20 Tips for My 20-Year-Old Self (part of a bloghop series)

1. Do not have that first cigarette. Not even that first puff. You have an addictive personality and it will take years and I mean years for you to quit. Smoking does not make you look sophisticated, attract the opposite sex (quite the contrary), make you skinny (although it does speed up your metabolism), or help you study. Smoking does age your skin, stain your teeth, char your lungs, and foul your breath, hair, and clothes.  Don’t start now. Please.

2. Too much self-deprecation is self-defeating. The right amount of taking yourself lightly is a form of taking care of yourself. That’s okay.

3 . Don’t do gaucho or capri pants. You’re too short. Don’t do big belts. You’re too short-waisted. Don’t get a layered haircut. You’re not meant to wear a shag. Painter’s paints are for painters, not coeds. Bandanas are not a good look, especially the one with three gold coins in the front. Really.

4. Don’t want everyone to like you. That’s exhausting. As exhausting as it would be to be friends with everyone. Be yourself and be friends with those who like that self.

5. Stop assuming people don’t want you to join their group. In fact, assume the opposite and you’ll find more open doors than you think.

6. Offer an opinion. Take a stand. Sitting on the fence may give you a good view but knowing what you believe puts you into the action. And you love action. Remember what your professors write on your papers: “The conclusion could use a little more of you in it. What do you recommend?”

7. Ask questions. In class. During office hours. While studying. While playing. If you don’t understand something you can be sure someone else is clueless too. Ask questions. You will be thanked.

8. Take an art history class. An economics course. Maybe even debate. Learn to play tennis and bridge. Develop an exercise habit.

9. Learn how to be friends with boys. They are more than just potential dates. They may seem like foreign beings, and maybe they are, but they feel the same way about you. It’s good to have friends of both sexes. So offer your friendship

10. You’re too young for could of, would of, should of. Stick with can, will, did. They move you forward which is the only place you have to go.

11. Don’t always look for permission first. Life isn’t a Catholic grade school.

12. Don’t forget the ones you left behind. Let Mom and Dad in on your new life. Remember your little brother. Reach out to your older sister and brothers too.

13. Watch the alcohol habit. Beer is fattening. Jim Beam and 7-Up is sweet and stiff, and champagne has always been a problem. CRM, champagne related incidents, may make good stories, but they don’t reflect well on your reputation.

14. Seek guidance and career counseling. Figure out how your interest in drama translates to another field. Be willing to consider doing something no one else you know is doing, like joining the Peace Corps

15. Learn to develop your own inner cheerleader. Getting support is like love. Before you can give it to someone else, you need to give it to yourself.

16. Don’t skip class, don’t oversleep and miss class, don’t fall asleep in class. Class is good. That’s why you are on campus. Attend class.

17. Smile more. People think you’re standoffish or mean.

18. Beware of M&Ms. Once you quit smoking they will become your next best worst friend.

19. Be more mindful of your finances. Now’s the time to learn to budget

20. Enjoy. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, stop doing it and take a minute (or more) to reflect on why you’re not enjoying it. There may be very good reasons for tears and fears. So cry and worry, and then call up your inner cheerleader and go on. Because that’s the only thing you can do. You have always wanted to go on to the next thing. It’s waiting for you. Go.


  1. Number 4 is the best! I’m loving reading all about everyone’s youth.

    • Julie (Author)

      Oh yes. I agree.

  2. Ok. I must be tired, because I spelled my last name wrong in that last comment I’ve had it for over thirty years. Do you think all those drugs I took in my twenties have come back to haunt me?

    • Julie (Author)

      You made mevaugh

  3. Great list! It took me way too long to figure out number 11.

    • Julie (Author)

      You must not have gone to a Catholic grade school. Permission slips rule the world.

  4. That reflection at the end of your list – so important! If we paid more attention young, we might have more flexibility around commitments. We certainly have less “baggage” which means we could possibly consider other alternatives.

    Then again, we’re too young (inexperienced) to realize that!

    M&Ms. Um. Yep. Chocolate – as a food group?

    • Juile Danis (Author)

      Chocolate is definitely a food group. A major food group in my food pyramid!

  5. Ha! Your No. 3 made me chuckle, remembering my “elephant pants” I loved so much. Great list. Love ’em all (tho I must admit, I still find it hard to resist a stiff whiskey and seven!).

    • Julie (Author)

      Elephant pants. I’m wearing them in the picture on my fan page. Loved those but got tangled up in them walking in to class in windy Chicago!

  6. It is exhausting trying to get everyone to like you, isn’t it? And it never works because that’s impossible. How much time and energy have I wasted in my life pursuing things that will never work out or never fulfill me in the first place? Too much, I’m sure.

    I am so glad we met in NYC. That was serendipitous and worthwhile and wonderful. I’m glad to have you in my tribe.

    • Julie (Author)

      I love what happens when serendipity steps in. You’re wonderful. I never worried about getting you to like me. You were accepting from the get go. Thanks!

  7. This is a fantastic list, and I am still laughing over #3! Who WAS meant to wear a shag?!!

    • Julie (Author)

      Not anyone, not even Jane Fonda in Klute. Okay, maybe Jane Fonda in Klute.

  8. Terrific list, espeically – Stick with can, will, did. They move you forward which is the only place you have to go.

    • Julie (Author)

      Those shoulds, woulds, and coulds have filled many a conversation and journal entry. Oh my.

  9. Good points now. The fashions then!

    • Julie (Author)

      If they could be called fashion?!

  10. Melanie

    I could have written this list, only not so well! Yes, yes, and yes. Well done!

  11. Juile Danis (Author)

    This list could be twice as long! Thanks.

  12. I hope I’m not the only guy that reads your stuff….and comments. But then again, I don’t care about that. Read this one and wish I’d seen it about 4 year ago, so I could have benefitted from the wisdom to counsel, or just pass it on to my now 24 year old daughter. But then again (yes, have used that twice), in my mid-50’s now -several of your tidbits of advice rang true for me personally (except the part about talking to boys – never a problem!). Thanks again for the educational entertainment! 🙂

    • Julie (Author)

      Greg – my husband reads my posts, and comments offline. Thank you for being a reader and I’m glad I can be entertaining with my musings. So much I didn’t (and still) don’t know in my 50s.
      Happy Thanksgiving!

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