A letter to my 40-year-old self

Dear 40-year-old me,

There are a few things I want you to remember about what it’s like to be in your twenties. I’ve met some adults over the past year or two (somehow I still don’t seem to count as an  ”adult” myself) who seem to think that life as a 20-something is easy. And compared to the stresses of children and a mortgage, maybe it is. But I never what you to forget how you felt in March 2012.

1. At 24, you felt old.

I got married before my 24th birthday, something I never thought you’d do. While most 24-year-olds are still living with their parents or with other single roommates, I’ve settled into a comfortable, happy married life. I’m also on the verge of stepping off the edge of post-secondary education into the working world. I’ve started thinking about scary things like debt, chronic unemployment or underemployment, never being able to afford a house, never being able to afford kids, never having the time or resources to actually enjoy life. Two years ago, one of my neighbours scoffed at me when I used the phrase “when I was a kid.” I may be young compared to you, but I don’t feel like a kid anymore. Don’t underestimate the worries of a 24-year-old.

2. At 24, you took a few risks.

I don’t mean risks like bungee jumping or taking off to Europe for a year. I have never been a risk-taker in any sense of the word. I tend to dig myself into ruts and stay there for a while. But I know how to take risks when it counts. I’d only been 18 a week when I picked up my life in Winnipeg and moved over 3,000 kilometres to a small town in New Brunswick where I knew nobody. Best decision ever. Before my 22nd birthday, I moved from a town of 5,000 to the biggest city in Canada. I went from a tiny university to a huge one. Master of Arts program? Piece of cake. As a young adult, it seemed so easy. I don’t think it will feel so possible by age 40. Don’t get too stuck in comfortable ruts.

3. At 24, you were idealistic.

Not just in the sense that, despite my cynicism, I want to believe the best of the world in general. But in the sense that there are certain ideals that guide my life. Most of these ideals are inherently optimistic. Like the concept that there’s absolutely no reason for my marriage not to last a lifetime. Or the idea that there’s still an important place for religion in the world and in my life, and it’s worth defending. Or, despite my current fears, that I can find meaningful work that I’ll love. It’s easy to get bogged down in stress, worries and practicalities, but that stuff, while important, can distract you from the best parts of life. Don’t be practical all the time.

Most importantly, always try to remember what’s really important.

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