5 Things I’d Like To Say To My 20-Year-Old Self

What would you say to a younger version of yourself if you had the chance?

If I could have a second alone with my 20-year-old self, I would tell her what’s about to happen. Some of it will be sad, some of it will be hilarious, all of it will be survivable. 

1. During the last semester of your junior year of college, you will call a relative from the lobby of the university lobby, on the pay phones, hysterical with worry about money. Instead of comforting you, she’s going to tell you that you’ve done and are doing everything wrong. This conversation will haunt you for years. The truth is that you did what you could do at the time. There will always be someone telling you you’re doing everything wrong, not understanding or wanting to understand the choices that you make. It is not your job to convince them otherwise. Your only job is to keep moving forward with conviction.

2. After all your worries about never being able to do so, you will leave the country. In the south of Israel, with some people you just met, there will be a moment of impulse that leads you to a piercing parlor, where a belligerent Israeli will make a hole in your right nostril. You will not think you are the kind of person who would do this, but you will surprise yourself. This is a good thing.

3. In 15 years, your mother will still be dead, and one year, you will come close to forgetting the anniversary of her death. You will feel badly for a moment, but it’s OK. It’s maybe even good. It means that by then, this thing might not define you anymore.

4. You will be really, really drunk the night before you graduate college. Someone (not you) will dance on a mailbox, which it turns out is illegal in the state of Massachusetts. It will be both hilarious and difficult to get from the bar to the ice cream store (an important detour), and even harder to get up the stairs to your dorm room. The next day, you will be nauseous, and you will joke with a friend about throwing up in your caps. (Neither of you will.) Some people will be smoking pot behind you in the stadium. And then college will be over. (When you show your grandmother pictures of you from graduation, she’ll scold you for wearing pants.)

5. When you are 25, you’ll be living in New York City, and you’ll get a phone call telling you your grandmother has died. This will be the last time you’ll have to worry about the news on the other end of the line, although you’ll pretty much always be afraid of the phone. When you hang up, you’ll think, “Finally, I’m in charge,” but the truth is that you always have been.

Chanel Dubofsky is a writer in Brooklyn, New York, and the creator and editor of the Marriage Project, an interview series about marriage in imagination and reality. She has published essays in the Forward, Tablet, Gender Focus and The Pursuit of Harpyness, and fiction at Monkey Bicycle, Matchbook and Quick Fiction. She blogs at Diverge (www.idiverge.wordpress.com).

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