10 things I wish I knew when I was 20 and why

For much of my adult life, I was plagued with low self-confidence, which left me vulnerable to some of life’s harsh attacks – many of them unleashed by people who believed they were advising and acting in my best interest.
In my late thirties, I grew up and out of that mental and emotional prison. Sometimes in small, quiet steps, I eased out from under the canopy of people’s control with their hurtful words. 

Other times, I took big, bold leaps, extricating myself from shackles that held me back from the life I envisioned for myself. I catapulted my efforts towards the dreams that lay hidden beneath mounds of internal garbage and external, erroneous babble.

Over time, what people thought of me, who they wanted me to be and what they wanted me to do shrank in significance when stacked against my awareness and appreciation of myself, as God created me. 

The new and emerging me, hurt, angered and alienated some relatives and friends. It hurt me too but I let them deal with “their” issues, refusing to be sucked into feeling guilty and apologizing.

No one said, for example:

“I’m sorry but I think you should be like this one or that one.”
“I’m sorry but you’re a fool to love him.”
“I’m sorry but what kind of stupid dream is that? Forget it. Choose something else, something more normal, something more viable.”
“I’m sorry but you’re being selfish to want time and space for yourself.”
“I’m sorry but I will play with your heart, when I have time. Then, when I’m tired, I will break it and dash it to pieces, with the excuse that I never made any promises.”

Why should I apologize for who I am, who I love, how I live my life,  what dreams I pursue, what causes I am passionate about? Why should I feel guilty for taking time to improve and take care of myself, to change or eliminate what doesn’t work for my life, to free myself from toxic relationships or situations?

In the spirit of looking back and re-assessing my life, I share 10 things I wish I knew at 20 years old?

  1. My opinions are valid.
  2. My feelings are significant.
  3. People will control me  for as long as I let them.
  4. Setting boundaries allows me to find, define and enjoy the time and space I need to understand who I am, nurture myself, identify my dreams and expand my borders.
  5. Often, people won’t like me when I am sure of myself, when I stand by my convictions and when I refuse to be controlled  by their opinions of who I should be, when I know what I want and set out on a path to accomplish it.
  6. It’s my right and priviledge to say “No” sometimes.  
  7. I may miss the best chance of true love while yearning for a love that will never be mine, but when I see the reality, I must stop, take time to grieve and allow my heart to heal . And regardless how much it hurts, my heal will heal. And I will love again.
  8. Never make it easy for someone to keep hurting me over and over again, cutting deeper and deeper into my heart each time.
  9. Regardless what anyone thinks, feels, says or does, I must hold fast to my dream and pursue it with determination and passion.  
  10. The best person I can be, is ME, with all my flaws, quirks and insecurities. 

What do you wish you knew when you were 20 years old?   


4 thoughts on “10 things I wish I knew when I was 20 and why

  1. Cheryl, this post took me back to the past to reflect on “what was I doing when I was 20 years old”. It causes me to think about how what I did in my 20's impacted my today and to look to the future, for age 20 what will I carry on and leave behind.

    Thank you for sharing


  2. Another important aspect of this issue and the practice of looking back to appreciate the present and to help in moving forward –

    Some past issues, relationships, situations might not only be negatives that drive us to positive present realities. In fact, those past issues might hold positives even in their raw, unvarnished and negative state.


  3. I'm no longer in my 20's but I can definitely see the shift that is occurring. Some days it is difficult but I'm growing to be less impacted (or I refuse to let myself wallow) in the negativity or opinions of others. Your list is great..for everyone. A great reminder to live life fully by my own personal convictions and not within the confines of others.
    great read!


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