Everyone is familiar with the phrase, “Shoulda, woulda, coulda,” and however you spell it or whatever language you use to recite it, the same sentiment is shared; if only I knew then what I know now. I’m a 24 year-old public relations professional working and living in DC and although I have a lot to learn, I have learned a lot in my short time living on my own. Sure, it’s fun to be a twenty-something residing in an active and beautiful area like DC but being young also comes with making mistakes that probably could’ve been avoided had I listened to my parents, managers and even friends. Some say that’s the beauty of life and some believe being in your twenties gives you the right to make silly mistakes because it’s the time to be young and naïve. I can’t say I agree with the latter.
In the last few years, I have made decisions that ended up being mistakes, which taught me several lessons. By now you’re probably wondering, lessons like what? Well, if I could go back in time and tell my 18 year-old self what I know now, the advice would go a little something like this:
· Time is of the essence (no, really, it is). Everything requires time; job training, career development, even getting over heartbreak. Time changes the seasons and it changes people, in good ways and bad. It brings experience and experience causes change and growth. Enjoy it, appreciate it and never take it for granted.
· Mom knows best. My parents always told me, “When you get older, you’ll look back and realize we were right.” Well, my parents were right. I may challenge them just out of my stubborn nature and simply thinking “How would you know? You’ve never been 24” when in actually, they’ve been here before. Trust your parents, they’re always right.
· Not everyone that smiles in your face is your friend. Sure, people may seem like they have your best interest at heart or that they are genuine but that isn’t always the case, especially in business. Be mindful of who you share personal stories with. Sometimes, the less people know about your personal life, the better off you are.
· Network, network, network! I can’t stress enough how important it is to build your Rolodex. Talk to everyone about their journeys and what led them to where they are now. Ask them what their greatest life lesson is and ask them what inspires them. You learn from every person you interact with. Why not learn from their lessons, too?
· Take pride in your personal appearance. First impressions are everything, that’s even outside of a job interview, so make sure you always look your best. This doesn’t mean wearing a $500 suit every day. Look like you but look like your best you. Any moment can bring any opportunity so be ready to meet it with confidence. As my close friend always says, “When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you play good. When you play good, they pay good.” Cliché, I know, but it’s true.
· Heed the advice you give others. It’s always easy to give advice to close friends and sometimes strangers, but it’s typically hard to practice what we preach. Why? Because it’s easier to fix problems that aren’t our own. When we’re frantic over a breakup or job loss, we panic so our thoughts become clouded and our advice becomes obsolete. Try being action-oriented and a problem solver the next time you have a personal issue. Focus more on the solution and less on the problem.
· What you don’t like in another, take time to change in yourself. I often hear people say “I hate when (insert name) does that! It’s so annoying.” Sometimes I think to myself, “but…you do the same thing.” If you despise a trait or habit in a friend, colleague, sibling, etc., be sure to step out of your personal arena and see if you share the same trait that you dislike. If you do, fix it.
· If you’re not outside of your comfort zone, you’re not growing. Fear always stops me from doing something that I’m passionate or curious about. “What if I fail? What if I disappoint the people I care about?” Fear creates roadblocks that we turn into excuses. Don’t let it. Stepping into the unknown can be beautiful and life changing. Go outside of your comfort zone; you’ll probably learn your greatest life lessons there.
· Humility and confidence shouldn’t be bragged about. Humility and confidence are two character traits that are rare but admirable. No matter how far you climb up the corporate ladder, keep your wits about you and maintain a leveled head. Remain humble, but confident, and don’t boast about it. If you have to convince someone you are either of the two, then you’re probably really not.
· Don’t let technology consume you. It’s okay to put your phone, iPad or laptop down for a few hours; they’ll be there when you get back. Turn the TV off sometimes and pick up a book. Spend time sitting in a park watching nature in motion (sounds cheesy but it’s relaxing, I promise). Don’t forget that you come first, before the outside world. You were you before there was Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and every other medium in between. Take time for yourself and learn to enjoy being alone. It’s soothing and can be a huge help to clearing your mind.
Now I have to ask, what would you tell your 18 year-old self?
Written by: Jenna Boyer