Advice to my 20yr old self

Sunday, October 15, 2017 Permalink

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 a revenue 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.

My 21st birthday. And yes, I was possibly drunk.

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.

Be yourself.

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 dhange 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.

33 Comments
  • Kate W
    October 15, 2017

    Great post Deb.

    Advice for my 20 year old self? Probably 1) Go back to rowing (so much regret now that I missed a season because of illness and then didn’t return). 2) Start good saving habits 3) Even though you feel as if yo have to start work asap, don’t. Take six months to travel on your own.

    I could probably keep going but really, I have very few regrets (certainly not things that can’t be rectified! That said, I haven’t gone back to rowing…yet).

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2017

      Yes, I struggled with this because I realised that IF I had done things differently (studied something different, worked elsewhere, gone to State basketball training camp when at Uni), my whole life would have been different and some of the good stuff might not have happened. (It’s sometimes hard to identify what that good stuff is, but as I have a lovely house, good car, great friends, original family, okay career… I’m thinking there’s some.)

  • Glen available
    October 16, 2017

    Advice to my twenty-year-old self?

    Don’t bother following the band Timbuk3 ’cause their future’s definitely not gonna be anywhere near bright enough to warrant you having to wear shades.

    And to anyone reading this who wasn’t around back in the 80’s – don’t bother trying to understand even a single word of any of that!

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2017

      I didn’t remember the name of the band, but the lyrics are definitely familiar. I kinda think the 1980s feels like the era of the one-hit-wonders. Though perhaps people will be saying that in 30yrs about some of the songs / bands out now…

  • Lisa
    October 16, 2017

    I so agree with the diet thing (48yo and I’m still doing it – however, i’m one of the lucky (not sure luck has a lot to do with it) ones who ditched alot of weight once I hit 40yo, and although it has crept up again, know I’ll never be the size I was in my 20s and 30s). Mostly though – life is a journey, I married very young, have five children, and now I’d love that sea-change but feel pretty trapped – would love to work overseas, would love to have my own cottage with just me (and maybe the last daughter yet to leave home), but its hard to cut loose after 28yrs of marriage. BUT – I never wanted to travel or work overseas in my 20s, I did what I wanted to do then, and loved it, so no regrets … I just need to sort out my “now” 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2017

      It’s a dilemma for a lot of people isn’t it? Have a family young and then have time to travel in your 40s and onwards or travel and then settle down in your mid-late 30s? I’m still agog that people my age (49) could possibly have grandkids but it’s entirely feasible of course. I’ve noticed friends who did have kids when younger suddenly sort of reappearing on the social scene again or having more freedom.

      PS. I always felt a bit weird that I wasn’t keen to do the backpacker thing in my early 20s but I was never a ‘just take off’ kind of person.

  • Jo
    October 16, 2017

    I loved reading this. I have no idea what I’d tell my 20 year old self – although as she already knew everything, I don’t think that she’d stop to listen to an old woman who obviously knows nothing.

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2017

      I don’t know if I would have accepted advice back then. My dad tended to ‘lecture’. It was one of the things that annoyed me the most about him. It wasn’t philosophical / meaning of life advice or anything and it always felt like a lecture so I paid little attention. I think I’ve always been a ‘no one knows my mind like I do’ sort of person so I was reticent to accept advice. And I’ve never been a trusting person so even if I know someone has my best interests at heart, I’ll still assume I know better.

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    October 16, 2017

    The old lady who swallowed a fly analogy is such a wonderful way of describing it, Deb. I’m getting better at trusting my instincts and being more honest with myself and hopefully to others.

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2017

      Same re the instinctual thing. I’m definitely an instinctual decision maker. Interestingly I’m better at the big stuff than the little stuff. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t matter as much, there’s not as much at stake so I find it harder to get invested…

  • @Kanga_Rue
    October 16, 2017

    Beautiful. I’m inspired to do my own, but not sure I could publish it. xoxo
    * and you’ll make more BFFs who love and appreciate you

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2017

      I’ve read a few others from the link up and it’s lovely to see that they’re all very reassuring in nature and interestingly a lot are actually telling their 20yr old selves what’s coming and not recommending alternatives.

  • Glen available
    October 16, 2017

    Can I add also Deb, I’d be sitting down with my 20-year-old-self and advising him that any fanciful notions he might have about a completed Arts Degree being some kind of magical ticket to fame, fortune and limitless career doors opening one after the other, might possibly be just a little too much on the wishful ‘rose coloured glasses’ side of ambition.

    But then knowing the things I know now back then, I may not have even bothered getting out of bed in the morning, so maybe best not to have known ahead of time afterall!

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2017

      As someone who also did an undergrad arts degree…. yep, I hear ya!

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    October 16, 2017

    Oh I love this! And LOL re ” your next date will take place in your mid 30s and possibly arranged via a thing called, the INTERNET.” and the bit about buying shares in Google. We could never have seen that stuff coming. Crazy to think about the stuff that is still yet to come … (or not crazy … genius in fact … if only I could be that genius).

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2017

      Hell yes, who knows what will have been invented in 20 – 30yrs time!!!!

  • Lydia C. Lee
    October 16, 2017

    I love the bit about the old lady who swallowed a fly. You could expand that. It’s a brilliant analogy and I instantly fit it over some people struggling with different issues, and it works for them all. And so simple. She needed to stop with the fly.

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2017

      Ah yes, I was thinking about this TV show I used to watch called Continuum and every time someone changed an outcome in the past it led to a number of futures for those who were existing in dual timelines. (Long story!) And of course as we know from movies… not all changes mean things end up better if we do get our ‘do-over’.

  • unclutteryouruniverse
    October 16, 2017

    Follow your own path and not the one others think you should follow, is something I wish my 20yr old self knew.

    • Debbish
      October 17, 2017

      Ah yes, something that’s very important Jenni!

  • Ness
    October 16, 2017

    “Buy shares in Google, Apple or Microsoft”

    BEST ADVICE EVER. If only we could all go back and tell ourselves that!

    Yes on the whole sliding doors thing… I’ve done the marriage and kids, but no career and not much travel… You always wonder. Another over thinker here. I thought I told my 20 year old self to stop that!

    • Debbish
      October 17, 2017

      Ha, yes! Plus there’s that ‘grass is greener’ thing where we assume others have it better. I know I’m like that but try not to be! (Like the overthinking thing!)

  • leannelc
    October 16, 2017

    How great is it to still have those friends in your life? And I think a lot of us have “that guy” who nearly asked us out, or who we broke up with for some stupid reason and then spend the rest of our lives wondering “what if?” about. I think you’ve done a pretty fine job of living a diverse and really interesting life – something 20 year old you would be really proud of I’m sure.

    • Debbish
      October 17, 2017

      I hope so Leanne. I was the sort of kid who grew up expecting to get married and have kids. Little thought was given to the idea of a career or travel or anything like that.

  • mackenzieglanville
    October 17, 2017

    It really is fascinating that whole sliding doors, I am not sure if I believe in fate or choices, I hope we have choices, but who really knows? There are many points in my life where I made major life decisions, which could have easily taken me down a whole knew path, some of them send fear through me thinking of them. Mostly I am proud of my decisions. I used to look at younger photographs of myself and think I had let ‘her’ down. But actually I think she would be pretty proud with how strong I have been given what I went through. I battle still with anxiety and yet I still keep looking for the good in everyone and our world. You have been through so much, and you have so much to be proud of. #highlightsofhappy

    • Debbish
      October 17, 2017

      Oh that’s so interesting as I spent much of my 20s, 30s and 40s worried about how much I’d wasted my life and how much of a disappointment I would have been to a younger ‘me’. It felt like I’d really not reached my potential… but I think I’m more philosophical about that nowadays.

  • jjalki06
    October 17, 2017

    Loved reading this!! Made me laugh and nod in agreement especialy the points about the Internet etc! Thanks for sharing!

    • Debbish
      October 17, 2017

      You’re welcome. It was an interesting experience!

  • Denyse Whelan
    October 17, 2017

    What a privilege it was to read this. The thoughts and the words may have been challenging to you in some ways but I hope, as you did this, it showed you what has been achieved and remains important to you now. Gosh, I hear you on many things too. DIETS…and restrictions. Why? Such a waste of time and emotion I think. I did not travel OS until I made it happen for me when I was around 56. I actually loved the solo part of the travel to US as I made my choices. I never got lonely which in some ways reassures me. I know that there will always be a part of you sad not to have a life partner and child/ren. I hope that what this new job of yours brings is wider opportunities to travel and splash out on yourself. Thanks for linking up for Life This Week 40/52. Next week: With $1000 I would…

    • Debbish
      October 17, 2017

      Thanks for the opportunity to ponder on this Denyse as it was good to realise that – though I go on about regret a lot – changing anything would have changed everything and I’m not sure I would have wanted that. x

  • Katherine
    October 19, 2017

    I’ll second that coding advice! I wish I actually bothered with that, it would be so useful now as I struggle to make my blog look vaguely professional. My Mum had a World Expo 88 t-shirt, I don’t know why I felt the need to mention that, it’s just a memory from when I was a kid. Anyway, the joys of hindsight, right? All that time spent dieting, feeling miserable, when it wasn’t really necessary…

    • Debbish
      October 19, 2017

      The Expo gig was my first ‘real’ job. I’d deferred (well, failed) my Commerce studies at Uni (stopped going to lectures) and was pretty lucky to get the Expo gig. My boss there was great and gave me A LOT of opportunities (I was only in my late teens). There was a lot of partying taking place at that time. Another friend worked there and her team used to have to rest under their desk during the day as they were always hungover! I started about 6mths before Expo started, but left before the end as the football club job came up and it sounded perfect given how sports-mad I was at the time!

  • Carol Cameleon
    October 20, 2017

    I’d pretty much say to go with your gut too! Especially if it scares you… because that’s good! And then I’d probably ignore all that anyway, thinking I’m wiser and all that! I love this, reminds me a bit of that song called Sandstorm. Thanks for sharing this with #HighlightsofHappy

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