I am a forty year old woman who’s been married twice and spent twelve years working a job I didn’t like because I was good at it and it paid my bills. I’ve tried every diet under the sun (cabbage soup anyone?), loved the wrong guys, and doubted my self-worth. But along the way, I also gave more than I took, felt God in my presence, and loved so deeply that I couldn’t feel the bottom.
I was delighted to learn recently that in addition to reaching my target audience, Karousing has also grown a fan base of women between the ages of twenty-four and thirty. I love that Karousing is resonating with this younger crowd. Perhaps this insightful group is craving the knowledge that usually only comes with age and experience.
If you are one of these women, thank you for reading what I write. My heart is so full of gratitude that I’ve decided to dedicate this post to you.
So from my heart to yours, as a sister and a friend, I’m sharing with you some of the things I wish I knew when I was your age.
1. Care as much about your skin as you do about your hair, your body, and your what’s in your closet.
Your skin is an organ. It’s a living, breathing, vital part of your existence. Respect it as such. This means washing your face – in the morning, after you sweat, and absolutely, positively before you go to bed. Going to bed with your makeup on is disgusting. And, it’s a great way to wake up looking ragged.
Wear sunscreen. Nothing ages you faster than getting sun on your face, hands, and decollete. Yes, we need some vitamin D from the sun. But overexposure is the quickest way to early aging.
In case you doubt me, here’s a photo of me after a recent fraxel laser treatment I had to remove sun damage from my face. See all the brown stuff? That’s old sun damage. So wear your sunscreen. Every day. Every single day. And make sure it has titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in it.
Oh, and stop getting so many spray tans. All the chemicals in those aren’t good for you either. God made you the color you are. It’s beautiful. Keep it that way.
2. Appreciate how pretty you are.
I can’t tell you how many times I looked at photos of myself when I was younger and complained that I looked fat, I didn’t like my hair, blah, blah, blah. You know what? I look back on those photos now and I’m disappointed that I was so hard on myself. (Here’s one of my dear friend Angela and me when we were about twenty-four. What were we complaining about?)
Right now, you have a youthful glow that takes little effort. It exudes from your skin like sunshine from the sky. Your skin is firm. Your knees aren’t sagging. You are young and beautiful. Instead of being mean to yourself, spend that energy accepting yourself and loving everything that makes you you.
3. There’s no such thing as perfection, except when it’s the enemy of good.
If I could give you one key to happiness this would be it: there is no such thing as the perfect body, lover, job, or life. As soon as you accept that, everything is easier.
When you spend all your time trying to be perfect, you forget that it’s okay just to be good. Good is where it’s comfortable and warm. Somewhere between being good and being perfect is the sweet spot where you should set your goals.
You’ll know when you get to close to the danger zone of wanting perfection because you’ll feel depressed and doubt your self-worth. You cannot, let me repeat that, cannot be perfect. And striving for it will only cause you sadness. Pay attention to the warning signs and stay on this side of perfect.
Who wants to be perfect anyway? It’s ho-hum. Having a few flaws? Now that’s sexy.
4. Don’t settle for anything less than what lights you up.
I’m talking about school, jobs, friends, books, lovers, and new handbags. If you aren’t totally, absolutely curious, smitten, intrigued, and happy about it, then don’t eat it, sign up for it, buy it, carry it, or have sex with it.
I’ve spent a lot of money and time investing in things that didn’t excite me. I did it for all the wrong reasons. I went to law school because someone told me I should. That I couldn’t make money as a writer. That I could write in law school and that should be good enough. You know what? I call bullshit on that.
Trust yourself. Listen to yourself. Spend time alone journaling, meditating, getting to know yourself. It’s in these quiet times that you’ll find out what lights you up and brings you joy. Once you know what it is, hold onto it like your life depends on it. Because it does.
There’s no surer way to an early death than a life without joy.
5. Care more about your inner beauty than you do about your outer beauty.
I know. It’s easy to get caught up in how you look. How you rock a bathing suit. Whether you should get bangs. And what you should wear on Friday night. But that’s not what makes the world go ’round. Hell, it’s not even what’s going to make you go ’round in a few years.
Life has a funny way of cutting you off at the knees when you least expect it. And when it does, physical beauty will be the last thing on your mind. My mother died of cancer when she was forty-four. I’ve had two friends survive breast cancer and one survive cervical cancer. I’ve had one friend die of a heart attack and way too many furry pets die in my arms.
You know what I remember most about all of them in those times? How full of grace they were. How they expressed gratitude for life, for friendship, for love.
Spend some time every day being grateful. Gratitude is a powerful life force. It keeps your ego in check and reminds you what matters. I love to use The Five Minute Journal as a way to stay in tune. Try it. You’ll see how much happier you are when your heart is full.
There is nothing more beautiful than a full heart. Nothing.
And here’s one to grow on…practice self-care.
Yes, this includes the obvious things: going to the dentist, doing self breast examinations, and having protected sex. But it also includes taking time for yourself. Do things that bring you joy. Schedule time to exercise and shop for wholesome foods. Read interesting books. Practice saying yes to things that scare you and saying no to things that don’t feel right. Learn to know the difference.
And surround yourself with people who care. Like me. So email me your questions (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I’ll do my best to answer them.
I may not know everything. But, I do know that grace is more important than beauty and that you should never, and I mean never, go on the cabbage soup diet.