Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy 21st Birthday "A"

A good friend of mine asked a group of women to help her create what I thought was an ingenious birthday gift for her little sister’s 21st birthday. She solicited words of wisdom, funny little pieces of advice and helpful suggestions to form a compilation to present to her sister as she entered into adulthood. This was a few months after I had started writing “potential posts” for my blog, so I of course thought it was a wonderful idea and had more “you should know what’s around the bend” witticisms and pieces of advice than I knew what to do with. I contributed with a few (too many) of my favorites, and thought, “I have to remember to do this for my sister.”

With her 21st birthday only a few days away, I would like to present my darling little sister with a similar compilation of recommendations and survival tips and would love so much to have you join me in doing so. Thank you in advance for helping me welcome her to the roller coaster ride!

  1. Learn to differentiate between what YOU want and what others want for you and from you. Although it’s important to be considerate of others and cognizant of how your actions affect the lives around you, you’ve got to remember that your needs and preferences are just as important as everyone else’s.
  2. You’re going to mess up. And when you do, don’t waste time regretting your choices or pitying yourself for the fallout you’ve created. Take action, make amends where necessary, learn from your mistake and move on. Nothing good comes from regret, while a world of good can come from self awareness and reflection.
  3. Yes, most men really are assholes. But that’s ok, because most women are at least a little crazy. You’ll find the crap they put us through and the way we torture them all balances out quite well.
  4. Surround yourself with people that challenge you, love and accept you, help you be a better person, make you laugh, and bring you comfort. Find people you can trust and confide in, and keep them close. You’ll need them more and more as you get older – not less and less!
  5. If you don’t like something – change it. Or at least try. The beauty of being an independent woman is that you have the power to create a life you feel good about, make changes when you believe they are necessary, and build healthy, loving relationships. It’s all up to you now – and although that feels scary and overwhelming at times, it’s mostly a wonderful thing.
  6. Find yourself a good general practitioner, gynecologist and dermatologist. There is nothing more crucial to your physical and mental health at this point in your life than competent, thorough physicians with whom you feel comfortable. If your new dermatologist doesn’t automatically do a full-body mole check on a 100% Irish woman, find a different one. If your general practitioner never makes eye contact during his 30 second in and out visits before writing a prescription for something he should know you’re allergic to, find a new one. And if you have to go through 10 doctors to get to one that feels right, do it. It could make or break you some day.
  7. Don’t forget to keep things in perspective. Being poor when you first start out can feel miserable, missing your family and your college friends can be hard, watching your body change can make you think things about yourself that you never thought you would, but all of that is beyond normal. Just try to remember in your poorest, loneliest, most vain moments that as long as you have a roof over your head, food to eat, a functioning, healthy body, a family that loves you, and friends to laugh with, (even if over the phone,) you’re a hell of a lot better off than many people out there.
  8. Take every sexual reference, inappropriate photograph, and all potentially damaging information off your social networking site pages BEFORE you start job interviews and keep them off there as long as you are in the professional world. And keeping your profiles “private” does not protect you. At all.
  9. You know that perfectly styled woman next to you on the train? The one who looks like she has everything you want and seems so put together? The one who wears the kind of shoes you lust after, types on the cute little netbook you can’t afford and refers to that perfect job and beautiful boyfriend you always dreamed of? Soon enough you’ll learn that she has the same hopes, fears, demons and insecurities that you do. Most women fight the same battles with themselves, their friends and boyfriends, and their families. We’re all the same, we’re just packaged differently.
  10. When you feel overwhelmed, depressed, nuts, weird, etc – do what you need to do to get back to a good place and don’t be ashamed of it. If you think flying home to have your mom take care of you for a few days will help, get on the plane. If you know you need an unbiased, professional opinion, see a therapist. There is nothing wrong with doing what you need to do, regardless of your age.
  11. There won’t always be an obvious choice or gut feeling pulling you in the right direction. Deciding where to settle down, which job to take, if and when to have children, what battles to fight with your better half, etc. won’t be easy - but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Take the time to figure out what feels right to you, even if it takes weeks, months, or even years.
  12. Men are entirely different creatures than women. It is truly amazing that our different brain chemistries and hierarchies of needs don’t interfere more with (relatively) peaceful co-existence. As soon as you accept that reality and learn to work with it (and around it,) you’ll be a happier woman.
  13. Everything in life is as simple or as complicated as you make it. Your experiences are ultimately defined by your perspective.
  14. Never give all of yourself to one thing. If you live for your career and then lose your job, you’ll feel as if the earth has fallen away from under your feet. If you allow a relationship to swallow your identity, it will feel like you have nothing left when he’s gone. Fill your time with diversified interests and activities and you’ll never feel as if you’ve invested everything only to go broke. This will be your strongest form of self-preservation. Although it sounds like common sense, it isn’t as easy as you think.
  15. Especially as your life becomes busier and your responsibilities more demanding, make sure you do something that makes you happy and brings you joy at least once a day.


  1. Every girl is going to wake up one morning and feel really ashamed about what they did the night before, and they aren’t going to tell a soul. It's okay, it happens. Just don't make it a habit.

  2. Be nice. Somehow, life is shorter when you’re mean.

  3. My biggest thing would be to not take it all too seriously. Your job will probably suck, your salary definitely will, your skin will still break out, you'll be bloated, put on a few I sit at a desk all day pounds, all your friends will be getting married and you'll be single, and on and on and on and we think we have to have it all together and when we don't we get this horrible sinking feeling that we were supposed to have it all together by now. Listen, NO ONE has it all together, you'll have moments of having it all only to be followed by times when you have nothing together. What I encourage you to do (also nearly impossible) is enjoy it. You may not have the perfect body, face, skin regimen, job, salary, car, man, home, etc but it's a hell of a lot better than most people and there are moments you will have that can never be relived. Great friends are the key, honesty, humor and wine with my closest friends got me through some of the toughest years of my life and I encourage you to go where they are or make new ones. Your 20s are fabulous and scary and sexy and lonely and all of the these mixed emotions. I encourage you to live and love them all because they ultimately are what make you grow into the person you want to / need to be as life gets more complicated as you age. It's nice to have a time period of only self reflection and where you only have to take care of yourself. The more you grow during this time the more you will be able to give your partner, your kids, yourself as you age into YIKES! your 30s. Seriously, take a deep breath and take huge leaps even if your family thinks you're nuts. I dropped out of bschool, left my job and moved to SF for a man and now he's about to become my husband but that's what you do in your 20s and even if it hadn't worked out I wouldn't be married to someone else 10 years from now wondering what would have happened if I had just moved to sf for that guy, the same goes with school and jobs. Live in other countries, scrape together enough to travel, love, laugh but most importantly TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! you'll feel a lot better if you do!

    Happy 21!


  4. I think a misconception I had at the age of 21 was that by the time I hit my late 20's, I'd have it all figured out. Boy was I wrong...

    Just remember that you will constantly learn and grow throughout your entire life and you will always be searching for ways to make yourself and the quality of your life better. You don't just wake up at the age of 28 and have a basket waiting at your door full of everything you ever hoped or dreamed for. It's work and it's always going to be work...but with each obstacle overcome, you will realize how fulfilling it can be. Maintain a positive outlook and be selective with what you choose to dwell on and worry about. Life truly is like a rollercoaster girl - take it for what is and enjoy as much of it as you can.

    Take 21 and run with it :)


  5. Well my inital response would be to wrap it up. Especially at 21- when it's hard to remember to do that, mostly because you are too blacked out to make a wise, conscious decision. However, for our dear Audrey, that isn't so applicable! So- for a more serious, useful piece of advice, I would say: That age tends to come with an automatic confidence and a sense of being carefree. As you get older and experience more life situations, try to maintain a balance of confidence and carefree, without thinking you are invincible. At the same time, realize that life gets MUCH harder the older you get- especially around that age because you have to face the "real world" and leave the "utopian world" known as college. Try to learn the importance and means of budgeting time, money, friends, family, and yourself. Most importantly, stay true to yourself and make decisions that you feel are right, regardless of everyone else's opinion. You will be a stronger, more confident person for it.