Advice For My 19-Year-Old Self

If you could chat with your younger self, what advice would you give them?

Advice For My 19-Year-Old Self
Old friends, sat on their park bench like bookends. Photo by Dusan Kipic on Unsplash

I woke up suddenly to pain. By the quality of the light spilling in from the edges of our windows, I estimated it as early morning. Gingerly, I tested moving my head back and forth and cringed as the pain radiated through my upper back and neck. I could feel the swelling spreading. I checked my watch. 5:32 am.


I slowly and delicately rolled out of bed and, yet again, tested the range of motion of my neck.


Dana rolled over and asked me if I was ok. I told him I had (somehow) hurt my back, to which he, lovely human that he is, groggily asked me if I needed a back rub. I thanked him but told him ice was in order.

As I opened our door, our cats burst into the bedroom, elated that perhaps breakfast would be coming on immediate demand (1.5 hours early). I headed to the kitchen to get a tiny blue ice pack from the freezer and then came to bed only to herd them out, to their deep disappointment.

I carefully lay back down on the ice pack and listened to Winston and Stella’s vocal displeasure at the rude treatment of locking them out. It was Saturday morning.

I was supposed to go for a birthday shopping day and lunch with my sister-in-law. I would be SO mad if I had to cancel because of this!

More ice, a muscle relaxant, half an hour of gentle stretching, and two pancakes later, I decided I was still good to go out. I would need to be careful with my movements when I tried things on. Worst case scenario, I would need help out of whatever garment I got stuck in, or I would have to buy it because it hurt too much to take off. 😂

A successful (if careful) shopping trip was had.

How terribly strange to be… 39

I turned 39 a few weeks before this happened. One more year until I hit the big 4-0 and turn the imaginary corner into middle age. 😳

Around this same time last year, on the precipice of 38, I reflected on A New Phase of Life and the Gifts of Time. I even mentioned sleep-related injuries, which is both funny and mortifying in equal measure.🤦🏻‍♀️

I have yet again been reflecting on another year gone.

There is a verse in Simon and Garfunkel’s song, Old Friends, that goes:

“Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy”

It played on a loop in my head for days as I thought about how terribly strange it is to be 39 (never mind 70!).

My sore back has long since recovered, but I’ve been thinking about how much has changed over the years and how much has stayed the same. I’ve been thinking about my 19-year-old self and everything she will experience on the path to 39.

Would she believe where we are today? Would she be proud of who we become? Would she be afraid of the trials we will face? Would she laugh at the absurdity of a sleep-related back injury?

For sure yes to that last one. 😁

I imagined what it would be like to sit with her, an Earl Grey tea in hand, and share some things I’ve learned (or at least am still learning) along the way.

Here are a few pieces of advice I would give my 19-year-old self.

Look at that little bunny! (I'm actually 22 in this picture, but I don't have anything digital I could easily dig up from my younger days.)

Advice for my 19-year-old self:

Chill a bit

All the things you are anxious about that make you worry and give you nightmares… most of them don’t matter. There will be things that are worthy of your anxiety and worry, some of them big things, but they will come no matter how much you fret.

There will always be more to do. There will always be more work. There will always be things you could be doing. Do what you can, given the circumstances of each day and leave the rest.

Let yourself relax. Enjoy life. Chill a bit.

Take care of yourself

This mortal shell is all we get. 😛

Sleep-related injuries aside, take care of yourself. Listen to your body when it tells you it needs rest. Listen to your mind when it tells you it needs quiet. Drink more water.

Exercise and move more often than you feel like. You will never, ever regret it, and it won't always be as easy as it is now.

Worry less about what other people think and more about what you think

You get to decide what is important to you, and it doesn’t have to be the same things that are important to others. You get to decide what you want and how you will get it.

Most people will not think of you at all. If they do, you can’t control what they think. You can only control you.

Focus on being who you want to be, not who you think others want you to be.

Don’t wait

In the illustrious words of my favourite author, Neil Gaiman,

“Moments [are] to be experienced; waiting [is] a sin against both the time that [is] still to come and the moments one [is] currently disregarding.”

Don’t wait for the right time or to feel prepared. Neither will happen. Don’t wait to do the thing or to tell someone or to try something. Do it now. Enjoy now.

You will get through every hard thing that is thrown your way

There will be countless things you don’t know how to do, things you find daunting, things you don’t think you will be able to deal with. There will be hard things. But you will learn, you will face them, and you will deal with them. And the hard things will get easier, only to be replaced by new hard things.

You will get through all of them. Trust yourself and keep going.

Your path is not set, and you can always change directions.

Life is not linear

You will not follow the path you imagined for yourself. You will meander, double back, and veer well away. You will do things you would never have imagined for yourself. You will succeed and fail over and over in different ways.

Your path is not set, and you can always change directions.

You have to be intentional every single day

It’s easy to let the days flow by and get caught up in the daily grind. It’s easy to let habits slip and time pass without thinking about what’s important to you. It’s much harder to be intentional about how you spend your time, attention and energy, but it’s worth the effort.

Take the time to reflect each day. Be thoughtful about your choices and how they impact you and the people around you. Be conscious of who and what you give your energy and attention to. There are things that matter and things that don’t. Give them to what matters!

Looking forward to 40

A few other things I would tell my 19-year-old self: Your back will hurt if you stay in bed too long; you need to warm up and cool down for every workout, or you will regret it; you will still get acne, and you need to wear sunscreen every day. 😂

Jokes aside, as I speed towards 40, I am constantly becoming the best version of myself. Though I am still working on internalizing these pieces of advice, each year I get a little better. I learn a bit more about what I truly want out of my life and do my best to go get it.

While there are certainly the un-fun parts of getting older, there are also plenty that I am so grateful for. I would tell my 19-year-old self that the best is yet to come.

If given the opportunity to look back on all of the ups and downs of your life, what advice would you give your 19-year-old self? What advice are you still working on following now?

If life feels overwhelming and you don't know where to start to calm it down, take your first step and schedule a chat with me. I can help.