Each year I write a slightly ranty, slightly emotional birthday blog-post. So, now, even though the tone of this blog has changed slightly in the last couple of years into something hopefully a bit intelligent and thoughtful, I still can’t forget my days of doing the typical blogging for the folks back home, a la, Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like.
Last year’s birthday post marked the close of quite possibly the toughest year of my life. I had had a bad work experience, up to my ears in debt, and was just finally on the cusp on some brighter times.
25 – 26 has been a watershed year, both in terms of my personal growth and development and professionally as well. Channel Initiative was born in the year of the 25, and today, after a year of Homer duh moments, falling down and failing and talking people’s ears off about what I’m doing, I’m still as committed as hmm…the pig is to the bacon, or Fences is to his face tattoos. That’s…committed.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, about life, love, Congo, gender, even reading through this blog, a lot of it is full of well this is what I think’s, but it could actually be the complete opposite of what I think, oh wait…it definitely is. But between 20 – 25, I think I may have accumulated a few choice life lessons to share – some funny, some hilarious, some not so funny. So I wondered earlier this week, if I were to go back in time and start again at age 20, I would do things differently, not everything, but definitely rethink a few choices. But then it hit me, what if I went back into time, but made exactly the same choices, because all of my hard-earned wisdom was lost in the time space continuum black hole thing! So of course, deep down in my solution-oriented soul, I thought to myself, blog your lessons Dominique, anything on the internet – is there to stay. Now there’s a lot of paradoxical statements that could be made about that idea. But that’s not what this post is about.
So here goes, a list of do’s and don’ts to my 20 year old self, and/or daughter, and/or whoever.
1. Do take that risk.
Risks aren’t always good, but more often than not, they will make you who you are. Risks are scary, they are wild, they will chew you up and then spit you out, with disdain – but they will strengthen every fiber of your being, and the more risks you take, the less attached you are to the boring and predictable known and are ready for the murky waters of the uncertain.
2. Don’t be stupid.
There are certain decisions or risks, that you should obviously NOT take. For example, should I go on a date with this drunk guy? Should I invite this club promoter over for a movie? Should I die my hair with peroxide? Should I accept this job with the JD handed to me on a Waffle House napkin? No. Just no. Don’t do it.
3. Do take care of yourself.
And I’m talking mostly about your skin here. Black does in fact crack. Don’t think you can get away without sunscreen, sleeping with your makeup on, pulling and tugging at your face and scratching away your pimples forever my friend. No no. That glorious healthy, collagen-filled, bright and even skin you know and love – will come to a swift and abrupt end. It’s called 26.
4. Do read.
You’ll never regret it. Even if its Twilight. Take risks. No regrets. Do read books though that will educate your mind, probably far more than you required reading for college. Read Guns Germs and Steel early on. Read CS Lewis. Devour history books. Maybe even write a few.
5. Do put your cellphone down.
You will regret your missed memories more so than that high score on Angry Birds. You will regret that friend whose eyes you didn’t look into, that significant other you put on the back burner over that text message you needed to send. You will regret being so enveloped in a digital device, that the world went right by you, in all of its colour and finery.
6. Do be independent.
Learn early and learn hard, that you are alone in this world. Count on no one to pay your bills, drive you places, help you, love you, and definitely not to save you. Pay your bills. Drive your car or ride on the bus. Nobody wants to do something with you? Do it alone. Be dependent on no one and no thing.
7. Do pay attention to your faith.
Study your Bible. Know what you believe and why. Be so invested in knowing truth, that everything else is insignificant. Know how to decipher truth from untruth.
8. Do eat that.
It’s really now or never kid. You know the fat that you think you are now? In five years, that will be your ideal skinny weight. Eat. Eat a lot. Enjoy it. Savor it. Metabolize it with your youthful sexy self. Because that all changes. Quick.
9. Do be able to confront people.
Huge, huge life-skill. There’s one thing there is no shortage of, and that is, people who are wrong. Learn how to confront them in love, and firmness. Learn when its a waste of your time to confront people as well.
10. Do not make a lot of friends. (Whatttt? Why would she say that? Friends are awesome!)
Wrong. Friends are not awesome. 3000 Facebook friends does not make you loved. I’ll tell you what’s awesome. A few good friends. Make a lot of friends and this is what will happen, 1. there will be one year or two in succession when you have to be bridesmaids in at least 5 weddings of people you are no longer are really close to, but they’re your friends..soo…you kind of have to. 2. when you’re in town, there will be a crap ton of people you don’t even like anymore, but are somehow obligated to lunch or coffee date with.
Better advice than making a lot of friends – make good friends. Be selective about you spend your time with, be invested in those precious relationships, cultivate them, and love them. Spend time with people going in the same direction you are – up.
11. Do stand for something.
Your 20′s are possibly the best time in your life to decide what you stand for, and what you will not stand for. It matures you. It shapes you. Your beliefs and your passions will grow and develop immensely once you decide – hey – I believe in this.
HOWEVER – don’t be a bandwagoner, don’t stand for something just because its fun or trendy, Stop Kony , walk barefoot woohoo. No. See: Don’t be stupid. Be an educated and informed activist. Stand on what is right.
12. Don’t do drugs.
Just don’t. You like your skin. And your teeth. And you want to live.
13. Do, do something stupid. Just once. Okay maybe more than once.
Doing something stupid is not the same as being stupid, FYI to the people already scrolling up to see if I contradicted myself. Why should you do something stupid? Because in trying to shield yourself from ever doing something that another person will think is idiotic – you may never do anything. So someone tells you, your idea for a nonprofit is stupid, and you won’t make it? Do it anyway. If you fail…ah well. You tried.
14. Do be proactive.
One thing is for certain you need to live your life, and not let it live you. Take opportunities and grab them up, like someone’s chasing you. Do things. Be someone. don’t let life make the choices for you. Make them.
15. Do reflect.
Never be so caught up in what Miley is wearing and who is divorcing who, and how to get rid of those premature eye wrinkles, that you miss opportunities to look back at your old diary entries, your old blogs and think – man – what a long way I have come. Look at what has been done in my life. Look at how, that time, when I had no idea what was going on, someone, much more important than I, already did. Take time to think, reflect, analyze, and grow to know yourself.
Above all else 20 year old self, don’t be circumscribed to these suggestions. don’t be circumscribed to anything really. Live a full and blessed life. Be happy, don’t waste a second of your life being anything but. Dance a lot. Love. Laugh. Be silly. Get that dress. Wax those eyebrows. Moisturize. Read. Write. Sing. Create. Smile. Dance in the sunlight. Do what makes you happy. Be with people who make you laugh harder than anything else. Call your parents. Invest in your brother. Open that savings account. Plan, then throw away the plan.
Celebrate your life. Don’t just live it.