Marriage is Optional and 25 Other Things I Wish I Knew At 22


Recently, a client wanted to know why we always have on "this kind of music" in the lobby. I cried a little inside explaining it's all music from the 80's.

When a client doesn't know that the new O.J. Simpson made for TV movie is a true story because she was still crawling around in her Pack 'n Play when the events actually happened, I have to blink hard to ward off the looming existential crisis.

When she tells me the new gray streaks in my hair are really bold and trendy, I don't bother to explain that I'm neither, but am simply tired of chasing down those pesky roots. I'll let her call it bold.

While I try to comprehend that she never had to record her favorite song from the radio onto a cassette tape, or feel guilt for single handedly destroying the ozone layer to get the perfect mall bangs, I remember my own age...

Life goes by so fast. Yea, I know, it's what every old person says, and it's annoyingly accurate. If I had known then what I know now, I'd have saved myself a few bruises on my heart and dollars in my bank account.

Perhaps my extra 20 years can add life to yours. So here's what I wish I knew at 22:

  1. Clean your house like company is coming to stay. Especially if no one is.
  2. If you buy a lamp, choose it very wisely. It will be around longer than you expect.
  3. Find a job early in your career where leadership supports your growth and can teach you how to lead and follow. It will pay off for a lifetime.
  4. Make a study of your own heart and mind. They are the only things that can't be taken from you.
  5. Marriage and kids are optional. You can be happy and completely fulfilled with or without. You don't have to wait for those things to find joy.
  6. You can be angry and safe at the same time.
  7. There will be seasons of needing to work your ass off. Make sure it's only a season or your spark will fade fast.
  8. Family can take many different forms.
  9. Learn how to grieve. Depression is often grief that doesn't have a place to breathe.
  10. Give of your time, energy, and resources only to the extent you can do so without becoming resentful.
  11. Get a good counselor. An emotional oil change from time to time will do you good.
  12. Travel by yourself at least once. You'll never regret it.
  13. Always have a pet.
  14. Choose compassion when everything in you wants to lash out. You're responsible for your words.
  15. Your heart is going to hurt in ways you didn't know possible. Be patient. Be gentle. It will mend.
  16. Make a list of all the things you like to do. Life gets busy and it's easy to forget what once brought joy.
  17. Surround yourself with people of gentleness and strength. Both come in really handy.
  18. Fabulous lip balm and a comfy pair of shoes can turn your whole day around.
  19. Be aware of the many ways one can compare. Having to be better-than or less-than will never serve you well.
  20. There is no shame in having a broken heart. Only in never having loved enough for it to break.
  21. When in doubt, show compassion. Plan on lots and lots of doubt.
  22. Pursue your friends when their hearts are broken and hard to be around. It's called love.
  23. Be your own safe place.
  24. Trust your gut. If it feels like something's wrong, it probably is.
  25. Some men are very unkind, many are pretty stinkin' fabulous. Take all the time you need to learn the difference.
  26. Learn to love every curve, dimple and line of your body. You're going to need it for a long, long time.

As the young client is curled up on the couch in my office sharing her soul, I'm reminded that pain and joy at 22 looks very much like pain and joy at 42. Fear is fear and love is love, no matter how many rings on the tree.

And, if my extra years can help a younger, one-hit-wonder deprived client gain appreciation for some totally awesome, dance-worthy 80's tunes, then it was all worth it.