First let me set the scene a little. It’s 1988 and I’m 20yrs old. I’ve deferred from my undergraduate Commerce degree and haven’t yet commenced my Psychology studies. I spent almost a year working as an accounting clerk at World Expo 88 in Brisbane and am now in a finance role at an Australian (National) Football League club. It’s an exciting time. My life is about all-things-sport.
I live with my two best friends* in a share house in East Brisbane, along with a weird guy who lives in the ‘basement’. I’ve (only) recently started drinking alcohol and go out regularly to places like Cafe Neon, The Underground and Rosie’s Tavern. We dance to INXS, The Choirboys, Salt ‘N’ Pepa and Rick Astley.
In some ways the world is at my feet.
The 49, nearly 50 year old me has some important advice for THAT Deborah. The 20yr old Deborah of 1988.
1. STOP DIETING!
You’re no longer anorexic. You survived. Good job. But your bulimia and binge-eating will be problematic for the next 30+ years, so GET HELP NOW. Ditch the idiot Freudian psychotherapist you’re seeing and contemplate the concept of not-dieting. It won’t be a ‘thing’ for 20+ years but the weight you are now… the weight you’re at when you think you’re disgustingly fat and unattractive – will be a much-desired ‘goal’ weight in 30yrs time. You will waste those years losing and gaining, 10, 20, 30kgs and so forth until you will be 60kg heavier 28 years from now. #FFS, stop dieting and just live! (Oh… and 1988 Deborah, I’ll explain the hashtag thing later!)
The older me cannot even imagine what you could have achieved had your mind and energy not wasted so much time obsessing about food, calories, eating, your body and your weight. (Waiting until you are worthy.)
2. You are worthy of love
Sure there was your childhood sweetheart M, then the few dates with ‘Dooberry’ last year, but you need to stop assuming you have heaps of time. Sure you’re only 20 now but blink and you will be 40. Get past your awe / fear of the opposite sex and take that leap. Or – and I am not joking – your next date will take place in your mid 30s and possibly arranged via a thing called, the INTERNET.
Oh, and if you don’t, at least thing about freezing your eggs before you get too old. Yes, really. It IS a thing.
3. Learn to code
I realise this makes no sense and computers seem to be some fad for nerds who enjoy PacMan. However… that code you learnt in your final year of high school; <STOP> <IF X IS GREATER THAN 5 GOTO…> (or something) is an option you might want to consider pursuing. Alternatively buy shares in companies called Google, Microsoft or Apple.
4. Worry less about what others think
And yes I know this is easier said than done but it’s better to learn this lesson early. People will let you down. All. Of. The. Time.
You will stress about things that won’t even register to others. You worry incessantly about their feelings. Sometimes it’s reciprocated and those will be the people you are still friends with in many years to come. Others will come and go. Own your own feelings and no one else’s.
5. Trust yourself
Take advice from others (including future you/me) with a grain of salt.
It’s time to remember the old lady who swallowed the fly. Well, apparently she swallowed all sorts of shit, but it started because she swallowed the fly. She needed to stop there.
Conversely, everything that came after was because she swallowed the fly.
I’ve talked before about the ‘sliding doors’ moments in my life: When I enrolled in journalism at Uni. When I almost applied for a TV gig after doing some commercials. Not letting a guy (who looked after my shoes at a ball) ask me out in 1985 when I knew he wanted to and when I wanted him to but I was scared.
There are things I regret – predominantly, the lack of partner (falling in love / being loved in return) and kids.
But it also occurs to me that many of the experiences I’ve cherished would NOT have had happened IF things had been different. I got involved in international development in the mid 1990s because I was searching for some ‘meaning’ to life. Sure I spent about 3yrs as a volunteer with no income, but that later led to life as a diplomat and some great opportunities.
If I’d had a partner and kids I might not have been able to take time off for my writing. Or pursue my seachange. I wouldn’t have had that flexibility.
In another life I might have married in my 20s as planned and had a family. But we may have split up after much angst and our kids could have been fucked-up juvenile delinquents. Or worse, lawyers. #joking
And I recently talked about the lessons an unhappy life-focussed-on-work had taught me about appreciating balance.
With the bad comes the good. We learn from our mistakes. We appreciate the rainbows because of the storm.
So 20yr old me, though you could take my advice and learn from my mistakes, anything you do differently will set off some cosmic (time / space continuum) chain reaction that means everything else will change so I really can’t predict how things will turn out.
The only real advice I should offer is to make the best decision you can with the information you have at hand. And then go with your gut.
Is there a key piece of advice you would give your 20yr old self?
* Both of whom remain my BFFs today. The weird basement dweller was never to be seen again. Thank god.
I’m linking up with Denyse Whelan today who’s sent us back in time.