11 pieces of advice I would give myself 5 years ago

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| July 16 2016,

02:00 am

"If I knew then what I know now..." is an old adage many of us are all too familiar with. If only that time machine we've been constructing in our imagination would finally appear before us, we could take all this wisdom back to our younger selves, delivering the cheat codes to life. Alas, you live and you learn, but if I could go back and tell my younger self some things, here's the advice I'd give:

Stop dropping out of college

They say college is where you find yourself. I just wasn't trying to find myself for $300 a unit, you know? The general education classes were boring to me, and the teachers seemed like they wanted to be there less than I did. Still, a lot of college is about sticking it out until you get to the good stuff. If my attitude had matched my aptitude, I could be finished with my master's degree by now. Not to mention, the older you get, the more difficult it is to obtain financial aid, grants and scholarships. We live in a system that assumes you'll be done with college by a certain age, which obviously isn't true, but definitely affects opportunities for monetary assistance

These boys ain't loyal

I'd tell myself to focus on my own gifts, and building my relationship with myself. Guys can be a distraction at a crucial point in life, especially if you're not clear on what you want for yourself. I'd assure the younger me that I'm a great date, tell her that I always bring myself flowers and candy, I never cancel on me, and I always text back. If you happen to find that one, cool. If not, cool

Family is more important than you think

It was definitely all about my friends five years ago. My mantra was, "Relatives are given, Family is built," which I still believe. Those people sharing your DNA, though, understand you and will often go out of their way to support you in ways that your friends simply won't. I've continued to build that family that I want, blood and non-blood relatives included, but I've also come to appreciate my mama and older sisters more. They've been doing this life thing longer than me. You don't have to always take their advice, but at least consider that they have some wisdom to offer

You have outer flaws and you're still cute

No horizontal stripes or loud prints. No skinny jeans. Try to avoid tank tops. No polka dots. As a plus size woman, these are things I'd heard and adhered to for many years of my life. Because I didn't think I was cute, I didn't even try to be. Every single person in this world has some physical flaw that they're trying to hide, but that doesn't diminish their beauty. I'd tell myself to rock that hot pink and neon green in the summer with confidence

You have inner flaws and you can change

Phrases such as, "This is just the way I am" or "Maybe I'm just to real for some people" flowed out of my mouth constantly. The truth is that behavior is taught in both directions. If one can be taught rudeness, one can also be taught kindness. If one can be taught selfishness, one can also be taught selflessness. That whole story about your battling inner wolves (one being the good wolf and one being the bad wolf) ends by saying that the wolf that wins is the one you feed. Being flawed isn't a crime, but actively choosing not to acknowledge, accept, and change poor behaviors is a shame

Save your money. Seriously, do it.

When I got my first corporate job, I was making more money in one week than I'd made in entire summers before that. I started buying a pair of sneakers every week, clothes, accessories, I bought a car and took random road trips for no reason. What I didn't do was save. Nobody told me what a 401k was, and I didn't do my research myself (until much later). I wasn't taught about investing. Finances were the thing that plagued my parents, so I kind of avoided talking about it (to myself or others). The thing is, money can be flowing one day and stop dead cold the next. Savings cushion the blow during hard times and discipline us for the larger purchases we'll inevitably want to make later in life

Cultivate friendships with women

I was (and still am) a guy's gal. Most of my friends were guys because I'd rather play dominoes than play in makeup (I don't wear makeup). I was also turned off by a lot of women who seemed to want to compete with each other than have actual friendships. Who looks cuter, who has the better man, who can get the other one's man to look at me instead? These were situations that I wanted no part of. The thing is... I just hadn't found my tribe yet. There were women out there who were like me, but it took me longer to find them because there was also a nagging desire to be "cool." I'd tell my younger self that among your tribe, you're always cool

Real support is reciprocal and so is love

I spent a TON of time supporting people and assuming that when the time came for those people to support me, it would happen. I remember digging through my couch for change so I could pay the toll to go to my friend's performances. I remember driving miles and miles in the opposite direction of where I lived to take the homies home from outings or appointments because I was the only one with a car at the time. I remember paying for countless meals for broke friends. None of this was done with the expectation of getting something out of it, but I also remember my car breaking down and losing my job. I remember how little my phone rang then. It's important to separate the users from the homies as early as possible. That level of discernment is vital. This applies to romantic relationships as well. It's cool to say 'no' to them, knowing they aren't really rocking with you like that, anyway

Build discipline in tandem with inspiration

Whether it was learning that new instrument or writing that book, I only did it when I was "inspired." We all know that inspiration doesn't hit every single day, but doing anything well is as much about consistency as it is about talent. I might not have loved the page I wrote every single day, but that's okay, I wrote a page. And when the inspiration did hit, I'd be able to knock out 20 pages instead of just the one because that writing muscle never stopped flexing

Know your professional worth

This is an important one. In the professional world, youth is something that is often taken advantage of because it's looked at as an innate lack of knowledge. You know more than you think you know and you have experience that you're ignoring. Write down everything you've done, read over it, and relate it to what you're currently doing. Don't let someone else diminish your contributions because you're the youngest person in the room. You're in the room, so you must have something they want

Remember that humility and confidence are not at odds

you've GOT to strut!"

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