10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 20

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5. You are smart

Growing up my sister was always the smart one. I was always the one who just seemed to get by. Don’t get me wrong, I was smart, but I didn’t apply myself like she did. Therefore in college when I started doing well in school, being selected as the top violinist, writing papers like a whiz and ace-ing my tests I was like WTF? Something must be wrong here. I must just be really good at cheating the system.

That’s seriously what I thought. That if I could write a 15-page paper in one sitting and get a good grade that I must be working the system because I wasn’t really applying myself. Then I went to Harvard and I did start really applying myself. Because I wanted to do my best. But hey, it turns out I wasn’t cheating, I actually was just smart. Or at least good at certain things. We all have abilities and talents unique to us. Play up those talents and own them.

 

6. Don’t straighten your hair and wear fake tanner every day

The majority of girls at my school seemed to look like Barbie. They were pretty, tan, with straight silky blond hair. I was a bit of a late bloomer and did not consider myself very attractive in high school. Plus I’m extremely pale (I prefer fair, but I’ll go with pale here) and have super curly hair. But I wanted to fit in to be considered pretty too, so I started straightening my hair every single day and wearing fake tanner. That’s all fine. But now I realize that curly hair is kinda cool. And so is fair skin…like Nicole Kidman or Scarlett Johansson. Rock your own beauty.




 

7. Enjoy young love because it’s so sweet. But don’t put everything on that relationship.

When I was 18 I fell in love for the first time. And it was so sweet. In a young, innocent, rebellious sort of way. We both thought that for sure we were “the one” and we’d be together forever and get married. Summers apart felt like a lifetime. Then as things seemed to falter in the relationship it was really hard to let go. Like so many relationships, we held on longer than we probably should.

And when you’re going through heartbreak, it’s so easy to look back on a relationship (especially your first) with only fond memories instead of any bad ones. At that age, you’re really learning what love is for the first time. And enjoy it! Because it’s beautiful. But you’re both still learning who you are and how to be in a relationship. So if it doesn’t work out realize that it isn’t the end of the world. It was a wonderful thing that you learned a TON from and can take that learning with you down the road.




 

8. Practice saying no

This came up a lot with the young women I spoke to at Harvard. One girl asked, “If a guy offers to buy me a drink or a gift and I know they’re expecting something out of it, should I say no?”

Good question! When I was 20 I struggled a lot with saying no. To anyone, including myself. I had this strange inner-feeling that if I said no I somehow wasn’t being kind, or nice, or loving and that I’d be letting them down. Turns out quite the opposite is true! It’s not kind OR loving if you don’t say no when you know in your heart what’s right for you. Tune in to what feels good to you, and if it doesn’t feel good and you don’t want to do something, practice saying no. It feels awesome.