recipe for burnout and breakdown. Everyone needs time to themselves to recharge and to indulge interests that others might not share.
  11. Look after your health. It’s so easy to take it for granted when you’re young but looking after yourself is a kind of insurance policy that your older self will one day thank you for.
  12. Do what’s in your heart. Even if it won’t make you money. Even if everyone else thinks you’re mad. Don’t die with the dream still in you. It’s never too late to start, but don’t leave it too long, okay?

Thinking of you, and sending love, Nicole ❤ xx

The Perils of 2AM Thinking

Image from Star Medical

Image from Star Medical

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” 
~ Corrie ten Boom

 

Have you ever stayed up all night stewing about something?

Or woken up in the middle of the night, beset with worry?

Ah, sweetkins! I’m here to tell you that the thoughts and ideas you have at two o’clock in the morning – especially the ones where you decide radical action – are not among your finest cognitive moments.

Image from The EvoLLution

Image from The EvoLLution

Trust me on this. After a bout of 2am thinking don’t write that letter. Don’t send that email. Don’t stay up for the rest of the night and then madly wreak destruction in your life once morning breaks.

Instead I counsel you to keep a notebook by the bed. Get it all on paper. Or iPad or phone. Perhaps there is a nugget of truth here, embedded in the muck. Perhaps the genesis of something which will, later, become more.

But what you need most right now is rest and a clear head.

There’s a reason why they call it the cold hard light of day. You may need time to re-evaluate your nocturnal genius.

Image from Vgames

Image from Vgames

When you are rested, review those notes from your middle-of-the-night brainstorming session. Is it more storm than brain? Be totally honest about what you see.

Maybe you can let the whole thing go. Maybe it doesn’t even make sense to you anymore. But maybe it really is time to leave the job/relationship/sharehouse/country, or say what you feel. Give it another day, after a good night’s sleep has elapsed. Let yourself be sure. Then draft that email if you must. With some solid restful hours elapsed between you and that 2am place you now have a couple of things working in your favour.

A rational mind and timing.

Sometimes we realise that our 2am thoughts were the result of hormones, too much wine, fatigue, or a serious lack of holidays. No harm done. We festered, but we never popped.

Sometimes we see that nugget of truth, and know it for what it is. Now we have the luxury of planning and strategising. We will find a new job FIRST and then tell the boss what we really think of them before our glorious resignation. We will seek counselling or legal advice and work out the best way for us to exit our relationship in a way that minimises harm to us and others rather than storming out the door with just the shirt on our backs. We make timing work for us!

We will check our facts BEFORE we react to the gossip that kept us up all night, sick with worry or roiled with anger.

We will realise that someone else already invented that thing we dreamed up, AND did a better job, and anyway, why did we want to make that thing in the first place? Oh yeah: alcohol, too little sleep, I hate my job, sugar rush and too many Marvel comics.

Let there always be a decent amount of clear-headed time between 2am and any actions you take or decisions you make.

Most importantly, if you find yourself in a 2am frenzy, or down a deep dark 2am hole, remind yourself that this will pass. That what you need most right now is some sleep. Write down what’s bothering you, and promise yourself that you’ll devote some time to it tomorrow, or the day after, when you’re fresh.

Our most difficult situations require our best thinking, not our most limited.

And nine times out of ten, it will be brighter in the morning.

Image from Quote Frenzy

Image from Quote Frenzy