Do you remember being 18 years old?
I do. I knew everything. Either as I get older, I am becoming less intelligent or I was suffering from a severe case of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ syndrome before life came at me with both barrels blazing. It turns out there is a lot that I didn’t know and a few things I did know but didn’t want to acknowledge.
- Youth; it really is wasted on the young.
Despite feeling as though I have lived through 75 years, I am only 36 which gives me the unique opportunity to be quasi-young and move through the next few decades with more wisdom than most people have in their 30’s and 40’s. That’s the thing with going through hell, it either kills you or makes you strong and resilient.
Oh and ‘Life’, please accept this as formal, written notice that I am strong enough to make it through the duration of this decade and require no more epic, life adventures which nearly kill me. I am putting my notice in for a 2.5 year sabbatical for all life learning lessons and ‘opportunities to grow’. Please and thank you.
Do you ever look back on the decisions you made yesterday with the wisdom of today? Stop cringing, you did the best you knew how to do and so did I.
- I promise.
There are a lot of things I would do differently if I had them to do over, but if you are like me – extremely human – then there are no do overs in life, simply wisdom gained.
Somehow while thinking about all the advice I wish I could give my 18 year old self, I ended up writing a ‘Dear Donloree’ letter.
Its what writers do, they write …
~ ~ ~
It’s me. Or more accurately it’s you, twice as old as you are now. I have so much to tell you. First things first, society still has the unspoken rule that women have to wear nylons and you are going to break the rule on a consistent basis because it is a stupid rule.
I realize you just got the internet and are enjoying the new fangled thing we call email, but wait until you have a mobile phone that is the size of your palm, talks to you, only has two buttons and basically does everything you could ever want except practical things like laundry or scrubbing the toilet. Life is about to spin faster than you thought possible and fill up with details that people think are important, but all of these things are mostly noise.
One would think with all of this progress, we would have gotten past the nylons requirement by now.
- I know; I am deeply disappointed too.
Your life is not going to turn out the way you think it will and you will learn that very few people’s lives do. And the people whose lives are exactly what they thought they would be at the age of 18, well, I feel sorry for them; it must be a rather boring existence to have peaked at such a young age.
You are going to move to a new country, marry, divorce, start a business in an industry you don’t know exists yet, write books, earn a Bachelor’s degree that has zero real life application, nearly die from a disease with a weird name and rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Travel, adventure, running other people’s companies, learning how to do all kinds of things you never thought you would do, completing crazy physical feats and changing the world for one person at a time, starting with yourself, is how you’ll spend the next 18 years.
I know; I am a complete disappointment in the language department. What am I doing with my Spanish, you ask? That has yet to be seen, but all I know is a UN Translator doesn’t usually get to travel to lead negotiations and solve world crises, they sit and type all day long while listening to people talk. You suffer when you spend too much time at a desk – you need to make change happen which often lands you in crazy adventures and you love it.
Being a kickass HR woman and Executive Coach suits you much better and it means you get to wear cute dresses and fabulous shoes while making a societal statement by refusing to wear nylons.
- Two birds. One stone.
Many epic and hard things await and many amazing and jaw dropping experiences are also in the future for you.
In order to get through the hard and be able to savor the amazing, here are five things you need to do to have a great life.
#1 Choose wisely – choose happy, not hot.
You are going to spend hours, days, heck even months in your 20’s, worrying about how your body looks, under eating and over training in an effort to be attractive for other people.
Please stop; this is a complete waste of time.
Instead of caring so much about how your body looks, simply take care of it. Only eating celery and almonds and then killing yourself in the gym it is not taking care of your body.
With your metabolic baseline and autoimmune disease, you can be magazine cover hot or happy and beautiful in a very Donloree-esque way, but not both. I have experienced both and being happy is a much, MUCH better way to live.
I have been a size four and it doesn’t make you any happier or guarantee that you’re beautiful. Happiness and beauty are inside jobs. I am completely serious. Skinny chicks aren’t the happiest women on the planet, in fact many of them are suffering from a severe lack of food and wine enjoyment and all the friends and adventures that come with a side of calories. Being thin only means there is a better chance your size might be on the clearance rack, but nothing else in life is better because of it. Being fit, healthy, strong, loving the skin you are in and knowing who you are and being it without apology, well, that has huge benefits. Find the balance of being active, fit and healthy and send your scale to hell while biking all over the countryside, grabbing onto life and experiencing what it means to live a life full of joy and adventure.
- The truth is, happy is beautiful, at least to the people who matter.
And in regards to the people who only pay attention to you if and when your body fat is in the single digits, feel free to make judgments about their lack of depth and character.
#2 Let the kind voice help you captain your ship.
There are two competing voices in your heart and mind. One is kind, gentle, and intuitive and feels like a gentle ocean breeze under a full moon on a warm, clear summer night. The other is mean, brash, loud, and angry and feels like getting a root canal without Novocain. The volume and value of these voices is in direct correlation to the attention you give them. Pay attention to the first voice, even though it seems counterintuitive; it is the voice has your best interest in mind.
When you hear it say, “Don’t walk down the aisle” or “You should talk to that person” or “Say yes!”, do it. Do not question this voice even though it takes you into a place of vulnerability – its where the best things happen even though you might feel like you’re going to die.
- Feeling like you’re going to die and dying … two very different things.
#3 Make peace with fear.
Sometimes when you are afraid, you need to run away. Other times when you think you might die, it means you need to keep going and do the very thing you’re scared of.
If a man wearing an eye patch is running at you with a knife and threatening bad things, run away.
If you are afraid of what people will think, that you might fail, you might care or love the person across from you more than they care for or love you or many other stories that start with being vulnerable and end with the unknown, feel the fear and do it anyway.
- Risk living a big, full life – it is worth the vulnerability hangovers which hit you now and again as you travel on a path of accomplishment, love, compassion, success and adventure.
You have at least another 18 years, so make them amazing and go for it!
#4 Carpe the damn diem. Every. Single. Day.
Work your tail off. Learn to be an amazing executioner. Dream big and move your arse. Learn how to be a morning person sooner – get up, drink coffee, be grateful, write, train and eat your second breakfast before the rest of the world is up. When an opportunity comes your way and you want to say yes, SAY YES, then go about figuring out how to make it happen. You can and always will find a way to do what you’re supposed to do in life when you keep saying yes to your heart.
- Do not let one day go by without doing something purposeful.
Become great at doing the next thing even if it is boring and lame. Yes, I pack my lunch, gym bag, work clothes and laptop bag the night before and leave them at the front door. Your brain synapses don’t fire quickly at 5:30 am and let me tell you, forgetting your bra is an epic fail you really don’t need to experience more than once. You will be glad to know the messy high school years passed and you learned how to be organized, efficient, minimalistic and not run around like a chicken with her head cut off. Phew, right?
Remember your Senior Project and all those late night Algebra marathons? You stopped being ridiculous with deadlines and channeled your energy into things like triathlon, half marathons, bodybuilding competitions, speaking at business conferences, traveling, catering weddings, home renovations and car repair.
- A woman can’t have too many skills, I am completely serious – learn how to do many, many things.
#5 Most importantly, love with your whole heart. Always.
Life has a way of breaking your heart. Whatever you do live in such a way that you can always love. This means learning to forgive quickly, decide everyone is doing the best they know how to do and simply give love away. Love is a river until you hoard it. Hoarding love leads to stagnation and then when it comes time to love all you will have is a swamp to draw from.
And make sure to always give yourself the most love, grace and compassion you know how to give and then add some more.
And, yes, some people just suck.
Regarding the people in your life who only want to abuse you, use you up and benefit from your abilities and skills – remove them immediately. Learn how to do this quickly and efficiently. Saying, “NO” is having boundaries and keeps you in a place of love. And when people tell you that you must love someone who abuses and manipulates you, remove them from your life as well.
Life is a series of opportunities to choose who you’re going to be and who you’re becoming; always choose the path that makes you proud of yourself even if it flies in the face of convention.
- Do not lose heart; for without it, you cannot truly live.
Whatever you do, break more rules sooner. There are so many rules that just don’t matter.
Please also ensure you also apply the standard, no-name brand of advice – travel more, buy less stuff, say no more often, floss, start using eye cream before you have crows feet, invest in RRSPs, eat the slice of cheesecake and don’t count the calories, care less about how clean your house is before your friends come over and never, ever try to give yourself a bikini wax.
I could warn you away from all the mistakes you are about to make and keep you from all the hardship and pain that is coming your way, but I won’t because these are the things that make you real.
And being a real is the only way to live a great life.
- You’re not just going survive; you’re going to thrive.
What about these scars? Scars are beautiful things; they are reminders of lessons you’ve learned and places you will never go back and are a constant reminder that you are extremely resilient.
Feel free to share any or all of this advice with your young, idealistic friends who also know everything – it might just help you avoid a few of the EPIC bumps along the way. Or maybe not. Its ok if you don’t because I know you’re going to be amazing, so no worries.
No matter what, not giving yourself a bikini wax is the one piece of advice I would take to heart. Or at least be prepared and have ice and Band-Aids on hand, you are going to need them …
With love and admiration,
Donloree, age 36
PS – Always buy great shoes – no matter what happens they will fit, even after a few nights out with the girls and many bottles of wine. And there is never judgment, only fabulous panache and style to accompany you as you take over the world.