It’s never a good idea to look back and lament on things I cannot change. But if younger me had met current me- she’d have met someone not only older but also (a little bit) wiser. Here’s what I would have told her over a couple of mocktails and chips. Older me still likes chips.
1. As the Yiddish saying goes, ‘Man Plans, and God Laughs.’ Basically, that despite careful planning, the road map of life can actually be difficult to plan for. At times, it’s a nice seamless drive – other times the weather is treacherous and there are numerous road blocks. Our plans in life can either be upended by unexpected changes- which could be either hugely disappointing or exhilarating; be open to both.
2. Staying with the motoring analogy (it just works) you’re going to pick up passengers along the way. The amount of friends you have will reduce over time. Either they will leave or you grow apart, but it’s important to allow for this. This may sound shocking, but people leave. And sometimes (even though you won’t know it at the time) it’s not always bad, because not everyone is meant to be in your life forever. There will be times when it’s you who makes the decision to walk away. That will take courage. Right now, friendships are one of the most important aspects of your life, but as you get older it becomes quality over quantity.
3. I am so sorry to have to say this, but death is an inevitability. You never think this is part of the life plan. It’s painful, raw and you will be stripped down to that vulnerable part, you never knew existed. So hold those close to you tightly, spend more time, and give people their flowers when they are alive.
4. You just can’t wait to grow up, can you? To be in a position where no one can tell you what to do. Breaking News- bossy parents can be replaced by a bossy work boss! What I’m trying to say is, slow down. Adulting isn’t all its cracked up to be, plus you have to pay your own bills! You may think your skin is too oily and spotty right now, but wrinkles are not a walk in the park either! Bask in all that is you- all of it! You are unique, one of a kind; there’s simply no one else like you.
5. Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away- Dr Maya Angelou. Cherish the moments that give you pause for thought; enhance your happiness; give you peace and; bask in the feelings which allow you to believe you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to! Younger Lola: during your gap year, instead of going shopping that afternoon in Vegas, visit the grand canyon instead!
6. It can sometimes feel like everything is bleak; that failing an exam is the end of the world. But look at each challenge with perspective. Challenges are an inevitable part of life, but it’s how you pick yourself up and overcome them which is the key. There’s no failure in ‘falling’ and it doesn’t matter how many times it happens – just keep getting up. You’re already doing a great job of that, my young queen.
7. Trust your gut! You will always know when something is or isn’t right for you. It’s OK to take advice from others, but remember that they are looking at the situation from their perspective and worldview and sometimes with a bit of projection thrown in.
8. This is somewhat of a contradiction considering the last point, but don’t be afraid to take advice from others. You don’t have to operate as an island, even though it’s the only way you know how to be. Accept help. Take time out to process - not all decisions need to be made immediately.
9. You don’t have to be strong all the time because of your everyday experience of how others perceive you. You can be ‘softer’ like others are allowed to be. Give yourself permission to be you, whatever that happens to be. Not everyone’s going to like you, but it’s important that the person in the mirror does.
10. It does get better! Perhaps not easier- but certainly better. There are rainbows in the clouds as Dr Maya Angelou said. It’s about sitting with the clouds and knowing at some point, the sunshine will appear again.
The Attic Child by Lola Jaye is out now.
Lola Jaye is an author, registered psychotherapist and speaker who has penned six novels and a self-help book.
She was born and raised in London, England and has lived in Nigeria and the United States. She has written for CNN, Essence, HuffPost and the BBC. The Attic Child is her first epic historical novel.