From Our Readers
June 03, 2015 6:00 am

There’s one thing I keep telling myself, and you’ve probably said the same exact thing: I need a time machine!

Because, let’s be honest, I have some serious life violations to discuss with my young self. Don’t worry, it’s not that I made tons of mistakes when I was younger or took all the wrong roads that led me to the now me, it’s just that I wish I would have had a few extra tidbits of awesome advice shoved up my sleeve to play the game of life, only so I could enjoy it even more.

So if I could jump into a silver Delorean, wearing a red life preserver jacket and jean tuxedo, a la Marty McFly, and head back in time to have a heart to heart with twenty-five year old me, these are the six things I would say:

Loosen up!

For the love of cute baby goat videos, don’t take everything so seriously. Not being hired for that job is okay. That breakup won’t destroy you. If you’re not married to him, you won’t shrivel up like a Raisinette and die. I’ve never been one to say things happen for a reason but if they don’t work out, stop worrying! Better boyfriends, better jobs (ones where you work in your PJs) are coming. Don’t freak out. These negatives are only life lessons. Take the bad experiences and learn from them, build on them, and hone the information you glean into a defined point to attain exactly what you want.

Travel far and wide

One day you will travel a lot, but by the time you discover the magic of far away places, you will wish you started your roaming ways much sooner. So please, start now while you’re young and can easily jump from hostel to hostel, whilst living on $10 a day and two hours of sleep. Because in the future, you’ll need a good mattress for your aching back, and good mattresses in decent hotels cost money, making it harder to stretch those ever-loving budgeted dollars so you can travel even more!

With your JanSport backpack, travel the world because there are so many people to meet and cultures to experience. And they’re totally different from your little thirty mile radius, but in a fascinating way, completely the same. Traveling will make you smarter, empathetic, open-minded, and independent. It will empower you on so many levels that you will experience life in surprising new ways.

Don’t be afraid to try new things

You are the sum of your experiences so don’t just be a tourist. (See # 2) Yes, you can travel all over the place but if you don’t get in there and do epic stuff, you’re not doing life correctly. Stop living in fear! Seriously, just stop! Be adventurous and challenge yourself. Bungee jump even though you’re afraid of heights, sing karaoke even though you’re painfully shy, and write a novel even though you have dyslexia! These things won’t be easy, but do them anyway. If you aren’t a little uncomfortable while trying them out, you aren’t growing. Taking fear out of the equation rounds out those rough edges and it’s a delectable rainbow-sprinkled covered dessert for your soul.

Treasure the important people around you

This one should go without saying, and it can be hard when someone you love wrongs you. I’m not talking about giving your love and valuable time to poisonous peeps. Without a doubt, kick those folks to the curb. You know in your heart who belongs in your life and who doesn’t. I’m talking about something deeper: your soul-family, soul-sister, soul-brother, soul-mate, or even your soul-cat. Forgive them and move on, or say you’re sorry and move on because they won’t always be there. Don’t let anything blur the connections of people that matter to you.

Don’t worry about your long-term plans. They’re inevitably going to change

Oh, young me, you’re so naive and cute with your young ways. I know you think that by having every second of your life mapped out will get you everything you want, but it doesn’t work that way. And I know how ludicrous this sounds, but don’t bother making long-term plans. You’ll probably be disappointed if you don’t hit those milestones at each carefully planned out date.

Relax for a second while I explain, okay? Little goals are great, they help motivate and move you from one step to the next. By all means, finish college, train for a marathon, plan to get a job, or open a 401K, but please chill otherwise. Why? Because at 25, you will not be the same person you are at 30 or even 35. What you want now will not be what you want in ten years. You will change. Count on it. Life experiences may take you unexpected places, unleash surprises (good and bad), and gasp, even make you think differently about what you want in life. Maybe you’ll decide you prefer to live in a yurt on a deserted island instead of buying that mansion on Madison Ave. at the ripe age of 27. And just maybe, even though you plan to become President of the United States by that time you’re thirty, the American people won’t let you redecorate the oval office the way you want. And we both know that you can’t work in an environment without unicorns.

What I’m saying is, stop putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to perform by trying to control every little second of your life. Instead, stop and look around, soak up each and every moment and just start living!

Choose Happiness

But seriously, the most important thing is to live passionately. Whatever your passion is, foster it. Move into that box, live in it and make it yours. Paint the walls, hang some boy-band posters and bake some cookies. I believe that by choosing a passionate life, you’ll choose a happy one.

I know, I know, there are a million other things I could have told my younger self: watch Gilmore Girls. That show will change your life! (And hello, Jess Mariano!) And please, stop wearing flip-flops. Your poor hoofs will thank you later. But will telling my young self to invent Instagram so that I’m worth a zillion dollars in ten years really make me happy? I don’t think so. But hey, what do I know? I’m just sitting here waiting for my older self to show up in a hot tub time machine and tell me how to live the next decade.

If Michelle Warren had a spirit animal, it would be a tiger in a pink tutu, riding a Harley through a ring of fire. She lives in Chicago, dreams of California but hails from Baltimore. She has a slight obsession with travel, sunshine, Milano cookies, cute illustrations and writing novels. Stalk her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr

[Illustration by Michelle Warren]

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