20 things I would tell my 20-year old self


 For me, 20 was a big year—I spent the summer traveling around Europe; it was my first year at Yale as a transfer from Cornell; and my mom had died the year before.

Despite how it looks,  I hadn’t done anything really dangerous or really stupid….yet.


I guess this should be number one:

1. If you’re going to fool around with a gun, first find out if it’s loaded.  (This was borrowed from someone I met in the Israeli army)

2.  And by the way, GET OUT OF THE SUN.  You might avoid getting skin cancer— which you will have  in less than 10 years.

3. Keep a journal;  someday you’ll forget all the things you think you’ll remember.

4.  Take more pictures.  Same reason as #3.

5.  Find a surrogate mom; you will miss having a mother even more the older you get.

6..  Pay more attention to what’s inside your bookbag than how cute you look carrying it.

7.  And you might want to think about what you’re going to do with your life before the last semester senior year.

8.  Then again, might as well get used to it. You’ll spend most of your life flying by the seat of your pants—and the most useful qualities you can have are resilience and adaptability.

9.  Take advantage of every chance to LEARN —from a class, from everything you do—now and forever.

10.  While you’re learning—remember you will learn more from failure than from success.

11. Spend less time with your boyfriends and more with your girlfriends.

12.  Continue to stand up for what—and who– you believe in.

13.  But don’t worry; Nixon won’t be there to kick around much longer.

14.  Buy less clothes.  And save the good ones; someday they will be vintage.  (Everything really DOES come back in style.)

15.  On the other hand, don’t save so much STUFF.  You’ll thank me later.

16.  Ask questions about your family history before the family elders are gone.

17.  Continue taking risks.  The good kind.  It makes life a constant adventure.

16.  Think less about what you DON”T have; and more about what you DO have.  And be grateful for it.

17.  That includes your body—so stop criticizing it and appreciate it.

18.   Don’t think the men in your life know more than you do.

19.  Trust your own judgement –and learn how to speak up for yourself.


20.  You look like you’re on top of the world: and you are.  But it gets even better.  I promise.


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  1. says

    I kept journals for years, but ended up throwing them all away – I would cringe with embarassment when I read them! I was terrified my kids would get a hold of them. Bad decision? Maybe. But at least I don’t have to worry about anyone laughing at me when I’m dead!

  2. says

    I, too, kept journals. I wish I could find them? I guess I should have told my younger self to throw some things away and keep the really special items in a place that you can remember!

  3. says

    Darryle, I am fascinated reading your list and loving the chance to see photos of the young you – the same you I saw in you at BlogHer, btw. I think that your 20-year self is alive and well! Great list!

  4. says

    There’s so many things that my 20 year old self could learn from your 50s year old self. Love the journaling advice. I have two from college days and cringe when I read them. But can’t throw them away, either.

  5. says

    Darryle, it’s amazing to see your pictures–you look like the person I wanted to be when I was 20! Great advice to your younger self, especially about hanging onto the right things…and letting the wrong ones go.

  6. says

    I kind of think it would be interesting for my kids to read my journals whether. I’m dead or still alive. Even if all,of us cringe. Probably that comes from having such a deep desire for them to know who I am, something I really never had the opportunity to do with my mom. I would kill to read anything personal that she had written.

  7. says

    Thanks Anne. Actually I’m a big fan of things that are cringe-worthy from my past. It takes a lot to embarrass me. On the other hand some of my old journals might do the trick.

  8. says

    Thank you so much! I enjoyed meeting you too. Glad you could see the 20 year old me someplace under the me of today although sometimes i don’t feel all that different. And since I had children I’ve become a firm believer that the essence of us remains the same from birth all through life.

  9. says

    The only time i faithfully kept a journal or diary was early in high school and when i had cancer. I’ve read the cancer journals but after these comments I think I really will have to dig up my earlier journals and see how cringe worthy they really are. Thanks, Julie.

  10. says

    Kind of curious to know why I look like the person you wanted to be at 20. What i can see is someone with a spirit of adventure — which hopefully I still have. Thanks, Karen.

  11. says

    How I wish I had learned more of the things available to me at 20.. But then again it’s never too late for anything and that includes learning to learn, right? Thank you!

  12. says

    Excellent list. And such a great time you were having at 20. Love the photos. This, so true: “…the most useful qualities you can have are resilience and adaptability.” Something usually learned the hard way. Great post, Darryle.

  13. says

    Boy, you look like a fun 20 year old! Great post…. journals..I’ve gotten rid of my old ones-my current day journals would shock the hell out of my adult sons! Oh well.

  14. says

    You did get it right! All of it. I loved the part where you tell yourself to accept flying by the seat of your pants. We can lament the traits that we see that have downsides, or embrace those same traits for what they do bring to us. Somehow that part really brings together the two parts of reminiscence, I can have both regrets and no regrets over the same damned thing. I can view the pain and suffering while also seeing the joy that sometimes happen with the very same choices. Life is funny that way, isn’t it?

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