Advice for 20-somethings from a 30-something…on Life, Love and Living

After burning my horribly self-defeating H.S. diaries, I am writing again….about what I should have written about 10 years ago.

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Editor’s Note: This article was guest written by my smart, lovely and talented stepmom, Amy Haberman.

I recently came across my diaries from high school and early college. Wow! What a trip that was…and then I promptly burned them. Seriously. The timeframe in which I wrote these notes may be similar to where you are in your life, so I want to speak to who I was then and why, if I could do it all over, I’d do it differently.

Despite the popular quote that is circulating on Pinterest and Facebook “Don’t cheat on your future with your past. It’s over.” I propose we take a look back at what I’ve learned in the 10 years that have passed since those rambling diary entries. I am hoping this defies the wisdom of the quote because you will delve into MY past to better YOUR future. I’m willing to take the risk…

I’ll spare you the sad, sad details of my prolific diary entries. But I can tell you the main subject matter never did change: BOYS. Despite successful academic and athletic careers at both the H.S. and college level, I cared more about boys than myself, my future, who I was or wanted to be when I “grew” up. I didn’t come across any diary entries pondering college major decisions, career path choices, life goal ambitions or anything of the sort. I was more interested in whom my next date would be with.

I justified my dating experience (once older) to say that if I had not had these earlier experiences I would not have realized my husband was “the one.” That my ability to quickly dismiss many men from my life gave me the fortitude to know what’s best for me and recognize it when he walked into my life. True. But it also did something else: it left me completely unprepared for real life or life beyond that moment when I found “the one.” And it left me completely unsure of who I really was. I was so busy focusing on all the men around me, I completely ignored the woman inside me (besides her opinion on men of course).

So my advice is simple. Pay attention to that woman inside you who knows deep down there is more to life than men, getting married and having babies. Even when happily married, what determines our happiness is not external, it’s internal. I can’t expect my husband to make me happy – only I can do that. Sure, he can certainly do nice things for me that I appreciate, but he is not responsible for sustaining my happiness. That is a big burden to put onto someone and why, oh why, would we hand over that power to someone else, when only we know, truly, what can make us happy?

I have been married for 12 years, have a college degree, a nine-year-old daughter and have worked a part-time or full-time job for nearly 20 years. But none of these things define who I am. I am trying to figure that out now. And let me tell you, it’s a lot harder to take time for you, when you have a mortgage to pay, mouths to feed, and housework to do, on top of working a full time job that is quite demanding and juggling a business on the side.

So, what I’d do differently and what I recommend you do before you commit yourself to a man, a mortgage or many mouths to feed: LIVE. Do all the things you are scared to do, second guess yourself, screw up, learn and do it all over again. Live life on YOUR terms, no need to hang on someone else’s coattails – wear your own cape!  This will do a few things for you: 1) you’ll learn what you love, what you hate and how to balance the two. 2) you’ll know exactly what you need in your life and you’ll be able to tell the difference between a need (food) and a want (man) 3) you’ll make the task of loving you much, much easier, because you aren’t looking to him to make you happy because you already figured that out (he’ll thank you later).

I’m certainly not saying if you don’t do things in this way your life will suck. Not at all. I overcommitted, I leaped before I looked and I got lucky. Things have turned out alright (well, much better than alright). In part, because I do think I married the best man for me despite my inexperience.

Now I’m taking my 30s to have my first real adventure (moved to Florida three years ago); I started my own business (graphic design on the side), setting career goals much higher than I had imagined (recently attained a director level position at a major university that made me vomit the night before the interview) and in general trying to be a leader by example for a nine-year-old girl who is looking at her mama and saying, “I want to be an artist and a baker and, and, and…” and I can say, “there’s nothing stopping you, sweetie!”

Following one’s dreams take a bit of coordination when you have a family to tend to, that’s why I say do it when there are as few obstacles as possible. I’m very blessed and have an extremely supportive husband, who has realized there is a lot of truth to the statement “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Very cliche, but true, the more I attain my goals and follow my dreams, the more I push my husband to do the same and I know our children can only learn by our example.

So after burning those horribly self-defeating diaries, I am writing again….about what I should have written about 10 years ago, my goals, my dreams, my ambitions, and now, what I can do to nurture the dreams of my family.

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