A few cautionary notes to my 18-year-old self:
- You are being a dick to your girlfriend way more than you think. Don’t quiz her on who is on the radio. Don’t roll your eyes when she can’t tell the difference between Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy. She’s being totally reasonable when she asks if you can listen to something else upon entering hour 5 of a Sonic Youth marathon. You are not hip or cool. You are actually sort of a jerk.
- Keep this in mind as you enter your 20s: Instead of inventing reasons for being late because, ultimately, you’re too disorganized, depressed, fucked up or hung over, maybe start using a calendar and planning accordingly. Start writing stuff down and maybe start drinking just a little less. You think you’re missing out whenever you’re not at a party or in a bar, but it’s the going out and getting fucked up all the time that is getting in the way of some awesome stuff that happens and opportunities that present themselves in the mornings and on the occasions you’re blowing off. You can’t get around the depression thing, though. That’s a hard one to plan around. Maybe start talking to someone about that one.
- Selfishly—and I really mean this as the person who will ultimately benefit—save some of your money. You have, like, three expenses and you make okay money. Save some of it. Don’t get to 30 not having saved anything, as you don’t have an excuse for it. Don’t drink all of it away. You can’t draw on having been drunk a lot through your 20s for any sense of financial security in your 30s. You know how a lot of people in their 30s seem squirrelly and like they have sticks up their asses? It’s because they are super worried about, among many other things, money. I know you’ve got a fear of missing out and everything, and you’re chasing after a handful of great times you had in similar circumstances, but trust me on this. Even if you put away a quarter of what you put into having a good time, you’ll have more than nothing by 30 and that’s huge. If you get especially good at putting it away, explore some retirement options so your money makes money of its own.
- You are very sensitive and that’s a great thing. Embrace it. It’s one of your strongest character traits. That said, don’t exploit your sensitivity to come off as more emotionally available or vulnerable than you actually are. This will prove tempting because it’s a schtick that appeals to a lot of folks, but it’s hard to consistently deliver on. It’s like a promise you are ultimately can’t keep, and it’s a letdown for the people you’ve lured in with it. You’re sensitive, but you’re also weird and a little out of control and that’s okay. People are into that too, so you can just be yourself without worrying about coming off like a let-down, and not over promise and under deliver on that availability. I bet this is really one of the few things you can only realize in retrospect.
- Speak up when you see folks who are vulnerable to harassment get harassed. Actually, you’re pretty good at this now that you’re young, idealistic and not scared of getting the shit kicked out of you. You’ll get a little more weird and uneasy in your 20s, though, and a little more reluctant about everything. Don’t forget that this one is important for helping to create accountability and just a little more safety for folks who otherwise aren’t able to walk around feeling, as you do, untouchable all of the time.
- Don’t write off your partners or ex partners as being crazy. You might not realize it consciously, but you’re only able to get away with that because of unfair biases that exist against women and you’re reaping the benefits of that. It’s gross. And anyway, it’s just not true. You’re ultimately responsible for much of if not most of the crazy in the relationship you’re in now, and, conservatively, the ones you’ll be in for the next 10 years.
- This one is very specific to your experience and time, but when it come out in 2010, don’t fall for the song “Home.” It sounds a lot more appealing and countercultural than it actually is, but really, it’s that’s just because you’ll be depressed and doing a lot of drugs when you first hear it. It’s a trap. But, you know, once you finally realize this and snap out of being ensnared by its trance, don’t make your girlfriend feel bad for really, really liking it. See above.