Dear Twentysomething: Karen from Attack the Stacks
Dear twenty-something Karen,
Let me start out by saying that the next decade and a half or so is going to be pretty good overall. We’ve made some mistakes, that’s for sure, but we always seem to bounce back and overall life is good. So relax. There’s lots that you could do differently but nothing that you really NEED to change, so for the most part you can take or leave the following advice – there’s no guarantee that things will turn out better if you take it.
First of all, those doubts you’re having about getting married? Listen to them. Run away like a wildebeest fleeing a lion on the plains of the Serengeti, because even a completely amicable divorce is expensive as hell and a total life upheaval. He’s a nice guy, but he is actually as anti-social as you think he is and it’s only going to get worse. Oh, and he’ll suffer serious depression issues and refuse to get help for them. The good-ish news is that he’ll admit he was a lousy husband after the fact and apologize. The really good news is that his second wife will look exactly like Oswald Cobblepot, or as a friend will tell you, “She makes you look like Heidi Klum and Angelina Jolie had a baby.” Not that we’ve ever been an especially vain person, but there’s something to be said for being way, way more attractive than your ex’s new partner. Even at 35, we’re still not above being snarky and occasionally petty.
That said, you’re going to land on your feet. You’ll have to go and live with your parents for about a year while you recover financially, and even though you’d probably rather drink bleach than move in with your parents at this point, it really won’t be so bad. You’ll actually discover that you enjoy having a relationship with your parents as an adult and you have a new appreciation for them as real people, plus it’ll show you that they truly will always be there for you. Don’t wait until your 30s. Get to know them as people now. And at the end of the time you spend with them you’ll buy a house. By yourself. With your own money. Signing the papers will be the proudest moment of your life.
Frat parties are sooper dooper fun, right? Hooray for drinking, yeah? Pretending to go to class and going to your boyfriend’s house and sleeping is not a problem, is it? Listen, sister, at some point not being able to pick your professors out of a line-up is going to become a problem. Get your ass to school. Oh, and all of those awesome free t-shirts that you get for filling out credit card applications? Keep walking. Free t-shirts are cool, spending ten years rebuilding your credit score is not.
Stop listening to everyone else when they tell you what you should want to do for a living. A family member who you respect will talk you out of becoming a nurse. Really? REALLY? Great advice, that. Nurses are highly in demand and make good money, plus you get to actually help people instead of sitting in an office working on spreadsheets all day (sorry to tell you, this is what we do now). And the real benefit is that you’ll be seeing lots of different people day in and day out, so you won’t spend enough time with most of them to really get to the point where you want to set them on fire. Not that I have that problem with 90% of the people I work with now or anything.
Don’t listen to people who tell you that you have to have kids to be happy. You don’t. You’ll still be undecided by the time you hit your mid-30s and that’s totally ok. If you end up having them, great. But you’ll live a full life without them as well. You will, however, be performing voodoo fertility rituals aimed at your sister-in-law because you are DYING to be an auntie.
You’ll break up with your first love, and it’s the right thing to do. You guys are way too young to commit to each other for life and he’s just not the guy for you. You should have no regrets there. Where you will have regrets is HOW you break up with him. Do things the right way. Be honest, he’s a nice guy and he deserves that much. Show some maturity, it will be the best thing for both of you.
Let go of the need to be cool. Stop worrying about what other people think of you. There are so few people whose opinions actually matter that you’ll regret wasting so much time trying to please everyone. Your best friends in your 20s? Not a coincidence that they’ve been your best friends since you were kids, and they’re still your best friends at 35. Don’t take them for granted and don’t forget how lucky you are to have them. You’ll go through tons of stuff together over the next decade and a half, both good and bad – marriages, divorces, children (one very premature)…one of them will get shot, for god’s sakes – but you’ll all get through it and you’ll be as close as any family member could be. They’ll be the friends who are there for you. So while impressing all of your new friends seems important right now, most of them will eventually fall away. Remember who is important.
Oh, and not that this is vital life advice or anything, but…you know that celeb crush you’ve got on Vin Diesel because he’s so hot and badass and stuff? Cool your lusty jets, he’s going to age badly and end up doing kiddie movies. He’ll still be milking that stupid movie about street racing to death a decade from now. It’s tragic, really. The good news is your original long-ago celeb crush – Neil Patrick Harris circa the Doogie Howser M.D. years – is cool again. The bad news is, he’s gay. As you will find out much to your dismay, crushing on men who turn out to be gay will be kind of a recurring theme in our life.
For now – be young and have fun. Take advice, but make your own decisions. Don’t let yourself be swayed into things that you don’t want to do and away from things that you do want to do. And above all, be yourself.
35 year old Karen