What I Would Tell My Twenty-Something Self
Growing up, the soundtrack to our teenage lives was a ceaseless lecture from the women who walked before us: always wear sunscreen. And now that we are starting to see freckles in our young-adult skin, it seems about the right time to ask what other pearls of wisdom they would pass on. So here are some of the absolute best, Damaris Jeanne-Coulter (Coco’s Cantina), Frances Morton (VICE) and Sally Burrows (counsellor & Kims mum-in-law!) on what they would tell their twenty-something self.
Head of Content, VICE NZ
What I would tell my twenty-something self about: Finding love?
I recently found my journal from when I was 20-something and I’ve got to say, this is a major theme. I’d say, keep writing it all down because it’s too embarrassing to say out loud and one day you’ll look back on it and laugh. And maybe ease back on the partying.
Don’t listen to what that university careers counsellor told you in second year. Taking some law papers would be useful in the long run and it doesn’t mean you’d have to be a corporate lawyer. Similarly, don’t listen to what that lecturer told you in post-grad. You do need to know shorthand. I guess, just don’t listen to anybody whose advice goes against your gut. Set big goals and have the confidence to go for them. Also, no matter what job you’re in, you won’t be happy if your values are at odds with the company’s values.
Wear sunscreen and learn to love your freckles. You never do get around to writing to Nicole Kidman and asking how she got rid of hers. You will never have flawless olive skin, but that’s ok.
The same thing I tell myself now and haven’t done yet. Read the business pages. Invest.
Friendships are what provide the best things in life. The greatest places to live, the most fun holidays, my favourite jobs from bartending to my best career moves. They deserve looking after. Make sure that you feel comfortable being your unfiltered self in a friendship. And don’t forget that your relationship is also a friendship and needs the same kind of care and respect. It sounds a bit basic but manners go a long way in a friendship. Be polite. Try to be punctual and call your friends (and lovers) back. Say please and thank you. As you get older the time between seeing friends stretches out but you can recognise a friendship by the ease you feel when you reconnect and the joy you get from that.
One day you will have your own family and you’ll realise what your mum went through. Give her a call a bit more often. You’re going to call on her a lot in a few years.
You’re a Capricorn. To get active you need to set physical goals and once you do you’ll enjoy them much more than you thought.
Identity is a construct and you can take control of it. It’s ok to be contradictory and shift who you are and how you act depending on how you feel, not to fulfil the expectations of others.
Wherever you go, there you are. Travel doesn’t change you but it does enrich you. And you never will regret a dollar spent on travel. Even the hardest, most awful experiences.
If I had to do one thing differently?
When you come back from overseas and enrol in the te reo Māori course at AUT, don’t feel bad about leaving your new job early and stick with the classes. Dropping out means you’ll come back to it in ten years time, and think how much more advanced you’d be if you’d hung in there.
Damaris Jeanne Coulter
Co-founder/owner Coco’s Cantina
What I would tell my twenty-something self about: finding love?
Every love is beautiful, value every love and be careful with it - your first love hurt you both but you will be better for it and from it you will know how to be a good love. Fall in love as often as it happens, don't hold back, unless the other person is unavailable, and know the difference between what you want and what is supposed to be (maybe trust your gut and dig around and check whether that chef is married before you fall for him).
Have plenty of experiences, be bold but be safe, be intuitive, explore what feels good and exit what doesn't. Listen to your tummy and your body. Don't play with people who love you to boost your confidence or to make yourself feel good about yourself. Having the qualities of a ‘love chameleon’ is not a gift, it’s something you should understand and use in a positive way, not in a way that strokes your ego.
Everything is connected, your mental, physical, spiritual health. Do things that ground you, be with nature as much as you can, it will connect you to your whakapapa. Learn to love to exercise, it will help your mental health and your balance!!! I know you hate exercise but find a treadmill and a hip-hop playlist and you will probably love it!! Your character is classified as ADHD, this is not a flaw, it is your strength! You are highly intuitive, sensitive and can see things unfolding before others, embrace it, learn to love it and learn to live with it, don't try and be like others and suffocate it, it is your gift.
Careers are made up. Find work that fulfils you and that doesn't feel like a chore. Follow a path that feels natural with what you believe in and with people who work in a similar way. When I went to London and worked at a pretentious restaurant I thought I had to push through because it might help my CV. They were a toxic crew, coked up on their own hype and unaware of anyone else around them. My next job was at Flat White and Vinoteca where I was surrounded by amazing, humble, artistic, authentic, generous and fun humans that could party harder than anyone I’ve ever met. If a job feels shit, it probably is, or you might be shit in it, either way, its shit for someone, so don't be in it. Sometimes you will have to eat the frog, KNOW THE DIFFERENCE between growth and what is just a shit job.
Accept them, love them even if you don't always like them. Try and get to know them as people and not just family roles, identify with them instead of seeing their character defects or differences. They are your biggest fans and they are your tribe. Think before you fight with them, try and spend quality time with them, do things for them, cook for them and be generous and patient with them. They are your genetics, your bonds, they are what is most important to you in this your world.
Your essence is already in you, learn how to hear that essence and learn how to be brave to investigate how to translate it in your best self while you are on the planet. It will feel lonely at times because it feels like everyone else is going in another direction, don't worry about where they are going, thats their gig, mind your own business and do your gig.
Drink water! your skin is oily and pimples seem stressful now but later in life your olive oily skin will be your asset so don't worry about it. You literally are what you eat, so Damaris if you eat two bags of Twisties and an apple donut everyday then you will have bad skin. Eat better, get restful sleep, stress will affect you body which will affect your skin and everything connected to it! Don't believe the hype about advertising, Do your own research and keep it natural, your biggest organ is your skin.
Be brave! Don't worry about planning too much unless you are having a day where your mental health needs security and a plan. Learn about different cultures when you’re in them, not afterwards. Learn languages/rituals/cooking/practises while you're in those countries, accept any hospitality that people offer you, say yes to everything and every opportunity! If someone says we are driving to jump off a cliff and you've had no sleep, do it anyway! Adapt to the place or the space you are in, and don't expect the space or place to adapt to you and how you usually do things. Experience travel in your own country, you are from the most beautiful country in the world!!!
Don't inherit friendships. Don't just be friends with people because you went to school with them, or you were friends from when you were little, because you are filling the gaps or don't want to miss out on what you think is fun - choose friendship. Find out what you like, and enjoy being able to hang out with yourself, it’s way cooler than hanging with a whole lot of people that may not accept your gig for what it is or with people that don't give you a feeling of peace and growth.
But also, that friendships are as good as the people investing in them. If you maintain them like a wild garden then they will be awesome, safe, colourful, fun and authentic. But if you don't do the Mahi, then they will be unpredictable, have areas with weeds, over-run over by other plants (you get the picture). Also remember we need different things from different people so don't choose friends that are all the same. Be accepting of all your friendships and when you get good ones, being loyal and and look after them. Being a good friend takes time and you need to learn how to be one.
If I had to do one thing differently?
I wouldn't have been such a selfish, **** tween to my parents. They sacrificed their whole lives to give me and my sister every opportunity in the world. I wish I had insight into how hard they were working, how far away they were from their whanau and friends and how much they were sacrificing to give us a good life.
Counsellor (& Kim’s mother-in law!)
What I would tell my twenty-something self about: friendships?
I would say "don't hold on to them too tightly". Life happens and people move around and perhaps change. Cherish the friendships you have when you have them, but realise this closeness may change over time and it's ok. You will have friendships from all era's of your life but realise sometimes it's circumstances that have brought you together. However if you manage to have some life long friendships, what a special gift to have all that history together. You never stop making new friends and in my case my children are now all adults and I count them as my most special friends!
That unless you have taken some time to know yourself you won't have a clue about finding love with someone else. Finding a counsellor to talk to will be very helpful as you unpack the dynamics of your early life. Knowing why you will struggle to feel emotionally safe with someone will help you to have some compassion on yourself as you grow in confidence. It takes courage to be with someone and hold on to yourself and allow them to see you fully. You also need to be able to see them fully. I would say that love has many ups and downs and that you choose to be committed many times not just once. Staying respectful can be very difficult at times but it's the only way a relationship can flourish.
Your most fulfilling career will be raising your family. However you will be pleased when you no longer have all that responsibility (cooking and cleaning) and have more time for yourself. You may even go back to uni and get a degree!
You are fortunate to have a loving family from the past but also to have created one yourself. You will understand better why your father has always pushed for unity even when family members have not been easy. You will care more about remaining close with your children as you age and how that might look. You don't want to be invasive as they get on with their own lives and know that it is healthy to let them find their own way. However a mother's love is a very powerful thing and you will always feel attached at a spiritual level even when you are not seeing them.You will feel blessed when your children finds loving partners to have by their sides. They also will become family and bring joy. Family will continue to change but hopefully the bonds will remain.
You think you have found the answers and won't recognise that you are once again being moulded by the beliefs of the group. Much later you will be brave and walk away feeling much freer and realising you know nothing for sure at all. However a strong belief in love will guide decisions, even though it's difficult at times.
It's a lifetime's work! You have times of growth and times of stagnation. Unfortunately growth usually happens when life is uncomfortable in some way. If you work on the pain it does seem to reap rewards though, so hang in there. Relationships are important, but sometimes being yourself in them is difficult. It can feel really scary saying what you're thinking for fear of rejection. But as long as you are respectful then it's best to just go for it. Being transparent helps you, and those around you to really know you. Brene [Brown] is so right that vulnerability is the hardest thing for us to do!