1. Stop waiting around for people to love you — your parents, your sister, teachers, friends, silly boys. When you stop waiting, you will be free.
2. Be grateful when people don’t like you. It means one fewer person with whom you have to make small talk.
3. Take care of yourself and not just by sleeping, exercising, eating healthy meals regularly. It means always seek comfort. Seek it. That doesn’t mean you’ll always find it. It’s in the seeking that you will find comfort.
4. Keep yourself weird. All those geeky obsessions you have will be your salvation. There is no salvation in simply “fitting in”.
5. Write more often and in more detail. You’ll need the practice and material for later. Actually, write everything down because your memory is not as good as you think it is…and you do want to remember everything.
6. You’ll probably always feel like crap. But! You’ll always get over it. The older you get the faster you’ll get over the feeling like you won’t be able to hold yourself together.
7. No one cares how you feel. “You know who cares how you feel? No one.” I read that in a book years ago and it’s wise to remember. Get used to it. The only person who should care how you feel is you.
8. Learn how to deal with stress. Stress will bring you down. Avoid it if you can and if you can’t see #3. If you don’t learn how to manage it, you will only have bigger problems involving food* which is like putting “ice cream on a leg wound” in the words of Anne Lamott. Most of the stress in your life will be created by doing stuff you don’t want to do. Learn to say no. Or pay later in the form of depression and stress related body issues like grinding your teeth which will cause you to crack a tooth and then force you to have it pulled and spend a lot of money on an expensive, false replacement.
9. Stay away from assholes. You have an asshole allergy, a low tolerance for assholery. They are a major cause of stress (see #8). Seek out the kind over the cool and the thoughtful over the just simply clever.
10. If you think you’re right about something, then you probably are. Listen. If you end up being wrong, who cares? You listened. You will never go wrong when you listen.
11. In every moment in life, no matter how difficult, there is an opportunity to have fun. Please do. And play more tennis.
If my advice to myself left you cold, your heart will be warmed after reading Louise Erdrich’s poem…
Advice to Myself
Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.
*If you crave pastries and Pringles, there’s a serious problem. Investigate.