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"You believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do."
February 12, 2011 7:03 PM   Subscribe

A reader asks Rumpus columnist Sugar, "what would you tell your 20-something self if you could talk to her now?" "Tiny Beautiful Things," column number 64, answers that question.
posted by liketitanic (79 comments total) 90 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice piece!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:09 PM on February 12, 2011


Wow.
posted by andreaazure at 7:16 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man, that's great and kind of devastating.
posted by Maaik at 7:19 PM on February 12, 2011


Yeah, poignant and sweet.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:23 PM on February 12, 2011


Heartbreaking and beautiful...
posted by twsf at 7:23 PM on February 12, 2011


Super-love me some Sugar.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:25 PM on February 12, 2011


You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.

If there were one thing in my life I'd change, it would be not going to dinner with my father the night before he dropped dead of a heart attack. Thanks for posting this; it made me cry.
posted by immlass at 7:35 PM on February 12, 2011


Thanks for sharing this... but now you're going to make us all sniffly!
posted by Zephyrial at 7:39 PM on February 12, 2011


I have done the reverse of this with rather positive effects.

I am 41 now, and I will occasionally ask myself, "What would the 70 year old me tell me to do?" I usually know exactly what that answer would be, and it is invariably the right one. My life has improved a great deal since I started consulting the future me.
posted by flarbuse at 7:56 PM on February 12, 2011 [72 favorites]


I strongly suspect my 20-year-old self would be too stupid, too naive, and too self-absorbed to listen to any advice I might try to give him.
posted by crunchland at 7:57 PM on February 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


Very nice, bookmarked. Because you can never read too many advice columns.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:59 PM on February 12, 2011


I will be talking to my 20 year old self all night while my 55 year old self is trying to sleep.
posted by wv kay in ga at 8:06 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


"When they tell you to stop your idiotic experiments because everyone knows time travel is impossible, tell them I said bullshit."
posted by The Bellman at 8:10 PM on February 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


From the article:

The useless days will add up to something.

Yeah to that. Or as some hippie once said, "Sometimes the lights all shining on me -- other times I can hardly see." Nevertheless, you're on your way to somewhere or other.
posted by philip-random at 8:16 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a new 52 year old I would tell my 16 year old self to suck it up. Grow a pair. And stop emoing all over the fucking place. You didn't drop dead at 23 like you wanted to. And all the bullshit you pulled since then made me pissed off.

Don't wait until 44 years old to go to college. Stop all the drugs and fucking, and get some focus. Pick something to do, and do it. You were a great photographer until you left your Canon FTBn in the shop so long that the shop closed and you lost it. You were good at advertising until you sent those nude pictures to Berkey via your job at Norman, Craig and Kummel and the cops came to the job. Then the boss fired you. From a fucking High School internship!

Don't think that the 70s are going to last forever. The Rocky Horror Show is NOT a way of life! Buckle down!

And by the way, do you have any of that fine blotter? That shit was fabulous.
posted by Splunge at 8:27 PM on February 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


Although it seems to deliver more detailed advice, it reminds me of Desiderata: "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste..."

Hippies I knew always had a copy hanging on the wall. I preferred the National Lampoon version: Deteriorata.
posted by fredludd at 8:42 PM on February 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.

Oh christ, that's beautiful. I was expecting some tenuous mind-rot, and then, wow, out of nowhere. Thanks for the link.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 9:03 PM on February 12, 2011


Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.

This got me. Damn.
posted by dave99 at 9:24 PM on February 12, 2011


If I had known that men actually paid for "it" I would have been retired by 30. ;-)
posted by ~Sushma~ at 9:32 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.

"We were a restless generation, sir. We went to a party and we always wondered if there weren’t another party even more wonderful not far away. We were spoiled and charming. We thought we were like no one else. We worked hard to be clever, to be fascinating, and for awhile our name was on everyone’s lips, but people get tired of a name after awhile, and suddenly I woke up one morning with a rather large crack in my heart, and found that I was tiresome to my friends and I was pitied by my enemies and my hair was thinning and so was my enthusiasm, and then I withdrew from the amusements and curiosities of life and reduced my ambition to that of doing my best to live each day with some honor..."
posted by weston at 9:34 PM on February 12, 2011 [10 favorites]


You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.


Yeah. I holler this at back in time at Young Mustachio all the time, but she never listens.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:35 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


philip-random: "From the article:

The useless days will add up to something.

Yeah to that. Or as some hippie once said, "Sometimes the lights all shining on me -- other times I can hardly see." Nevertheless, you're on your way to somewhere or other
"

Well that hippy's friend Bob once said, "Even a blind man knows when the sun is shining. He can feel it."

I really liked this linked advice post a lot. But, I am not so sure that I would want the advice of my 40 something self. Even in hindsight. I look back on my 20's as a period of my life where I was trying all sorts of things, growing, making dumb ass mistakes, missing opportunities and even finding great success in certain areas.

What would I tell myself, not to have gone to those 100+ Dead shows when I heard those two hippies sing those lines at least 20 times? Not to have eaten that little piece of paper before finding out if the little white pill would work? Not to have tried to talk to that girl I ended up dating for 4 years before she broke my heart? Not to have gone on that hiking canoeing trip because I would tear up my knee so much I still am affected by it 27 years later? Not to have had self doubts and wallow in self pity after the business I tried to start failed miserably leaving me living on my brothers floor sleeping on a fold up beach lounger I would have to open up every night before "bed"? Not to have told that told that asshole cop to fuck off before he whacked my arm so hard with a billy club that I could not unbend it for a week?

Nope, I lived and I learned. I had good times and bad. I screwed up and I succeeded. I lived my life in my twenties. Would I change anything? Maybe. Sure. Do I regret anything? Not really. Without sounding too cliche, I regret what I didn't do more than what I did do.

But as the same hippy philip-random mentioned above also sang, "I am not always right, but I've never been wrong."
posted by AugustWest at 9:42 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


AugustWest: "philip-random: "But as the same hippy philip-random mentioned above also sang, "I am not always right, but I've never been wrong.""

Interesting... For me, I think, I would adapt that to:

"I've not always been wrong, but I've rarely been right."

To me, though, it doesn't matter one tiny bit. I've lived. I've been fortunate enough to have 45 years on this big blue ball as a human who had a wonderful childhood, a great set of parents, and rarely a care in the world. Whatever happens in the future is merely icing on the cake. I've had a good run (and I hope it continues for a long time). I feel that I've won.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:09 PM on February 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


InsertNiftyNameHere, you just reminded me of this G.E. Patterson poem I'm very fond of.

Autobiographia

I had everything and luck: Rings of smoke
blown for me; sunlight safe inside the leaves
of cottonwoods; pure, simple harmonies
of church music, echoes of slave songs; scraps
of candy wrappers -- airborne. Everything.
Mother and father, brother, aunts, uncles;
chores and schoolwork and playtime. Everything.

I was given gloves against winter cold.
I was made to wear gloves when I gardened.
I was made to garden; taught to hold forks
in my left hand when cutting, in my right
when bringing food to my mouth. Everything.

I had clothes I was told not to wear outside;
a face you could clean up almost handsome;
I had friends to fight with and secrets, spread
all over the neighborhood; the best teachers,
white and colored. I'm not making this up.
I knew that I had everything. Still do.
posted by liketitanic at 10:18 PM on February 12, 2011 [24 favorites]


liketitanic, that's pretty much nailed my sentiment. Thanks for posting that!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:22 PM on February 12, 2011


It's even more sad to me, because the young you (as some have said) will not listen.

Yeah. I holler this at back in time at Young Mustachio all the time, but she never listens.

Ah yes, the Twilight Zone: Spur of the Moment.

You say all those things, and you'd just get your heart broken into tiny beautiful things, because the young you is not the old you. It is a tale that has been told in cinema numerous times, with the same message.

Provide evidence, true events, solid stories, heartbreaking tales like the one this person shared. It will not matter. Young you will go right on ahead and make those mistakes, do those wrong things with those wrong people, and live. Maybe that's how it is supposed to be, because it won't ever be any other way.
posted by cashman at 10:31 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.
That one really got to me. Henceforth I am considering this advice from my future self.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:46 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.

When I was a kid, Voltron was the craze with all the kids. But damn those toys were not cheap - you had to buy five robot lions that you stuck together to make Voltron. Despite their price however, all the kids in my neighbourhood had them. All of them except me.

One Christmas morning, I opened one of my presents to find a Voltron box. Did I really get one of the robot lions? Or, Lord help me, the entire set? No. Instead, it was some cheapo variantion of Voltron, that was half the size, and didn't detatch. You just wound it up and Voltron would rise up 45 degrees, from a robot in a crouched position to a robot in a crouched position rotated 45 degrees. It was pretty pathetic.

I looked at the box and looked at my parents, staring at me excitedly. "This is the Voltron you wanted, right?" I looked at the toy again, swallowed my disappointment and said "Yeah, this is great!"

I tried to make the best of a bad situation and turn it into a toothbrush dispenser (i.e. stick the toothbrush between it's legs, press the button and have the toothbrush be presented to me).

That toy didn't last long. I don't know what happened to it (it's been a long time!). But I tried my very best to enjoy it while I had it. My parents did their best, and goddamn, I was going to acknowledge it.

In the years that have passed, I have received some pretty tacky presents from my parents. And while I am probably over-thinking my parents' sensitivity to me not liking their presents, and while it would probably make everyone's life easier if I said "hey, do you still have the receipt for that?", it'll be a cold day in Hell before I do.

I'm far from being the best son in the world. And they're far from being the best parents in the world. But I still wear the blue and orange hat with the pompoms, I have hung the bright pink curtains in the house, and despite my wife's protests, I keep the handmade crochet sofa cover draped over the couch in the living room, where everyone can see them.

What's the point of this story? I'm not trying to toot my horn here. Honestly, I'm not. I'm nothing special. But I do believe that it has made me a better person, and while it's not an action that will have an impact on their lives, it will have an impact on yours - if you are lucky enough to receive a present from someone who matters, embrace that gift as hard as you can. Make it a part of your life. You don't need to change who you are, but envelop that gift and more importantly, the thought behind it - positive or negative - into the mosaic that is your life.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:51 PM on February 12, 2011 [21 favorites]


And by the way, do you have any of that fine blotter? That shit was fabulous.

The temptation would be to tell younger me, "Go ahead, man. Do acid, but only twenty-two times. Then STOP! Because that twenty-third trip will take you to hell (or some place similar)." But then, I realize that trip made me. The psychic fractures I suffered, the long period of reassembling myself piece by piece, the scar tissue earned -- that's a serious part of who I've come to be. I'm stronger for it.

So instead, I guess I'd just say something like, "Try sushi sooner, and maybe drink less shit beer."
posted by philip-random at 10:54 PM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


"what would you tell your 20-something self if you could talk to her now?"

Nothing at all because my 20-something self would tell my 40-something self to STFU.
posted by three blind mice at 11:13 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


three blind mice: " "what would you tell your 20-something self if you could talk to her now?"

Nothing at all because my 20-something self would tell my 40-something self to STFU.
"

Ain't that the truth! Great call!
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:20 PM on February 12, 2011


One of the Related Posts below is among the first things I'd say (though 20 would have been a few years too late):

Don't talk to the police June 25, 2008
posted by vorfeed at 11:33 PM on February 12, 2011


One evening you will be rolling around on the wooden floor of your apartment with a man who will tell you he doesn’t have a condom. You will smile in this spunky way that you think is hot and tell him to fuck you anyway. This will be a mistake for which you alone will pay.

This is horrible advice. If you don't use a condom, not only does this have the potential to affect the lives of future sex partners, it also has the potential to get you pregnant and thus potentially to affect the lives of the man and the child, and the potential to affect the lives of everyone who cares about you or depends on you in some small way.

Good advice might look more like this:

One evening you will be rolling around on the wooden floor of your apartment with a man who will tell you he doesn’t have a condom. You will smile in this spunky way that you think is hot and tell him that he's in luck because you were well-prepared and have some in the vase next to your prized bonsai.

posted by aniola at 11:43 PM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forget that. Would you fight your twenty year old self? It only occurs to me because in my case I think it'd be inevitable.
posted by cmoj at 11:49 PM on February 12, 2011


I am 23 and I was sort of scrolling through the piece, mentally cataloguing the points as "I already know that" and "This one's stupid", but then I hit this one:
One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.
And I stopped and thought, damn. That hits home. That one I will remember.

(although I think my mom would see right through my attempts to say it's great- she's psychic that way.)

Good article.
posted by Xany at 12:00 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a new 52 year old I would tell my 16 year old self to suck it up. Grow a pair. And stop emoing all over the fucking place.

I fail to see how the author of this post heeded said advice, my empathy for a lost parent notwithstanding. That said, if you found this helpful and/or moving, more power to you.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:01 AM on February 13, 2011


This is horrible advice.

That wasn't advice.
posted by lumensimus at 12:03 AM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


My 20 year old self had his shit together. He struggled, but at least he struggled.

Somewhere along the way, he stopped.

I should have 20 year old me come now and tell 45 year old me what the fuck I am supposed to do, and how to do it.

I'll take a long cool drag on a cigarette and consider what he has to say. And I'll be jealous of his energy, his enthusiasm, and I will know that he doesn't want to know what's in store for him.

I'll tell him he'll be fine. Just keep doing whatever it is you do. I'll laugh silently.
posted by Xoebe at 12:06 AM on February 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


the author of this post = the author of the post linked to by the author of this post, of course.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:07 AM on February 13, 2011


You know how advice always comes in contradictory pairs - fortune favors the bold, look before you leap - that kind of thing? Your 40-year-old self can tell your 20-year-old self which one turned out to be right.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:12 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have done the reverse of this with rather positive effects.

I am 41 now, and I will occasionally ask myself, "What would the 70 year old me tell me to do?" I usually know exactly what that answer would be, and it is invariably the right one. My life has improved a great deal since I started consulting the future me.
posted by flarbuse


H'okay, so... what you're touching on is Self-Actualization.

Also, Carl Rogers is the man. Scroll down to the part on incongruity. It's some pretty genius stuff. While consulting your 70 yrs old self (ideal self), you are striving to change your current self (real self). The difference between the two (incongruity) results in anxiety that can be either motivating or debilitating. I'm sure you can read the rest.

I really enjoyed Carl Rogers.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 12:36 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


what would you tell your 20-something self

Carry on, Meatbomb, you are doing an exemplary job.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:48 AM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Forget that. Would you fight your twenty year old self? It only occurs to me because in my case I think it'd be inevitable.

Man, just let me at him. The little fucker has it coming.
posted by brennen at 1:22 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


1. It's only a bank.
2. Cops are just people.
3. All you need are true friends.
4. It's only a bank.
posted by artof.mulata at 1:37 AM on February 13, 2011


"The useless days will add up to something."

I'm 25. Last night i stayed up until 7am playing Bayonetta. Thanks

Seriously this year I've decided to do the things I want to do and not worry too much about finding love. But I still feel directionless and goal-less
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:39 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's got to be a name for this kind of writing. It's basically the same exact style as the two thoughtcatalog pieces that were linked here recently.

Maybe call it something like Second-Person Monologue Confessional?

It was kinda poignant the first time I saw it, but I'm beginning to think of it as kind of a gimmick.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:14 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Previously on MetaFilter.
And previoslier.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:26 AM on February 13, 2011


Here, I'll give it a shot :
Dear Jeremy. Or Jake. Or Panama. Or afroblanca. Or Afroblanco. I know you like nicknames, but I don't know your age. So I'll just call you JP. Listen up.

None of the things that you think are your problems are actually problems. Nothing you think is urgent is actually urgent. Nothing that you think is necessary is actually necessary. Except for school. If you're in school right now, keep on going with that. It will do you good eventually.

Have more sex and less drugs. Realize that worry is something you do to keep yourself busy because you're afraid to tackle serious challenges. Take some time to define yourself. Seriously, listen to me. Take some time to decide on who you are, because right now you only define yourself in terms of what you aren't. Forget about counterculture, and instead try to engage with culture. Create something, don't just tear down other peoples' things. Someday you'll go digging through your past to find some kind of ideals that you betrayed, and you'll be disappointed to find that that you never had any.

What I said about the drugs? I meant that. Escapism can be fun and enriching, but it's still escapism. Stop running for a moment and catch your breath. What are you really running from?

Try to forgive other people. Try to forgive your family. Even if it doesn't work, you can at least say you tried. Don't do it for you, do it for me goddamn it, the 32-year-old you who never had the chance to make things right with your parents. Oh hell, you're not going to listen to me on this one.

Don't be so single-minded. Never be single-minded. Whatever you're working on is not important, and you'll regret treating people like crap. Single-minded determination is a way to build a career, but not a very fulfilling one.

That girl you're dating? Give her a chance. You know the one I'm talking about. She's not perfect, but they never are. Neither are you. If you never give yourself the chance to feel, how will you know what you're capable of?

Whatever it is you are thinking or doing, realize that every moment is just a moment and nothing more. It is not a place, it is not an eternity, it will not last forever. A moment is the most temporary thing there is. The past is not something you need to run from; in fact, it's the one thing you will never have to deal with again. And while you're busy building walls and holding grudges, everything you love is gradually being erased from existence.
See? That was easy. Pretty much anyone could do it.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:57 AM on February 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


But it still works
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:09 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


AAPL.

No matter what stupid things Steve does.
No matter how much it looks like Microsoft is going to finally crush them.
All through the Scully years.
Even when they fire The Woz.

'Cause that shit is going to pay off. Seriously.
posted by madajb at 4:15 AM on February 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Dear 20-year-old Decani,

you've basically figured most of the important stuff out, so well done you, you irksome little smartarse. I'm afraid you're not going to amount to much in life, but you won't care so much about that when you're older.

The lump you find in your scrotum when you're 23 isn't going to be cancer, so save yourself a few sleepless nights.

When you are 28 you will meet a woman with whom you could fall in love, and decide to marry. It will seem like a really good idea. It isn't. Don't, for Christ's sake, do it. Run from her. Flee like the wind. Do not look back.

Oh, and you know how you think you don't like scotch? You're wrong. Still, you'll be happy enough with the beer and the wine for another thirty years yet, so don't worry about it.
posted by Decani at 4:43 AM on February 13, 2011


When you are 28 you will meet a woman with whom you could fall in love, and decide to marry. It will seem like a really good idea. It isn't. Don't, for Christ's sake, do it. Run from her. Flee like the wind. Do not look back.

That's one of those hard-earned lessons you don't learn any other way than by doing it.

Oh, and you know how you think you don't like scotch? You're wrong.

But then comes the reward.
posted by three blind mice at 5:00 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


When that really sweet but fucked up gay couple invites you over to their cool apartment to do ecstasy with them, say no.

Ok, I understand that this might be "good adivce" for "your life", but as part of the gay couple who will be doing the inviting, I really wish you'd come.
posted by jweed at 5:49 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dear 20-year-old self: Our brain is at its creative peak. Go publish something.
posted by drlith at 6:06 AM on February 13, 2011


I'd tell my 20-year-old self to stay off my lawn and get a haircut.
posted by jonmc at 6:19 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dear liketitanic,

What was going on when you were a kid and teenager was that you were being abused. That's what was happening. It's not that you were bad or too fat or too much trouble or too loud or too lazy. It's that your mom was abusing you. That is what that kind of treatment is called. Your teachers all knew but no one could do anything to help you except be kind. Start telling your therapist about it now, instead of ten years from now. You'll never figure her out, your mom, because just when things are starting to get better between you, she dies. Just enjoy the sweet times you have with her, because it turns out you have very few purely sweet memories of her.

You wonder if there's something wrong with you because you still miss your father as if someone just called you up and told you that he's dead. There may or may not be something wrong with you, but you will still miss him more days than not for a long time. Eventually you'll figure out that it's not your mom and dad that you miss, but the parents you were supposed to have, the Platonic ideal of parents--or maybe even just the dented-can version that you get at the Aldi--that you wished for. This kind of missing will somehow seem worse.

Your older brother is never coming back. He's gone. It's over. It would be easier for you if he died, but you won't get that kind of easy. Instead you'll just have to know that he's out there living some other life and to wonder if he occasionally thinks about you. For such a long time you try to keep all of them--your brothers and sister--close, because they're your family and that's what you do, right? Wrong. Wrong. Spare yourself years of anguish. Do the best you can to communicate what you want and need, and let the rest go. If they aren't ready to be family to you, you can't make them.

You know what will help you? Meditation and yoga. Go yesterday. And exercise. And therapy. But you already know about that one. Start using your insurance to pay for your psych meds instead of paying for them out of pocket because your mother told you to. It's just another way for her to hurt and control you. And it turns out you actually have the metabolism of a small, wily forest creature. You can actually lose weight pretty easily. You kept yourself fat to protect yourself from your mother. Stop doing that. You don't need to.

Pay more--way more--for your first tattoos. They'll be better that way. You probably will actually regret them, despite what you tell people now. But regretting them sort of seems like part of the point.

You'll get a cat like you wanted. Stop at three, okay?

You will always wish that you could do what I'm pretending to do now--to go back into the past to protect your tender younger self. You know you can't, really, though you'll read somewhere sometime that whenever you think about your younger self, you're sending her energy and love and care through some hole in the universe that makes it back there into her heart. But the thing is, when you think about her, what you'll realize, finally, is that she's doing the best she can with what she has--that she is fighting off the worst of the sadness and using whatever's around to protect her tenderest places. There is nothing wrong with her. There never was. Eventually you'll realize that you don't need or want to protect your tenderest places, but you'll never fault those younger yous for being so afraid. You'll just wish and wish that you could do something to make it better. You can't, but send the love anyway.

Love,
liketitanic
posted by liketitanic at 8:13 AM on February 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


"Tim, about the wasp thing, seriously, NO."
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:16 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, so I laughed and felt sad at the appropriate places, and, I have to admit, it is pretty good advice from where I am sitting, but:

I teach undergraduates, and I talk to a lot of them about school and other stuff, and most of them are pretty impervious to advice. Because, for the most part, we learn our life lessons and judgment and morality by doing rather than by being told. I can imagine going back in time to tell my 20-year old self a lot of things, but I am pretty sure than my 20YOS wouldn't thank me and would forget or ignore most of the advice (and I was a pretty thoughtful kid who avoided a lot of mistakes by paying attention to other people and their advice and mistakes).

Plus, if you actually took your advice from your future self, you wouldn't really learn the lessons, and then, when you went back in time to impart them to your 20YOS, you would be arguing from received wisdom rather than bitter experience, and that 20YOS would sense that you were a phony, and ignore you and go on to make the same mistakes or worse ones, and probably the whole fabric of space and time would come undone, and, really, stay away from time travel and giving advice, it never goes well as it did when you imagined it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:20 AM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


A lot of it hit me, but this one resonated the most:

"There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness."

This 44-year old is already trying to say this to her 12 year old son. That's how important it is.
posted by sundrop at 8:38 AM on February 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I would tell my 20 year old self that I should have transferred from my fancy liberal arts college to a school where I could have obtained a degree in accounting or something immediately translatable into a job, instead of insisting that the brand name of my college would carry me through life, open up fabulous opportunities, etc. I would have forgone grad school at a shiny British university, and perhaps have been able to buy a townhouse in a region of the US that I'd actually like to live in.

And maybe I would have told myself to get married sooner and seriously consider having children sooner, possibly a couple years after graduating instead of waiting until I'm completely ambivalent about it and running out of time to decide.
posted by anniecat at 8:38 AM on February 13, 2011


Dear younger self,
You and I both know that you will marry him, against the advice of several people.

I know that even if I had a mystic message from the future, I would have married him anyway.

So marry, be happy, but more than anything, don't lose yourself. Stand up for yourself, stop the pattern of intense criticism as it begins and understand it is emotional abuse and it's not ok. If your change the patterns of your communication with him, you two might have a chance, or you'll both part on better terms and be less scarred for it.

Even if it doesn't work out... you'll be ok, you have the strength you had in your youth and a fantastic network of people who care about you.

and write your books, and work on your art, because you'll be doing it a long time, and it's much more enjoyable after those early years of frustrating

Me
posted by dreamling at 8:39 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


When you are 28 you will meet a woman with whom you could fall in love, and decide to marry. It will seem like a really good idea. It isn't. Don't, for Christ's sake, do it. Run from her. Flee like the wind. Do not look back

It's a good thing you did marry her, actually, at least for your future partners' sakes or else you would have been whining to them about "the one that got away"---a story all women with male friends and relatives have to be bored hearing about while pretending to be sympathetic about.
posted by anniecat at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Great article, and yeah, even though this style is getting a touch cliched it's still good advice and it's still nice to read.

I've been wondering about a career change recently, and so far I haven't consulted my 45-year old self about it...maybe I should. That said, I am consulting my 5-year old self, and he's been giving me some great suggestions. Although I'm not sure that "astronaut rock star ninja" is actually a career.
posted by ZsigE at 10:20 AM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I asked a similar question on AskMefi 5+ years ago. The responses there were awesome, and I still revisit it occasionally.
posted by Acey at 10:23 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


After thinking about it for a while, I'm more concerned about 18-19 year old me:

For fuck's sake, man, STYX are an awful, awful band, and so's Kansas, and Yes will never again release a record that matters, and yeah, DISCO may suck but PUNK doesn't. In fact, you know how you've already figured out that the Punks throw the best parties. Well that's not just some weird thing, it's integral to the music, the culture, the dynamic human force that punk represents. So cut your fuckin' 70s hair and ditch the flared jeans and find a mosh pit. It will go a long way toward saving your soul ... not that you won't figure this out in a year or three anyway. Which brings us to ...

None of the things that you think are your problems are actually problems.

Most so-called normal people don't have what I'd call "problems". Problems are things like growing up in a war zone and having to dodge snipers on the way to the grocery store, or having to reconcile which paramilitary gang you should "pretend" to belong to.

No, what most of us have are "situations", which are less extreme, often far more complicated, nuanced. So for early 20s me who was actually well on his way to achieving certain levels of workable clarity on life-the-universe-everything (I had a handle on my drinking and drugging by then, I'd found the moshpit, I was no longer desperate to please my friends, my family, my society -- to conform as it were) ... the big "LEARN" I still had coming was more philosophical than anything. It was HOW to frame things: how to view frustrations and roadblocks and setbacks (career, emotional, relational) not as hated enemies but as annoying friends. Because in tenaciously working through their challenges (yeah, call them "situations"), I was becoming mature, I was acquiring functional wisdom, I was starting to be someone whose voice actually mattered -- to myself among others.
posted by philip-random at 10:33 AM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everything I'd tell my 20-something self now from my almost-40 perspective is pretty much exactly what I was telling myself then. Considering my life has worked out about as close to plan as one can reasonably hope, that's something ... but I'm more of the view that the world is a pretty simple place, and what losers have in common is a refusal to be clear-eyed about the world or honest about them.
posted by MattD at 10:57 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd skip trying to tell my 20-year-old self anything and just buy shares of Apple and Microsoft.
posted by crunchland at 11:05 AM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, this is lovely.
posted by colfax at 11:32 AM on February 13, 2011


You should run away from me before I devour you

That part is just about the hottest thing I have ever read, and when, exactly, is that scenario going to play out in my life?
posted by jenlovesponies at 12:01 PM on February 13, 2011


I suppose that there are a couple of bits of advice that I could give my 20-year-old self that would be handy, but unfortunately I feel just as stupid now about most things as I did at twenty and I still don't feel like I've figured out any of the important stuff. Hopefully in another twenty years there will be a guy with better ideas coming along but I really don't feel terribly optimistic about that.
posted by XMLicious at 12:24 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am 22. I've never had a drug problem, but any time spent believing you don't have a right to tiny beautiful things is too long. I am a recent college graduate, unemployed and living with my parents, sleeping in my same old childhood bedroom -- honestly, a standard example of my generation. It helps to have someone tell me that all the wasted days add up to something, even if that someone isn't actually telling me in particular and that something isn't here, or even known yet. I've always assumed "stuff happening" has a pause button and a play button, and I never thought of it aggregating during the slow times rather than just sitting on hiatus, during which time I was supposed to be depressed and agonizing over how to press the mysterious button that starts my life going again.

Apologies if this is excessively melodramatic. It's past 4AM in my time zone and this is exactly what I needed to read at this point in my life.
posted by mismatched at 2:29 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


She's crazy. Pretty does not cancel out crazy. Get out of the relationship now and let some other poor bastard be the first of her many ex-husbands.
posted by wkearney99 at 7:37 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was 23 I was invited to be a volunteer at a Poetry Magazine banquet with Adrienne Rich. After I sat at my book table, and dinner started, I sat at a table with all the prominent Chicago poets of the time, and babbled my head off like an idiot about this and that and activism and Doing Something About It. They were all very polite and asked me questions and let me talk. I barely listened. Across the table from me was a forty-something woman, a poet whose name I can't remember. She had greying hair and bitten fingernails. She was bored by me. Bewildered. It made me uncomfortable. At one point she said, "I'm more concerned with my internal journey." It made me indignant. How could you only be concerned about yourself?? How could you not care what was happening in the world? How could you sit home and write poetry and not be out in the streets protesting?

Now I'm 43. I am her. Though I don't bite my fingernails and my hair is dyed red, I am more concerned with my internal journey than holding a sign or locking myself to a logging truck. Only now do I realize there is time in life to do both.
posted by RedEmma at 9:57 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am 21 and this made me wonder what mistakes I am going to make in the coming decades, whether I will regret the decisions I am making now, and where I will end up - because of or despite it all.

I am just barely self-aware enough to see in myself the patterns of reckless abandon and devil-may-care attitude so many people associate with their 20s, but that self-awareness seems to make me think I am smarter than that, or that I don't need to worry about it, or something. I think a lot of people probably felt this way at 21.

I think I am much older than I am and I can't imagine that in 21 more years I won't have it all figured out, since I'm so close now. That's definitely part of being 21.
posted by hepta at 10:54 AM on February 14, 2011


Everything I'd tell my 20-something self now from my almost-40 perspective is pretty much exactly what I was telling myself then. Considering my life has worked out about as close to plan as one can reasonably hope, that's something ... but I'm more of the view that the world is a pretty simple place, and what losers have in common is a refusal to be clear-eyed about the world or honest about them.

"Be charitable" would never come up, obviously, because the 40-year you wouldn't imagine saying it and the 20-year you wouldn't know what it meant.

Which is okay. Some of us had a lot of advantages growing up. Some of us didn't.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:08 PM on February 14, 2011


Your parents will never do a good enough job. Your friends, or your English teacher, or that one sympathetic woman at your theatre class...they're never going to adopt you and raise you as their own.

Be brave, little woman, and raise yourself. Learn to hem pants and stitch buttons. Learn to feed yourself with home-cooked meals. Yes, you need to separate lights and darks. No, you don't have to buy the whole bunch of bananas -- just rip off the ones you want.

You know how you feel when you hold a child's hand as they cross the street? Learn to feel that about yourself. Be your own mother, your own child: responsible for and beholden to, loving and beloved.
posted by harperpitt at 3:01 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


harperpitt, that reminds me of another poem.

WHAT THE LIVING DO
by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss--we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.
posted by liketitanic at 5:56 PM on February 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


Never talk yourself out of a first kiss.

(Oh, wait, I remember now that you're a totally clueless, inexperienced dimbulb. 1) When the hottest retail copygirl in the Pacific Northwest is lying on a futon kissing your neck, kiss her back. 2) Don't hesitate to kiss the Ok Cupid date who rocked Weezer karaoke with you and told you great, intimate stories and invited you in for tea at midnight. 3) And not a first kiss, per se, but if you move out of the way too expensive apartment you can afford both the trip to Ohio and to Virginia... no, really, you don't have all the time in the world to solve the distance in that long distance relationship.)
posted by Skwirl at 9:04 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, come on. You do not need to separate lights and darks. Do not corrupt the minds of impressionable young twenty-year-olds.
posted by XMLicious at 9:49 PM on February 17, 2011


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