Advice for Young Idealists
This advice applies if you’ve ever been: optimistic, emotional, trusting, hopeful, needy, afraid of being alone, or self-conscious.
I used to be very optimistic. I hoped for the best out of everyone I met. I trusted people. I believed that people cared about me just because I cared about them. I’ve spent the past 21 years of my life living in a fantasy world, convincing myself that I could change people, change the way they think of me, change the way they think of the world. Then, much to my dismay, I became an adult. I became a realist. Although I miss my youthful optimism, it can only persist for so long. This is advice I wish someone had given me a year ago.
“A fool learns from his own mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
1. Develop a tough exterior. If you can’t fake a smile, you’re never going to get through life. Grin and bear it. If you need to, run into the bathroom and cry for a few minutes, but girl wipe that make-up clean and get back to work. Hold yourself with poise and confidence. Radiate. Never let anyone know you’re upset. When people know personal information about you, such as your feelings, there is a good chance they will use it against you.
2. Trust no one. Yeah, that girl you work with seems really nice. Just because someone smiles and exchanges friendly banter with you does not mean they like you. Even if they do like you, it does not mean they care about you. If she wants to know about your love life, it’s not because she cares—it’s because she’s bored, curious, and wants gossip. Do not confuse curiosity with caring.
3. Divulge information carefully. It’s difficult to determine who is a true friend. My advice is stay out of cliques and groups where people have known one another longer than they’ve known you. If you confide in one of them, they’ll probably gossip about it because you’re new and naive. Also, people are dicks. Most of the time, rather than being happy that you’re happy, they’ll judge. Figure people out before you go telling them about your personal life. Test the waters.
4. Listen to what people say about other people. If someone tells you, “Don’t get too close with her, she’s crazy” or “He’s kind of an asshole when it comes to women” and they’ve known the person in question for years and you’ve only known them for months—I mean, do you really need to learn the hard way?
5. Persistence will not change anyone’s mind. You’re so confused because this guy won’t answer the phone for you. So you call again, and again, and again. You try to convince him a relationship could work out and that you could make him happy. Dude, stop it, girl! You just seem pathetic. Put the same amount of effort into others that they put into you. Only give what you receive.
6. Focus on the negative. I’ve been in faux-relationships (what are they called? Hook-ups? Friends with benefits? Man in my bed who won’t commit to me? Slam-piece?) where I have been told things such as, “I could see us dating,” “I think I’m falling in love with you,” and, “I really like you.” I, however, ignored the statements that would come before or after, such as, “I’m moving to Portland,” “I don’t want a relationship right now,” “If I were fifteen years younger.” Dude, do not ignore these negative clauses. They are the most important thing you need to hear.Listen to these clauses. This man does not want to date you. Kick him out of your bed. Now, before you cry and go crazy.
7. Dating red flags. Learn them: He sends naked/half-naked pictures of himself to you when you’ve only just met. Your entire relationship takes place inside the bedroom (don’t be fooled by the occasional brunch). He goes days without talking to you after you’ve already started hooking up (this means he’s not thinking about you/you are not important to him). He takes longer than an hour to respond to your text messages on a regular basis. He says things such as, “I encourage you to see other people.” Just cut it off, honey. Please, save yourself the weeks to months of heartache that will inevitably follow.
8. Know yourself. Do not convince yourself that you do not want a relationship just because he doesn’t. If you’re bubbling full of feelings every time he smiles at you, be aware of this fact. Don’t pretend that you want a casual hook-up when you really just want him to fall madly in love with you. Escape your fairy princess dreamland and listen to what this guy is telling you.
9. Never take compliments to heart. Here are some things I’ve been told that have made my heart soar. “You’re hilarious,” “I like having you around,” “Isn’t she great?”, “You do a good job,” “Everybody likes you,” “You’re amazing,” “You look so good naked,” “You’re an intelligent, beautiful woman,” “You’re talented.” Ahh! All these voices in your head, telling you what you are. The thing about taking compliments to heart is that once the compliments disappear you’ve lost your self-assurance. You don’t need this. You need to know that you are wonderful—if others tell you so, thank them, and forget they ever said it at all. Find the compliments from within, not from the echoes of words others have said.
10. Fuck what other people think. So, you’ve slept with multiple people at your workplace? So, you’ve accumulated some credit card debt? So, you don’t know how to cook? So, an acquaintance told you that you come off as ditzy? So, you blew off schoolwork to catch up with an old friend? Ask yourself—are you happy with the decisions you are making with your life? If the answer is yes, fuck what anyone thinks. If your shit is under control, do not worry about people wagging fingers. If you are doing no harm to yourself or others, making it to school and/or work every day, paying your bills on time, and getting everything done by its deadline, you’re fine.
11. Sometimes it matters what other people think. When you’ve done something that makes you feel shitty, have harmed others, or have done something with the potential to harm others, that’s the time to listen when people are wagging their fingers.
12. Actions speak louder than words. No explanation needed. Take this statement to heart, observe the way people treat you. This is more important than anything they say to you.
13. No one actually cares about you. Once-upon-a-dream-world I believed that love conquered all. Every person I had feelings for, I was ready to love them, care about them, give them 100%. That’s just what I do. However, not everyone has a heart as big as me. If you have a big heart, guard it, and realize that big, loving, caring hearts are rare. Many people have cold, distant, stoic, realist, feeling-less hearts. I haven’t figured out what makes people care about one another yet, but once I do, I’ll let you know.
14. Learn how not to want. I want him to text me back. I want my friends to hang out with me. I want sex. I want Chinese delivery. I want to fall in love. I want a million dollars. I want a pony. Lady, lady, love—the key is learning not to want. Learning not to want is the most incredible, freeing feeling in the world.
15. Learn how to be alone. Enjoying the company of good people is easy. Enjoying the company of yourself is difficult. When you have some free time, instead of reaching out to others, reach out to yourself. You say you like to read, to run, to paint? Do it. Too often we get caught up in our social worlds and forget the joys we can bring to ourselves. Cultivate a sense of well-being when you’re alone, because you’re going to have to learn to be alone for much of your adult life (especially your 20’s! You probably won’t feel as alone again until you’re 65+ when everyone around you starts dropping like flies). It will be more bearable to be alone during these lonely periods of life if you enjoy your own company.