If I could have a conversation with myself ten years ago, this is what I’d say.
1. Following fashion trends is overrated
You’ll think those flared jeans are dorky in five years anyway. Stick to the classics, have some fun with your wardrobe, and don’t worry as much about keeping up with the fads.
Save your money and your brain-space for stuff that matters.
But invest nice shoes. Those do matter.
2. Making small, faithful decisions now will have big payoff later
In your 20s you’re a sapling. It’s easy to make tiny adjustments. In your 30s you will start to grow into an oak tree and adjustments to your routines and habits will be much harder to make.
What types of small, faithful decisions?
Keep going to church, even when you don’t feel like it.
Give to charity, even when you don’t have much.
Work out when you can, and if you hate working out find the type of exercise you hate least. Run, rock climb, kick box, lift weights, join a kickball league.
Join a small group Bible study, and tell those people about your soul.
Learn to fix things rather than throw them away.
The patterns you set now will likely take you into your 30s and beyond, so set your course with wisdom and be intentional.
3. Save all the money you can
You don’t actually need to go to that concert. You might think you do, but you don’t. And the $78 you save now will pay off when you’re trying to do something big in your 30s, like buy a house or a car or swim lessons for your kids.
[Yeah, you might actually have kids someday. Don’t worry. They’ll be super cute.]
You can stream all the Nickel Creek you want on Spotify in the future anyway. No, that’s not a thing yet, but it will be.
Save your pennies. You’ll be glad you did.
4. Invest in good staples, since you’ll still be using/wearing them in a decade
I know, I know, I juuuuust told you to save money. But the thing is, sometimes you’ll need to buy a jacket. Or a couch. Or a blender. And when you do – buy a good one.
It may be cheaper to buy a Magic Bullet than a Vitamix, but if you buy six Magic Bullets in the next ten years because you’ve married someone who is obsessed with blending things like beets and carrots and he burns out all your Magic Bullet’s motors, it’s much better to purchase a quality product once than a sub-par one over and over again.
[You will, of course, buy six Magic Bullets in ten years and then a Vitamix, but maybe others can learn from your mistake…]
[[Also, you will marry someone who is obsessed with making beet smoothies. But that’s another deal altogether.]]
Look into companies like Patagonia and Lands End that will repair or replace garments for a lifetime. You’ll be glad you did.
5. If you’re married, make your marriage a priority
Address problems early. Snuggle a lot. Go on dates, and when you don’t have the time or the money, stay in and play board games and laugh.
Hit up a counselor when you need it.
Talk it out.
Hug it out.
Say your sorry first, say “I love you” often, and don’t be afraid of conflict. The more you learn to fight fairly and kindly and well, the better your marriage will be.
6. Keep making friends
You don’t need just a best friend or a spouse or even a best friend and a spouse. You will need an army of supportive, fun, kind people around you. Let them be there for you. Be there for them.
Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver… yada yada yada. True stuff.
7. Wear sunscreen
And long sleeves. And a hat. And sunglasses.
8. Don’t worry, your 30s will be great
You’ll trust yourself more and know yourself better.
No need to fear getting older. Fear growing stagnant and closed-minded. Guard against that.
9. Read widely
Keep being curious about the world. Read unexpected things. Spiritual things. Thoughtful things. Novels and nonfiction and magazines and newspapers and the Bible.
Read things on paper.
If you lean right, read authors who write from the left, and vice versa. Find a few friends whose recommendations you trust and ask them for their favorite books. Find a few people with whom you disagree and read their favorites, too.
Go the library all the time.
Stay curious about the world. Befriend a wide cast of characters through their writing: Malcolm Gladwell, Ta Nehisi Coates, Mary Oliver, C. S. Lewis, Fleming Rutledge, Eugene Peterson, Tina Fey.
Throw a little Dickens in there, too.
10. Never pass up a chance to be outside
I know, I know, you already think that the digital age has come. Well, hold onto your hat because in the next ten years you’ll encounter iPhones and Alexa and Twitter and Tumblr.
Apple is going to make watches that can text you and Amazon is going to produce little buttons that you can stick on your cabinets to automatically reorder your detergent. Google is going to make glasses, but those won’t really be a thing, so don’t worry about them.
The pull of the screen will become more and more alluring. So turn it off often.
Get in the habit of going outside to look at the landscape. Learn the names of the plants on your street and the trees in your yard. Feel the wind and the sun and the snow on your skin.
Get in the habit now. It’ll only be harder later.
What would you tell your younger self?