Upon turning 30 years old recently, I dusted off a handful of journals that I’d used to document my 20s. Instead of strolling down memory lane as I had intended for this birthday tradition, I quickly tossed the first one aside after a few depressing entries realizing that there’s no reason to relive the heavy, pain-stricken moments that I deemed worthy of documenting that now defined my college-era memories.

I always think of my journals as a sort-of letter to my future self. But on my 30th, I felt it was more fitting to write a letter that I wish I could have received at 20, some guidance and glimmer of hope that my life would be “okay” from my future self. So here it goes.

Hey Self,

It’s you, 10 years from now.

Great shoes, by the way. You are so much cuter than you think.

I’m writing to tell you about some of fabulous things you have to look forward to in life, because you seem pretty burdened by your troubled love affairs, insurmountable insecurity and dysfunctional family situation right now. I’ll admit– you’ve faced a little too much responsibility and emotional turmoil as you’ve struggled through your teen years. And, although college has not been full of the wild, reckless, carefree adventures you were hoping, I promise you’ll make up for the lack of party invites by tenfold in the coming years.

letter-20-year-old-4During the next decade you will manage to …

somehow travel to Mexico, Ireland, Jamaica, Chicago, Vegas, Virginia, New York, Texas, Seattle and Bali despite your lack of financial stability or ability to budget or pre-plan; you will … also

jump out of an airplane,
host an ‘80s themed roller skating birthday party,
break a suitcase while tumbling down an escalator at the airport in a drunken stupor (on a work trip),
total a car,
see your photo and name in print often,
go on road trips and cruises,
start a career and then abandon it,
tattoo your body with a coy fish of ridiculous proportion,
meet celebrities you admire,
ride in an ambulance,
adopt a Shih Tzu,
live in 15 different homes including two high rise apartments and one house with people you’d never met in a frightening vibrant East L.A. neighborhood; you will …

sing karaoke,
miss a few flights,
sleep with a couple of virgins,
fight with a few friends,
dance on few stages,
eat sushi,
drive a convertible,
pet an elephant,
play beer pong and poker, and
take the train to work. You will also…
be experimental with your fashion and hair,
experience a few dating misadventures and
a couple of really good love stories. You will learn how to…
sneak your way into the VIP section of a Vegas nightclub,
talk to strangers,
work a room,
get out of a gym membership (a feat worthy of writing to you about),
close a sale,
ask for a raise,
face rejection,
lease an apartment,
get fired gracefully, and
buy a car.

You will come to finally understand
how business, taxes and the government work,
how to stand up for yourself at work and in love,
how to let go of relationships that just aren’t working,
that even if you can’t pay all of your bills, that you should always scrounge up enough to cover your car insurance and your rent, and
that there is absolutely no excuse to miss a court date for minor traffic violations

You will come to terms with the fact that despite the physical evidence, you cannot afford the wardrobe you maintain.

You will help to plan
fashion shows,
photo shoots,
funerals and
a high school reunion.

You will experience the heartache and chaotic aftermath
that follow death,
including the times that follow the loss of
your grandmother,
a friend,
your cousin,
your uncle and
your father.

You will have moments
when you feel as if despair and sorrow
are your only companions,
but the pain of life will compel you
to explore new spiritual philosophies,
and also, therapy.

You will work so hard
and feel underpaid most of the time.
You will be humbled by moments
when all you can afford is a bag of rice
to get you through a week’s worth of dinners,
while reflecting upon the moments
when you dropped $100
on single meals.

Even though you will spend many moments
accompanied by fear,
you will find that the universe tends to provide for and guide you
even in the most hopeless of circumstances.

You will learn that just because a job may promise
a lucrative income,
if it doesn’t make your soul sing,
It’s not worth doing.

letter-20-year-old-2Your desire to explore the world will never leave you
and your decision to move outside of your home state
and comfort zone
will be right choice.

No matter how hard you try,
your career path will always lead you
back to the things that do make your soul sing–
writing and human rights issues.

Finally, (and maybe you should sit down for this one), more than one psychic will tell you that you will be a mother and they are correct. Don’t worry, when this moment comes, you will be ready for it and you will accept the responsibility with an open, joyful heart full of gratitude and awe.

Also, some advice:
Take note that you spend too much time worrying. Some of your most productive work will be directly correlated with the nights that you let loose during  late night happy hours at that one bar.

When it comes to big decisions, trust your instincts.

Try to keep in mind that you really can’t change a person, and it’s not your place to try and help them change. This applies to both friendships and relationships. And also your friends’ relationships. Try not to judge your friend for going back to Mr. or Mrs. Wrong over and over again for they are marching on their own path and experiencing their own life lessons. You are seriously not the authority on healthy dating.

You will enjoy the next 10 years more if you realize now that you spread yourself too thin. By 30, you will realize that if there is any habit you wish you could have changed sooner, it’s your tendency to flake out on plans because you’ve overcommitted yourself on such a regular basis that you cease to enjoy your free time.

Also, beware of the habit that the editors of Self Magazine will cleverly dub the “comparathon” in which you set your imaginary bar for success against the accomplishments of your peers, friends, acquaintances, and friends of acquaintances …(Facebook hasn’t yet been invented, but you’ll understand soon enough). Remember, there is no age at which you should have been, done or accomplished anything at all. Your perceived lack of success is grossly out of proportion with reality, and 10 years from now, you will finally realize how far you’ve come, and how much time and opportunity you actually had. Try to start believing in yourself soon and know that it’s okay to feel unsure about what to do with the “rest of your life” at 23 (ya friggin’ perfectionist).


Keep in mind that there are a few things still left to accomplish by the time you turn 30, so don’t feel like you need to cram it all into the next decade. Like (re)investing in a 401k for starters. And, do enjoy those irresponsible, adventurous and, yes, tumultuous moments reserved for one’s 20s. (There is a deadline for which it is socially acceptable to dress like this for Halloween.)

Good luck and enjoy the aforementioned moments rather than the ones you spent time scrawling into the pages of your journal.

With love,

30-Year-Old You


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