What I wish I knew when I was 26

I have always considered myself the ultimate planner. Timing. Economizing. Rearranging. Folding the sleeves in first. I know how to make restriction dinners for a house full of people when given the proper heads up. I can probably use a shoelace for anything if you don’t care how it looks. But what I wish that I could tell my past self is this: no matter how many plans you make, and how organized you are, life is going to go in a different direction than you’ve planned. Not only is that OK, it’s pretty great. Here’s what I wish I knew at 26.

Not every relationship is going to be forever, but it will always teach you something

You will somehow get into a relationship because of a bar. This relationship will catch you off-guard and seem like the perfect, mysterious fit. It will come when a previous life-altering breakup happened not six months before and will seem like the best way to really get back out there. He will have facial hair which you’ve never tried before and it will make you excited. Follow this lead. But listen to your astrologist when she says that this person and you, well, it’s all about the physical. don’t get down on yourself when you realize over nachos, that you two have nothing in common; he is the last boy you will let say something slightly sexist to a waitress. Be cool, the world just invited you to a different party. You know what this means. Wish him well and don’t promise yourself that you loved him. Cry for a night and end your cry with a head shake. Learn that casual is in your vocabulary and own it.

You are not an impostor. In fact, you’re exactly where you need to be

You will somehow get into the school that you think might take you to all of the right places as a poet. It’s because you applied to this school, and you worked hard, but you act like you don’t know how it happened. You will try and reason the night before why you shouldn’t attend. Why you shouldn’t live in a smaller town. Why no one will really know how you work. How your brain is just different, you know? You will cry while stopping for gas and you will turn on your blinker when pulling into your new shared house because it’s still all about business. You will politely take the smallest room because you think that the smallness will instantly force you to be an extrovert. The new roomies will not be in school and that will make you feel better than you have in a long time.

After the fourth day of classes you cry to this roomie about all of what you are not. Can’t do. Won’t matter. After the third month of school, you’ve arrived. You have a parking spot that’s not paved but it’s yours. You embrace the smallness of your room and decide that it’s your little cave where you’re free to make all of the silly dance moves that you want and that being an introvert makes you that much more valuable during workshop. You start to speak up about your love for T. Swift and Virginia Woolf in the same breath during your second year at this residency and you belong. Your roomie will help you realize that you’re part of the world and that you have made a solid, lifelong friend.

You have time for kids and marriage still, don’t rush it

Babies. They are adorable. They are wanted. They have so many hats! And they are not something that you’ve given much thought to since you’ve practically been in school your whole life. Do you want one? Two? A van full? Who knows. Let it sink in that holding a baby isn’t the last chance that you’ll get. Fight off your grandmother’s voice, she already has grandchildren. It’s not about you. I mean it is, but you don’t have to worry about it tonight. It’s good to feel the feels but don’t judge yourself for not thinking about it before now. It’s good to know that you want a daughter named Max. That’s a good start. Give your friend her baby back and buy her a cute feminist bib on Etsy. You’ve got time. I promise.

Your body is amazing the way it is

You run all the time to relieve stress. You’re made of magical bones and muscles. High waisted everything just came back into style and you’re about to own all of it. Stop lingering in the shade.

Some friends aren’t going to last, but you’ll survive it

Time really does change who you are and who you want to be. That’s okay. But you will realize that your “other half” really doesn’t do the work that it takes. And you’ve always been a push-over when it comes to friend confrontation. For some reason it’s a Tuesday and you just feel like you need to cut it loose. So you do. And you feel sad. And you shower because it feels regular enough to do. And you see her reply on your Facebook Messenger and she is kind of being hurtful but you stick to your guns. Because you’re not close anymore and social media allows the pretending to go on for so long that you feel like it’s more of an affair. Or something too fake that makes you upset because the last thing you want is to be fake with this person. You love them. And you stick to your guns. You will survive this.

Invest in sunscreen

You are going to get more tattoos than anyone in your small hometown thinks is tasteful. Get all of them. Every single one that crosses your mind. Get it. Do it. Use some of your financial aid on a big one on your thigh. You love tattoos and you’ve always apologized for who you are and now is the time to totally let go of all that. Text your closest friend a picture of what you really want and then turn off your phone. Go get it. Your friend will text you a purple heart emoji back but you already knew that. And you made it all your own. You will want so much roll-on sunblock for the sleeves and chunks of tattoos you’re going to get. Get the tattoo that reminds you of how much you love women and then get some licorice tea to consider how much you really do actually love women.

You’re going to become your mom, and it’s going to be wonderful

It will save you. You will really, really want to know this.Jessica Dana Crockett has three pugs and live in Fremont, Seattle. She graduated from Western Washington University with an MFA in Creative Writing in 2014. Her favorite song is “Blackbird” by Nina Simone and favorite book is “Dark Sparkler” by Amber Tamblyn.  [Image via HBO]

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