I recently had a lot of time to kill in a dermatology waiting room – I’m talking a solid hour and a half. I’ve waited in shorter lines to meet celebrities, like Nicholas Sparks and Santa Claus. In that time, I studied the
faces around me and concluded that I was, without a doubt, the youngest person there (with the exception of a little girl around the age of 4, but she was just tagging along with her grandma).
You never want to be the youngest patient in line for biopsies on a Wednesday afternoon. I was furious with myself because my own poor choices and naïve attitude landed me there.
There isn’t much from my past I regret. I believe that the lessons I learned made me who I am, as corny as that sounds. My mistakes taught me well, and without them, my life might have turned out very differently.
I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t confess the handful of things I would take back. And though a letter to my younger self won’t help me much right now unless someone has the cell number of Doc Brown and one time-traveling DeLorean, I’ll put my lessons learned the hard way out there for my kids, your kids and maybe even you:
- Your skin is perfect the way it is. I spent my adolescence covered in oil and baking in lounge chairs and tanning beds. I wasted hours and dollars on tans that faded in a week. My payout is becoming a regular at the dermatologist and undergoing biopsies and surgeries before the age of 30. I’ll never have “just a freckle” again. You don’t need a tan, and you definitely don’t need skin cancer.
- Credit cards are for building credit, not destroying it. Those credit card companies saw me coming a mile away. I was happily charging food, gas, plane tickets and shopping sprees in college without really grasping how long I’d be paying them back. I earned a bachelor’s degree and an ugly stack of credit card statements. The accomplishment of paying them off was incredibly rewarding, but I’d easily trade that for trashing them before they did any damage.
- Time moves fast enough without wishing it away. First, I do support short-term time rushing. For example, “I wish it was Friday,” is an acceptable statement Monday-Thursday. Beyond that, you’ll always miss something after you move on from it. I miss kindergarten naptime, a time when my only responsibility was homework and the days before my kids learned to crawl (even though they’re still pretty cool now). You’ll never realize it at the time, but exactly where you are right now is a pretty amazing place to be.
- You are good enough. I was always shy. I was a perfectionist afraid of sounding stupid or saying the wrong thing. As much as my parents told me how beautiful and brilliant I was, I felt like they kind of had to say that. It took someone like my husband and a few good friends to make me realize that I have important things to say and ideas worth sharing. True, I do say incredibly stupid things sometimes, but it feels great to throw out an idea that is praised. You’ll be recognized and remembered for the things you say and the chances you take, not the other way around.
- Silence and ignorance are not the same thing. To amend number four, you don’t have to agree with bad ideas or mean comments. Sometimes you don’t have to speak. You can watch, observe and assess the situation without lifting a finger or speaking a word. Sometimes the easiest way to look smart or spare someone’s feelings or your own reputation is to keep your mouth shut.
- Honesty is the best policy, especially with yourself. Don’t embellish or exaggerate to fit in or impress people. The truth always comes out, and you will look foolish – case closed. Don’t bother lying to yourself either because you’re smart enough to see through it. Do yourself a favor and trust your gut. Or your mom – as a mom now, I can say that listening to your mother is the only other viable option.
So, there you have it. Six tips from me to you. Do with them what you will, but I hope that at least one piece of advice resonates with you. I’d hate for you to look back on the day you read this blog and think, “Man, I wish I would have listened to that brilliant, eloquent blogger on Military OneSource.”