A little over a month ago, I turned 25. A quarter-century! I know to most adults it sounds impossibly young. But to people my age, it represents the beginning of a new chapter of life. It seems to be the first birthday that brings people anxiety about their age. I’ll admit, the significance of it did freak me out a little.
But let me tell you a little secret, younger people.
Twenty-five is my best year yet.
I know. A lot of you think that it’s pretty much downhill after college. But as fun and crucial as those four years were, I honestly think this is better.
We’re at the age where we have the freedom to take charge of our own lives, but we don’t yet bear the responsibility to take care of anyone else. Our bills are minimal, our obligations sparse, and our energy nearly limitless.
We’ve chosen our own career paths. We’ve moved to new cities. We’ve made new friends, almost from scratch.
I, for one, have never felt so “myself.” I feel like I’m in the right place both physically and mentally. Is my life perfect? Obviously not. But I’m having a blast figuring it all out on my own.
In the spirit of getting better with age (call me a fine wine, why don’t you), I decided to write a letter to 17-year-old me.
Dear 17-year-old Haley,
I know that twenty-five sounds like a ridiculously far off age. It sounds pretty ancient, in fact. Don’t people get married by then? Won’t kids be right around the corner? “No thank you,” you think.
You’d rather focus on getting A’s, going to cheerleading practice, and crushing on older boys. Everyone tells you this is the prime of your life, after all. You’re so mature—you can drive, you’re applying to college, you’ve started dating. You’ve pretty much got it figured out, right?
Well, I’ve got some advice for you.
Let’s break this into topics, shall we?
I know you’re dealing with your first broken heart right about now. And I know that it sucks and it feels like the worst pain you’ve experienced in recent memory. In fact, you probably can’t imagine feeling this way again.
But you will.
The good news is that next time, you’ll be much better at handling it. You’ll have grown up. Scary, huh?
The bad news?
The boys you interact with probably won’t have. Years later, they’ll still confuse you so much that it hurts your brain. And all of your friends’ brains. And from what 25-year-old you hears, that’ll never change.
Just remember that ‘dating’ exists for a reason. You don’t just marry the first boy you see. Why? Because you have to date different people in order to learn what it is you don’t want in a partner. To learn what you do want. And ultimately, to learn about yourself.
The cool thing now is that you’re not just restricted to the boys in your school. You don’t have to worry about awkward hallway run-ins or drama with his new girlfriend. If things don’t work out, you never have to see him again! And if things do work out, you can do things like go out to nice dinners and order a bottle of wine, instead of sitting on his parents’ couch. Upgrade.
Oh, and spoiler alert: the boys that seem shady and mean now will most likely be shady and mean in a few years. They’ll just have gotten significantly less attractive. Life is a funny thing, I tell ya.
First things first. I know you think it’s a fine idea to take six shots of vodka the first time you really drink. But let me assure you: it is one of your worst ideas of all time. But, in case the damage is already done (it is) I will tell you how this ends.
First, your brother will leave the party he is at to come save you. This will occur after you’ve pleaded with everyone around you, head still in the toilet, to call him. He will give you the ‘fireman’s lift’ (as your dad will forever refer to it) and bring you home.
Next, your mom will stay up most of the night to test your blood sugar and force juice down your throat so that you don’t go into a diabetic coma. But no matter how many times you drunkenly slur that your parents can put you up for adoption if they want, they won’t.
And don’t worry about the punishment. Because dear ol’ mom and dad know that the hangover you’re going to wake up to is punishment enough. Oh, and you have your biggest economics project due the next day—have fun with that one.
I’m not saying you won’t ever have nights that end up with your face in the toilet again. You will. But they’ll be few and far between. You can drink as much (or as little, more like it) as you want—nobody cares anymore. You can leave the bar when you’re over it. That’s what Uber is for, after all.
- YOUR BODY
For the first time, you’re starting to worry about your weight. One piece of advice: DON’T.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, kid, but this is the best it’s ever gonna be. Sure, you’re not in the size 0 jeans you were in last year before you became diabetic, but you’re basically at your prime. Enjoy it while it lasts—because it won’t.
But you know what else I want to tell you? That’s ok.
It’s going to take you a long time to realize that it’s not your weight that’s holding you back. It’s your mind. Please don’t head to college and miss out on things just because you don’t like the way you look in a bathing suit. Be you. Life is too short.
This is a battle you’re still fighting with yourself. But you’ve come a long way, and you’re much happier. You’ll realize that your friends couldn’t care less about what size you wear, and that the right boys won’t let a little pudge keep them from asking you out. No, you’re not this confident every day, but you’re getting there. It would just be cool if you could get there a little sooner.
There’s a lot I could say about this topic, but you already know that girls are…difficult. By now, you probably feel like you’ve already had your fill of drama. Well, buckle up, sister. Your mom isn’t kidding when she tells you that the crazy dynamic between women never really goes away.
The good news, though, is that you will become more self-assured. You’ll realize that it’s ok to put yourself first once in a blue moon. You can’t possibly make everyone around you happy. Do what feels right for YOU. If someone is bringing you nothing but anxiety and negative energy, Let. Them. Go.
I know that’s hard to do at your age, so I’ll give you some leeway. Ok, a lot of leeway. Fiiine, you’re still figuring this whole thing out. But you’ll start to find people that encourage you to be completely yourself. In fact, that’s exactly what they’ll love you for. They’ll embrace your quirks instead of trying to quell them. And that’s what friends are for.
When you go off to college next year, a couple of people will comment on the fact that you talk to your family on the phone too much. I’m sure you already know this, but they’re just jealous. You are beyond lucky to have such a tight-knit family. And you’re only going to appreciate this more as the years go on.
Friends may come and go. You may get dumped. You may (cough cough, you will) gain the Freshman 15. Heck, you may even take six shots and throw up everywhere. Through it all, though, your family is the only group you can always count on. So give them a call whenever you freaking feel like it.
I’m happy to say you’re just as close to your family today. The more people you meet, the more you realize that not everyone is so lucky. You’ll only become more grateful for them as you get older. You’ll miss living with your parents—and not just because they pay for cable and do your laundry.
Ok, so maybe you didn’t get this advice in time. But that’s all part of the journey. You’ve got to figure things out as you go. Each jagged piece of this puzzle will help you become the sort-of-together-but-not-totally-there-yet person you are at 25.
And the coolest part?
The best is yet to come.