I had a bit of a mini-crisis just before I turned 30. It wasn’t so much that was concerned about being “old,” it was more about what I perceived as my lack of accomplishments. I have the tendency to focus on what I haven’t accomplish rather than what I have.
Now, a couple of years in, as I’m settling into my 30s I can’t say that I’m completely wiser. But, I think I’ve learned a thing or two about a thing or two. So here’s my advice to my 22-year-old self:
1. Realize how much you have to learn. I could have also titled this one “shut up and listen.” I was pretty good at being humble in my first few jobs after college. I knew when I had a lot to learn and I tried so soak as much of it in as I could. I think this is a challenge for a lot of recent grads–college gives you just knowledge about the world to think that you know it all.
It’s also easy to be insecure about your lack of experience. Yes, you need to prove yourself. But you can gather a lot of insight from watching others.
2. Don’t waste your time on people who careless with your heart.
I loved deeply and sometimes recklessly in my 20s , and I don’t regret it. All of those failed relationships offered me something different: a lesson about what I didn’t want, a lesson about myself, a connection to new friends or a new part of my life.
But, like a lot of 20-something women I had a lot of insecurities about love and dating. I fell hard for the wrong guys and when they dumped me I hung on in my mind and heart long after they moved on. So I don’t regret the string of failed short and long term relationships that characterized my 20s. What I would change is how my heart and mind lingered on men that had rejected me. Yes unrequited love is the stuff of songs and poems, but it’s also a waste of time. Be sad — dwell you heartbreak for a little while, but move on. It’s over for a reason. You are better off without him. I promise.
3. Be careful with others’ hearts.
Getting your heart stomped on is part of your 20s — it’s unavoidable. What is avoidable is being the one who stomps. There were men that I dated too soon after a break-up, ones that I wasn’t really interested in that I strung along. When something isn’t right, you should end it as graciously as possible. I was so wrapped up in my own internal drama that sometimes I failed to notice that I might have been causing heartbreak. I was often not my best self in relationships in my 20s. I shouldn’t have been so reckless. They are better off without me. I promise.
4. Take more professional risks.
My working class roots served me well in my 20s for working hard and saving my money. That responsibility has served me well, but it prevented me from taking some of the bold risks that some successful people take in their 20s.
I was instilled with the importance of knowing where my next paycheck was coming from, and so I never took a year to just travel or work for free, or to take on debt for grad school. If I had it to do again, I still might not, but sometimes I wonder where my career would have been if I did.
5. Write it down. All of it.
This is advice for every stage of life. Write more: record all of those odd, funny, painful, and beautiful things that happen in everyday life, that you think you’ll remember. Because you won’t, the details always slip away. Especially during your 20s when life changes so fast and when so many of biggest choices and decisions of life happen: write it down.
6. Stay out late but skip the last few drinks.
For most people your 20s are the time in life when you go out the most–parties, bars, clubs. It’s fun, and inevitably there will be a lot of drinking. And while getting embarrassingly drunk and having a hangover the next morning kind of seems like a right of passage, it’s seriously not worth it. Most 30+ year-olds have stories of some stupid shit they did in their 20s, and most of them probably regret most of that stupid shit. You can have fun without being an idiot, plus you’ll be able to remember all the stupid things other people do and you’ll get home safely.
7. Live alone.
I never did this one. I went from living with my mom and brother, to a long string of roommates, to my boyfriend who became my husband (and I hope I never have to live without him). I couldn’t afford to live alone in my 20s, but if I could have, I certainly would have. I have done a lot of things alone in my life: from traveling to other states and countries to just going to plays, movies, museums and dinner alone. It’s in these experiences of solitude that my mind feels free, that I feel closest to my true self. I think that if I lived alone I would have felt lonely and isolated sometimes, but I also think I would have discovered more about myself.
8. Chill out.
This is another one the my 32-year-old self needs to hear as well. I’ve spent so much of my life worrying: would I get a job, would I be successful, would I meet the right guy? My worrying got me nowhere — the job, the success, the guy, they happened or they didn’t and fretting about them or giving myself some artificial deadline of “if this doesn’t happen by this time, then I fail,” didn’t change the outcome.
9. Fail more.
Or maybe rather, “don’t be so afraid to fail.” Like everyone, I failed spectacularly throughout my 20s, but I never learned to embrace it–to see it as the blessing that it often is and to get over it and move on more quickly. Which leads me to the last lesson for my 20-something self.
10. Get over yourself.
One’s 20s are usually defined my a certain amount of navel-gazing. And I don’t think that I was any more self indulgent that the average person, my consent introspection then (and now too) is nauseating. The world is so much bigger and more interesting than my own personal dramas.
I’ve never understood the concept of liking something ironically. I’ve always suspected that it’s just a weak cover to enjoy something unfashionable that you legitimately like.
Personally I don’t care if my tastes are deemed fashionable or not. I like what I like without apology or pretense. And I Love Bob Seger.
I realize I’m about 20-30 years younger than most of the demographic of his fan base, but I’m no less passionate. Seger’s music cuts to my heart in a way that even my favorite contemporary artists can’t.
Last night he played to a crowd of nearly 19,000 in Brooklyn, and while I was initially priced out, I managed to snag a last minute discounted ticket to what was surely a once in a lifetime show.
Nostalgia accounts for a large part of the reason that I love Seger’s music. My mom loves Bob Seger and played his music when I was growing up, he’s also legend in our mutual home state (Michigan). In short I can’t hear a Bob Seger song without drifting away in my mind and heart to a bittersweet place in my past.
This beautifully written article (The Joyous, Lonely Soul of Bob Seger) articulates why fans like me love his music — it shifts from perfectly desolate and lonely to an a joyful celebration that makes you want to roll down the windows and sing at the top of your voice.
In the article the author, Scott Sparling, says “to appreciate ‘Like a Rock,’ you have to be old enough for the lyric “Twenty years now, where’d they go?” to be freighted with both affection and heartbreak. If you don’t feel that yet, wait a decade or two: You’ll get there.”
Twenty years ago I was not quite 12 years old, and while that is likely not the two decades of time he’s referring to, those lyrics and many more of Seger’s do fill me with both affection and heartbreak. Hearing songs last night he said he hadn’t played it on tour in 26 years (Like a Rock), or one that I remember dancing around the living room with my mom to (Old Time Rock and Roll), or one that I shared the last dance at my wedding to (We’ve Got Tonight) made it a once in a lifetime moment for me.
As Sparling says, to music snobs, Seger’s a meat and potatoes rocker. But to me he’s a poet, to me he’s home.
Seger played almost exclusively from his “greatest hits” (a long list), it was a show and to end a career on, it was a show for fans to sing along to, to scream and dance along to, to be transported by. He’s still recording new songs, but at 68-years-old, a multi-city, multi-month, giant arena tour isn’t likely to happen again. I’m glad that I got the chance to see and hear him in person, I’m grateful for the moments when he played songs like “Night Moves,” “Against the Wind,” and my personal favorite “We’ve Got Tonight,” and my voice echoed with thousands of feeling each syllable.
Many of Seger’s most evocative songs are full of nostalgic for long summer nights, and the struggles of of growing up (“I’m older now but still running against the wind”). In the Village Voice review of last night’s show the author said “For an evening, it was any year the audience associated the songs with and wanted to pretend never ended.”
I don’t wish those years had never ended, but I’m happy to relive them with Bob Seger anytime.
This is such a sweet simple message that cuts right to the heart of the hope we all hope to cultivate when tragedies like today happen. I just wish I didn’t have to see this fill my news feed so frequently: Sandy, Newtown, and now the Boston Marathon bombing. There’s a lot of hurt in the world.
But despite it all, the good still out weighs the bad.
And this from Patton Oswalt:
Last night was the season opener for Gotham Girls Roller Derby. The Manhattan Mayhem took on the Bronx Gridlock, and I debuted as a rookie jeerleader from the Gridlock.
It was a blast. I am so glad I made that glittery “Boogie Down Bronx” poster. The crowd loved it and it gave me an excuse to dance (and get other people dancing!)
Speaking of dancing…the two weeks of rehearsals paid off and the crowd loved our halftime dance. Check out the video below (taken by my loving husband).
I’ll be marching with the GGRD jeerleaders in the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island on June 22nd, jeering at the travel team invitational in July. Your next chance to see me shake my “lady lumps” at a halftime show will be at the Brooklyn vs Bronx bout on August 3rd.
A new, possibly regular, feature.
I read a lot of different things during the week, I’m always pinning, clipping things, planning to write about them or use them to inspire something else. Of course most of them remain clipped and forgotten. So here’s my own little best of the internet this week — good weekend reading that just may inspire a Katastrophic Thought or two.
- Parents Naming Babies ‘Yoga’ ( Yoga Dork): There has been a trend for years of celebrities naming their kids ridiculous things, but now regular people are jumping on the bandwagon. A few they called out: Thinn (for the parents that have decided that their kid should have an eating disorder), Espn, and yes, Yoga. I decided long ago that in I ever have a boy I will name him Snuffleupagus, so I guess it’s OK, So long as you don’t want your kid to ever be president. Also how cute is “little baby Lupagus.”
- My So-Called ‘Post-Feminist’ Life in Arts and Letters (The Nation): A revealing look inside the the outrageous sexism that she encounter in her career as a journalist and author. This example, towards the end of the article is the most telling:
The Times’s obituary for Yvonne Brill, renowned rocket scientist, winner of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, leads with, “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.”
The past is not gone. Or as Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Until it is, we should not be expected to get over it.
- Stroke Patient To Get Wish, Will Meet Bob Seger (NPR) I have a special place in my heart for my homestate hero Bob Seger –I grew up on his music. But even if I wasn’t a fan, I’d still find this story a tearjerker. This woman woke up from a coma and asked to go to his concert–not only did he and the nursing home staff make the wish come true–she went there in a limo, had front row seats and got to meet him back stage.
- Yoga Project Changes Lives In Nairobi’s Slums (NPR). I’ve been saying it for years–yoga is good for what ails you. And this story of how yoga is helping life people out of poverty, and give them hope or even just a little bit of peace is really inspiring.
- And finally, if ever there was a show-stopping argument for marriage equality: this from NPR’s StoryCorps: Adoptive Dad Dreamed A Dream That Brought Him A Son. It always gets me to hear the story of a child and dad who have such a loving relationship, how could anyone say this couple didn’t “deserve” to be parents?
The death of England’s first, only, and longest-serving woman Prime Minister has thrown Margaret Thatcher back into the spotlight where her possible position as a feminist role model takes on new relevance.
Was Margaret Thatcher a feminist? Almost certainly not, among the long list of harsh quotes she left behind is this gem:
“The battle for women’s rights has largely been won. I hate those strident tones we hear from some women’s libbers.”
So she wasn’t a feminist. But because she holds such a prominent place in history as one of the most notable woman leaders, is she a role model?
In other words, is a woman who does little to nothing for woman, who in fact believes that women’s issues are non-issues, yet is widely successful, be a feminist role model? Can someone like Margaret Thatcher or Yahoo’s Marissa “I’m not a feminist… they are militant and have a chip their shoulders” Mayer be role models for young women even if they believe that the fact that they are women is a non-issue?
I want to say no. I wouldn’t want my hypothetical daughter looking up to anyone–man or woman who wouldn’t count themselves as a feminist. But on the other hand, part of me sees the desire to change the subject.
Women are still so rare in these big positions of power that they are still like unicorns. And rather than focus on the work that they are doing, everyone just kind of stops and stares and prattles on about how a unicorn can hold down an important job and what about her unicorn babies and what kind of shoes is she wearing?
So while I sympathize with wishing to will the subject away, to quote Voltaire/Stan Lee: “With great power come great responsibility.” When you put yourself in the public eye, and are you are part of a group who has faces obstacles to reach a similar position you can’t just ignore that group, or pretend that others haven’t succeed because they just aren’t as great as you are. Sure, Barack Obama doesn’t (and shouldn’t) only focus on African American issues, but he also can’t (and hasn’t) ignored the fact that he’s black and how that affects his (and all other African American’s) path in life.
As Michelle Obama said, “When you’ve worked hard and you’ve done well, and you’ve finally walked through that doorway of opportunity… you don’t slam that door shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the exact same chances that helped you succeed.”
In other words, Margaret Thatcher, Marissa Mayer, et al. needed not make women’s issues the only conversation, but it should be part of the conversation. It should be on the agenda.
But I digress. So back to the central question of this post: Can someone like Margaret Thatcher be a role model for young women, even if she didn’t give a damn about the plight of other women. Considering the fact that I completely disagree with her overall politics (and many would argue that she also didn’t give a damn about the plight of poor as well), I personally would say no.
But that’s my choice. And maybe that’s partly of the point. We can choose our role models. Just because a woman manages against the odds to become a CEO or a Prime Minister, doesn’t mean that other women by default have to admire her. It’s not a betrayal to the cause to think critically about who you respect. In fact, judging people on the content of their character is the whole point of equality.
You hear all the time about the power of positive thinking, it’s the stuff of countless “inspirational” quotes cluttering Pinterest boards more that crockpot recipes and wedding hair-dos. And while the “when life gives you lemons” platitudes sound good, how much do any of us really believe them?
I’m a life-long hardcore pessimist, I can dependably see how something might (and probably will) turn out for the worst. And like most people I’m hardest on myself, I could give you a long list of my shortcomings.
It’s not that I want to see the dark side of life, it is in a way a defense mechanism. By preparing for the worst, I’m trying to guard my heart so that if something turns out good I’m pleasantly surprised and if it doesn’t well–that’s what I expected anyways.
And I’m not alone (especially in New York) finding what’s wrong with any given situation is almost effortless. Complaining is as natural as breathing–it’s one of the very first things we do when we are born–cry and scream and complain.
Complaining is just easier than finding the good: “It’s easy to be heavy, it’s hard to be light.”
(see my post on this from two years ago: Hard to Be Light)
But what if there’s something to all this positive thinking talk? Could changing your life be as simple as just changing your attitude? Well…no probably not. But looking for the bright side in situations, assuming the best. And trying, really trying, not to complain could bring a sea change to your day-to-day.
So, after reading this article about five reasons why you should go on a complaint-free diet (it will make you smarter, have more energy, and improve your relationships, for starters), I decided to give myself a complaint audit for one day this week. My total:16. I squeezed four were before I left for work a 8:30am. I only counted verbal (or electronic) complaints, not the ones I silently made to myself (which I did quite frequently because as I was consciously trying not to complain to other people the complaints would rack up and repeat in my head).
I’m not sure if 16 complaints in one day is a lot of not. Being conscious of it certainly reined it in. The other sad thing I noticed is that (probably unsurprisingly) my poor loving husband bore the brunt of hearing my complaints– so there probably is truth to that whole “improve your relationships” thing.
The other element is how much other people complain–how social complaining is: gossiping, commiserating. How will I communicate with others if I can’t complain with them?
Well, we’ll see. Starting tomorrow when I wake up: I’m quitting complaining cold turkey–verbally, electronically, and mentally. We’ll see how long I last and I’ll report back to you with a smile (hopefully).
Ever have one of those days when you feel like you’ve never done anything extraordinary? No? Well, you are about to. This six-year-old British girl is cooler than I could ever hope to be. Seriously. I feel amazing when I pull off a handstand against the wall and I’ve been doing yoga for eight years. Watch and be amazed as this small child kills it at a children’s breakdancing competition (yes, it turns out there is such a thing)