This week, a reporter from The Collegian, at South Dakota State University, interviewed me for a piece she was writing about a recent grad going into the Peace Corps. She asked me why I decided to go to Peace Corps and what advice I would give to the young man who departs for service in a week. We started talking about her life and her ambitions. She told me that she was going to be managing editor of the newspaper the following semester, worked at Daktronics as a marketing student, wanted to write for non-profits, and was considering the Peace Corps but the length of commitment intimidated her.
Throw in that she spends too much money at Cubbies on the weekends and you’ve essentially got me at the age of 21. In April of 2006, wrapping up my junior year, I worked at Daktronics, was going to be the ME at The Collegian, was leaning toward non-profits (that changed my senior year when I decided I wanted to go into newspapers after college), and thought on and off about the Peace Corps. It seems so impossible to me that that girl became this woman – a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and living in Chicago, writing and working at a non-profit. I would have told you then that I do want the life I have now, but couldn’t see the path from there to here, probably because it’s full of zig-zags and out and backs.
Later, after talking to the reporter, I messaged two of my dear friends, who knew me then but are better friends, despite distance, now. They had plenty of jokes regarding advice I could give this mini-me, but it did make me think what I would tell myself back then, knowing how my life turned out. I don’t really have a lot of regrets in life, and I am of the belief that everything that has happened to me and every choice I made has helped build the person I am, but I think there are a few things I might look at differently.
So, I wrote this list of things I would tell my 21-year-old self and thought I would share with you all. When I look at these nuggets of wisdom, I can see these are still things I remind myself of because I haven’t completely learned from the past. Anyway, enjoy.
Things I would tell my 21-year-old self
- Don’t drink so much.
- Don’t take it so personally.
- Maybe don’t drive in that puddle.
- Bite your lip when you want to say something that would be considered gossip.
- Journal. Even if mundane, write down your days.
- Worrying about money and how fat you are will suck joy from your experiences.
- Stay away from Scotts and Bens.
- Prioritize the people that matter.
- Stretch after you run.
- You will not be able to control everything, so it’s better to accept the situation as it is than run yourself ragged trying to fix it.
- People will disappoint you and you’ll disappoint people. It’s a fact, but do your best anyway.
- Cry when friends leave your life, but don’t hold on.
- Call your mom.
- Remember the things that are important to you; they’ll be the reason why you got to where you did 10 years later.
- When a guy named Ethan messages you on a dating app, don’t wait two weeks to respond.
- Breathe. It’s all going to work itself out.
P.S. Both Peace Corps and The Collegian have very specific chunks of my heart, and I can directly link most good things in my life back to those two experiences. It’s sort of reassuring to remind myself of my foundations and where I’ve gone and where I can go because of them.