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This was inspired by a question in a forum where I participate regularly. A poster asked, "What would you tell your 20-year-old self if you had the opportunity to speak to them or write them a letter?" Here is my response:

Dear 20-year-old-Self:

You know that dude you're engaged to? The one you think you're so in love with? Well, much as it pains me to tell you this, Mom and Dad are right, although possibly not for the reasons they think they are. (Especially not Mom.) But you're not going to marry him, and if you're smart you'll dump him NOW, before the really abusive stuff starts. Trust me on this; you'll thank me later.

In fact, DON'T ever stay in ANY relationship where you don't feel respected. You're worthy of respect, and deep down you know it. Give this more than lip service; go out and live your life that way.

While I have your attention, you really need to reopen the discussion about college with the 'rents. If you offer to dump Le Dude in exchange for them finally sending you away to that university you really want to go to, there's a good chance they'll take you up on it. But you need to strike while the iron is hot, because if you wait until they've settled in Ohio (oh, yeah, forgot you didn't know that was coming either -- well, it is) they're not going to be happy about your staying in New York. So jump on it now, while they're still in a state of flux themselves. You can sell them on the idea that even if they don't know where they're going, at least you may as well have some kind of stability in the offing. At this point, I think they're a lot less enamored of the idea of community college than they were when you graduated from high school, especially given that's where you met Le Dude. He isn't much use to you and you're on the verge of figuring that out -- but he's the best bargaining chip you have right now. Take the opportunity.

Believe me, it'll beat the hell out of being the only employed person in the family next year. Yeah, you'll feel all responsible when you're the one bringing home the proverbial bacon while simultaneously navigating part-time community college, but what you don't know right now is that this is completely unnecessary... even though nobody's going to tell you that until you're almost 30, and then you're going to be really pissed off that you wasted all that effort when you were convinced your parents didn't have squat. Ask the difficult questions. Don't be a martyr.

By the way, don't pick Linguistics as your major. I know academia sounds like a fascinating career path, but it's going to tank in about 20 years as a means of making a reliable living. Nobody's more disturbed by that prospect than I am, but it's best you know this now. You know those computer science courses you've been contemplating? Sign up for them earlier rather than later, because that's where the money and the fun will be, at least for a while. There's going to be this neat thing called the Internet in a few years, and electronic media will become very popular. You'll definitely want to be in a position to ride that train, so think smart. When you first hear the phrase "web design", jump on board.

Have a firm plan for what you want to do with your life if you don't have kids, because there's a distinct possibility that you won't. And that's okay. Trust me on this, too.

Finish that novel you just started writing. Finish the one you started before that and have had sitting in a drawer. Find a literary agent. Get serious about it. Write more after that. (Don't worry; you will. But you should get serious about it sooner.)

Don't buy the blue car.

Tequila belongs in the bottle. You're allergic; don't find this out the hard way. You're better off sticking to beer or wine.

You're not cut out for skiing, so hang it up now while you still have both ACLs.

Don't take a long hiatus from theatre. It's easier to knock the rust off when you haven't accumulated a lot of it. We got lucky and accomplished that, but it could've been so much easier.

Take every extra hour of work you can get for a while, and buy that guitar. It isn't as frivolous an expense as some might tell you.

Practice. Every. Day.

Be nice to Mom. She won't be here a whole lot longer.

Put up with Dad as best you can, but don't let him intimidate you. He means well; he's just profoundly clueless about some things. Like human relationships. With adult children. Or anyone else. He'll get better at it eventually... like in about 20 years. By then he won't have a choice.

Above all, be nice to yourself. At the end of the day, if you respect yourself, it's a lot easier for others to respect you. The same goes for love.

Be well.


July 2017



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