A great woman once said, "You do the best that you can at the time that you do it." OK, it was my best friend who said it. These were her words of wisdom when I told her what an idiot I'd been in my younger days.
And she was right. I might know more now but, sadly, time travel is not yet within our reach. I can't go back and tell myself what I've learned. But if I could, here's what I might say to young, clueless me.
1. That Cynicism Thing You Do? It's Kind of Dumb
Whoever decided that enthusiasm is uncool should be shot with a gun that shoots glutinous green slime. Getting excited about life — whether it's the color of the sky at dusk or getting in a rowboat or biting into a really good slice of banana cake — is a gorgeous experience.
2. Men Are Also Confused
When you're young, and the men around you are thinking with their penises, it's hard to remember that they're people too with feelings and problems and vulnerabilities. (Except the jerks. They're actually mutant zombies and should still be avoided like the plague.)
3. Connect With Your Wants and Needs and Try to Get Them Met
I remember thinking that other people — particularly men — should know my needs without my ever having to articulate them. This was a particularly funny delusion because it meant that on some level I believed in ESP, which is a quite a mystical concept. As I was a card-carrying cynic, it's lucky no one ever pointed out the contradiction between my expectations and my core beliefs. Not that I would have listened to them anyway.
4. Accept Sadness
It seems like a very basic thing to do, but it was easy to get caught in sadness. At times I was even addicted to it. Sadness, loss and grief are all part of life. Once I accepted that, I was able to let sadness come and go—just like joy, laughter and love.
5. That "Being Closed' Thing You Do? It's Also Pretty Lame
When you're young, knowledge seems like critical currency. You want to feel like you know stuff and want others to perceive you as smart. In Zen Buddhism, there's a concept called "Beginner's Mind" whereby you imagine you don't know anything, and approach life without all your preconceived notions getting in the way of your thoughts and ability to experience. By accepting that we know nothing, we begin to open to life and to learning and growing.
6. The People You Love Have Faults And Will Let You Down ...
I expected everyone around me to be loyal, good and perfect. Looking back, it's a mystery why I had any friends at all.
7. … And That's OK
Accepting flaws and limitations in others, rather than dwelling on them, is liberating. It also helps you accept yourself.
8. No One Is Going to Come and Save You
There is no man, messiah or lottery ticket that's going to make everything OK. The longer you wait for someone or something to resolve whatever problem seems like "the problem," the more time you'll waste. And once you let the expectation of being saved by others go, you'll tap into your own reserves. You might be surprised by how deep they go.
9. Fear Is a Bitch
There's no way to calculate all that I didn't do in my life because fear was guiding me. Even now, when I'm older, it's challenging to break free from fear and from allowing it to limit me.
10. Your Problems Aren't Really Problems
Unless we're talking about hunger and poverty and persecution, whatever is standing in between you and a feeling of inner peace isn't really important. It's hard to keep that in perspective, but every once in a while, you might be able to shift your focus and realize that everything really is OK. And when you do? Everything flows.