Self Care

21 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger

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From a personal perspective, I’ve lived a lot of lives. Boomeranging from one end of the US to the other, making many career changes, and meeting thousands of people along the way has taught me at least a few things.

Most “advice for my younger self” contains solid but easily dismissible tokens of wisdom such as “get uncomfortable” and “YOLO”. Why doesn’t this advice stick?

Because when you’re young, you’re stupid. You make mistakes when it comes to your heart and mind. You should make these mistakes, if they don’t land you in jail or in an ethical morass that involves serious harm to others.

So here is some practical advice, for youth of any age.

1. When in doubt, get a good lawyer. If you aren’t sure what type of lawyer to get, look up general counsel in your area and make multiple calls. Most law firms will listen to your issue for free and give advice, as long as you’re nice about it.

2. If it costs more than $100, read the reviews. If there are consistent negative reviews but you really want to use the service/company, ask them about the reviews. Make it very clear to them that you are aware of past missteps, so they can be careful.

3. If it’s expensive and wearable, try it on first. If the thoughts, “well, I could always cut this off” or “I’ll get this shortened” or “I’ll lose weight,” pop into your brain, do not buy it.

4. If there’s a trial period, always pick the trial. Then set a calendar reminder to decide if you want to cancel or not before the trial ends.

5. When joining a dating app, be very honest in your bio and ask your friends to check your pictures. It will feel cringe, but your overall experience will be better and you will appreciate other people on the apps that are honest.

6. Never invite someone to your home sight unseen. This goes double for women. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to get some spontaneous strange, but always propose to meet somewhere public nearby (a coffee shop, a bar, a wine shop, a bookstore). If they say no, that is a huge red flag and you should not engage.

7. If you decide to use a moving company at any point, check their DOT number on the SAFER system. It should be on any paperwork before you sign it. If not, ask for it. You should only use carriers that are licensed without any violations. The moving industry is absolutely rife with scams and horrible business practices. Trust me, I had to get the FBI involved once.

8. Find a reliable dry cleaner who can also do alterations. Stop being lazy and stop being wasteful.

9. Get a therapist. There are sliding scale counselors in your area, trust me. If your health insurance covers mental health outpatient services, contact as many people in-network as possible and do the intake/consultation. You don’t have to go every week, but you need to talk to someone who is not your best friend as your life shifts and changes.

10. Never pet someone’s dog without asking first.

11. Before travelling out of the country, look up whether you need specific paperwork to enter or leave. For example, when you fly into Mexico, they will hand you a customs form to fill out. You will then be given the bottom slip of that form after you enter the country. You must hold onto it. They won’t let you onto your departure flight without it. And you don’t want to have to run through the airport to the immigration office to pay $45 USD to get another one and hope they hold the flight for you. Not every air steward is as kind as mine was.

12. Also, look up what the emergency number is for whatever country you’re in. It’s not 911 everywhere, guys.

13. Always have someone else check your resume before you send it out. Grammar and misspellings matter.

14. Go to your doctor every year. The human body is a mystery; and you could be living with something inside or on you that you thought was normal, but absolutely isn’t.

15. If you do contract or freelance work that pays you more than $600, you need to get a 1099 tax form from the person paying you.

16. Learn to cook at least one thing very well. Preferably, it’s something you can cook in large quantities for potlucks and that you can freeze if you’re just making it for yourself.

17. When you begin a new job, do not give 150%. You should work hard, but only up to your 100% (but ask your supervisor for feedback). Do not go the extra mile right out of the gate. Someday, and probably soon, there will come a time that you do actually have to give a little more. Make sure you have that amount to give and remember that it should be only temporary. This is how you avoid burnout while still showing you are a good colleague. When it comes time for your review, that temporary period is now something you can mention if you’re looking for a raise and/or promotion.

18. If you make plans with someone, put it in your phone/planner/calendar. No one wants to hang out with flakey people or people who are always late. You might not even notice it, but they will stop inviting you to things.

19. Just do the dishes.

20. Listen, you’re taking advice from a stranger on the Internet so how practical are you really trying to be? Well, that’s how we get our information now. So if you’re going to do any of the above or have opinions on things that are literally life and death (looking at you, anti-vaxxers) or in a sticky situation that you feel overwhelmed by…get a second opinion. Look at the facts. Make the decision you think is right, but don’t get so caught up in being stubborn that you end up shooting yourself in the foot if things change.

21. And I don’t know, just be a nice person. It’s genuinely not hard and goes a long way. You’d only know the difference if you were not a nice person and then started becoming one. Don’t go down that path, start off with compassion. Life isn’t only about practicality.

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Candace Cui - Actual Unicorn

Candace Cui - Actual Unicorn

At age 2, I was getting run over by a bike in an alley in China. At age 8, I was avoiding man-o-wars on Tybee Island. At age 14, I was overdrinking sweet tea while running through the woods barefoot. At age 20, I was learning Art History and how to drop it low. At age 25, I was making fun of drum circles at Dolores. At every age, I am charming the fuck out of you. Just wait, it'll happen.

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