About a week ago, I recalled this list I read from Serena Dyer (Wayne Dyer’s daughter). I was 21 years old, doing little with my life except consuming personal development books/blogs/forums/videos, and cooking meals for a household. Serena was 29 years old at the time, and she had written a blogpost of 29 things she would tell herself entering her 20’s. While I only recalled the note on how your metabolism isn’t the same at 29 as it is at 20, I thought to myself, what would I tell myself now that I’m also finishing my 20’s? What are 10 things I would truly want myself to know when I was 20, after having gone through 9 of these formidable years?
I took this question pretty seriously, imagining if I were to get advice from my 38 year old self right now, how different my life could be. If I could truly receive a letter when I was 20 from my 28 year old self, what would I say to her, knowing for sure that she would listen?
I spent the week gathering the top 10 things I would tell my 20 year old self, knowing she really would take it seriously, listen, and change. These are things I deeply, deeply desired she know, from what I know today, and what I hope all 20 year olds know in order to avoid and make use of the mistakes I made in my 20’s. Here is what I came up with:
- You can screw it up
- A job isn’t just money, and money isn’t just money
- Don’t play with your feelings
- You need to take care of yourself before you can create true relationships with others
- There is no such thing as good or bad people in the world
- You don’t know how they got there
- Don’t get too excited about your spiritual awakening
- Value everything only by its opportunity cost
- Learn politics
- You (do but you) do not create your own reality
- (Bonus) Life is serious
They’re not in any particular order, aside from when they came to me over the past week. Here’s my explanation on each of them.
You can screw it up
Yes, you can. Don’t ever make the mistake thinking you’re young and it doesn’t matter, that you have time. You don’t. The choices you make in your 20s can really, really screw the rest of your life up.
Take for example, a job. In your 20’s, no one really has a job yet. But by the time you’re 26, there are people who have four solid years of work experience, which helps them get better jobs with higher negotiation power. Those four years matter. If you want to spend your time on what really matters in your 20’s, you need to learn to think bigger.
If you do mess it up, you will have to count on some gigantic sources of grace and second chances, which may or may not come to you. Then, you have to count on yourself to not screw up your second chances.
Discard the lie that no matter what you do, you’re not going to mess up because everyone has a different path, and you’ll be fine. You will be “fine,” but you will miss out on everything you thought you were going to have if you don’t make the right decisions in the early 20s.
And if you get a second chance, stay hyper focused, and don’t waste a drop of anything. Literally.
A job isn’t just money, and money isn’t just money
I know you have no idea what a job is right now, just admit it. You think people sell themselves out to have money so they won’t be humiliated in society, and they waste their whole lives chasing this false image of themselves to prove to others they’re worth something. Sure, this is a big part of it, but a job is much, much more than money, and money isn’t just about money.
Money, true actual money, is about your production capacity. You cost x amount of money to live on this earth, by basic physical and societal standards. A job is about producing at least as much as you consume in society, and compensating for the 18 years where you did not produce, and only consumed. You don’t get to be free without zeroing this out.
Don’t think of a job as a ticket to get you lavish experiences, or stuff that honestly does not matter (only matter to people who have no sense of what matters) – it is about producing at least as much as you consume/have consumed. If you can produce much, much greater than you consume (true production out of your labour and thinking), you get to use your power and that extra production capacity to potentially change things in society – maybe.
Also, you need a job to stay in touch with society. The reason people go down paths that “look like the answer” and turn out to be huge mistakes is ignorance. You need to be involved in the economy – involved in the actual buying and selling of real goods and services. This is the only way to know what is actually going on when it comes to society – what people are willing to put their money to is the only true indicator of what they value – nothing else.
A job not an option. Unless you have an incredibly strong partner who is more than involved in the economy and you’re willing to take his word for everything (which doesn’t sound like you at all), you need to have a job. Not to mention, you’d have to provide something equal in value to this strong partner… this is a high risk gamble compared to learning to work a sustainable long-term job.
It doesn’t matter what job, but make it sustainable, maintain cash flow, and reach for something better when you get the chance and have prepared yourself for it. It will teach you what society is demanding and where you can improve it. Not to mention, have a life, friendships, oh and yes, money.
Don’t play with your feelings.
You will always, always, always, 100% of the time, look back on things you knew all along and say, “I knew it at the time!” If anything feels off, do not attempt to justify it.
You know what you know; don’t lie about what you feel for some hidden agenda because the reward is tempting. This is how sociopaths get into your life, and how people end up working for exploiters who promise you lies. It CAN (and will) happen to you, but your feelings know all along the way, so don’t lie.
You need to take care of yourself before you can create true relationships with others
You were always right to value relationships and people, everything you said was right. But, you have to prioritise taking care of yourself first in order to create true relationships that are not built on someone else’s support.
No, not the self love massage and manicures bs of “taking care of yourself.” It’s the “you know you aren’t financially pulling it on your own, so get that together before you work on anything else!” Because so long as you are financially under another person or thing, you cannot create from your own creative energy and life force, so it is not your true creation.
Your relationships were always about creation, and your creations are not genuine until you are entirely financially independent. It is only then that you can create true genuine relationships with others.
There is no such thing as good or bad people in the world
This one is so confusing. I know you don’t believe in evil (yet), and I know you always viewed people as good people or bad people. You really have to get that this is a pure lie and illusion.
The people who conducted the atrocities of the prison camps were people like anyone else. They were not some horrible subhuman people with brain damage; they were literally people like you, who are either not aware of what they are up to, or became desperate and were seduced by the joy in torturing others. While this is an extreme example, the choices you make have ripple effects that go much beyond what you can see, and you don’t know what damage you are causing the world by turning a blind eye for the sake of your own ego.
Get rid of the idea of good people. They don’t exist. We all have a line that divides our hearts, and an unconscious agenda based on lies will push you to the darkness if you do not know you have darkness within you.
You’ll have zero idea of what dark things you’ve created until years later, when you understand this. Only when you begin to repent will you begin to realize the truth that everyone has equal capacity to evil, and if we deny this about ourselves, we become the darkness ourselves.
You don’t know how they got there
When you look at someone who has “what you want,” you really don’t know what they did to get there. You will admire many people throughout your life, but you won’t realize that many of them traded their integrity for what they have.
You really do not know how people did what they did or got to where they got to. Never assume they got there clean if it looks too easy. And yes, it does matter how they got there. Don’t lie to yourself otherwise just so you can have the same kind of “success” easily.
Don’t get too excited about your spiritual awakening
At this point, age 20, you’ve either already experienced this spiritual awakening, or are about to. It seems like an antidote to a lot of the pain you experienced growing up, but don’t get excited about it at all.
It is actually the heaviest burden you’ll ever carry – at least for the next 9 years (ie, thus far). It was never intended to make you special, rather, it was to give you more work. Also, you will be isolated and alone, because you’ll realize no one actually works to understand this (do not try to find them – they don’t exist) and this is just life.
So don’t get excited, because you have only work and isolation ahead of you, and anything you do that attempts to leverage that greater spiritual perspective in hopes of moving forward faster will fail and be a waste of time. So do not try. Seriously.
Value everything only by its opportunity cost
This is by far the best piece of advice I can give in terms of navigating choices. Life is not about choices that are “good” or “bad” – discard this view. Look only at “what is your next best option” (and hopefully not an option that requires you to be dependent on anyone else) to determine whether that decision is the best decision you can make.
If the opportunity cost has higher value, leave it and get that. Do not get sentimental or point to morals, and never look at something alone and think “that looks good.” Always look at it as “what is my next best alternative, and is it better to go for that, or stick with this?”
Yes, hate me for this one, but I’m sorry, it has to happen. Play the game. Learn power and power plays, or you’ll never get anywhere. No, I didn’t sell myself out; this is actually part of the spiritual navigation, and just base laws of power. There is a difference between being good at politics and losing your integrity/being dishonest.
Do not use it for harm, but you must know how to use it, and always consider things from their power shifting perspectives. Know what is going on, and beat the system. Make sure you are not getting unnecessarily manipulated and controlled.
You’ll never get there by placing yourself in a glass dome and singing kumbaya and never getting screwed over. Instead of trying to hide and keep these things at arm’s length for years, learn the game, and play it well. You’ll become really good at it once you decide to, and help many others develop this as well.
You (do but you) do not create your own reality
I know you currently love the “you create your own reality” creed, but it’s trouble to base your life view on that. You do create based on your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, however, you hardly know what those are, and you have no choice over many of these things. You cannot change your background and upbringing, which immensely affect how you think and feel about certain things for the rest of your life.
This is a Divine Plan we’re playing out, and your best bet is to surrender and be humble enough to admit you will not know what’s best for you. There is a predestined path you can either follow and succeed or reject and struggle. When you do what you’re meant to, it will just work out. You will still have problems and power issues to overcome, but it will still be there.
And if you’re not meant to have or do something, no matter how much mind-control and thought-control you achieve, it will only be temporary and it will fade away, no matter how much you try.
(Bonus) Life is serious
I know you’ll be debating this one for a long time. I can’t tell you the answer for sure, but I can tell you that life goes much smoother and good things happen much easier when you realize life is serious, dark, and is not for fun.
Look at who takes it seriously and who takes it for fun. No one who takes it for fun is actually doing well. Fun and happiness come along the way when the responsibilities are fully taken care of. There is a dark side of the world that is constantly seeking to gain power, and it feeds off people who believe it doesn’t exist. Don’t let yourself become a conduit of evil by thinking life should be fun. Life is serious; the reward is in creating a life with purpose and meaning – and finding people along the way with whom to do it.
Final note to self
It’s going to be hard. Strive to see the Truth. Don’t cover things up. Do not assume you’ll have a great life ahead of you because you’re a good person. You have a lot of growing up to do, first by arranging a sustainable, honest financial independence, then figuring out how to create something to sustain you long-term, without the help of anyone else – not even your family. I think even with all my warnings, you’ll still have to go through the painful experiences I went through. But hopefully, you can get out of them quicker by learning to absorb these lessons as the problems they resolve arise. Best of luck to my 20 year old self, keep that spunk alive.