9 Crucial Things I’d Tell My 21-Year-Old Self


Turning 31 this year was liberating. I am now well on my way into my thirties and I’m ok with it. In this exact moment as I write these words I am the most content and carefree I have been since my late teens, and to add to that I’m the most well-adjusted I’ve ever been. The difference is I have the experience of the last ten years propelling me into a much more blissful place. This got me thinking about what I know now that I didn’t know ten years ago.

Essentially, our twenties are for experiencing the world independently from our childhood safety net. Our twenties are for fucking up and somehow being able to get away with it. However, that’s not to say that once we hit our thirties we are done with the fuck ups because that has to be eons from the truth. I’m sure I will be doing it long into adulthood.

If I could jump in the Delorean and send myself back to 2006 I wouldn’t show up with a sports almanac, rather I’d spoil myself with a letter containing ten years of priceless wisdom.

For contextual purposes, I should fill in some blanks. In my very early twenties, I went through intense physical therapy after a debilitating accident. Essentially, I had to learn to walk again, which pushed me to the brink of my physical and mental limits. Learning how to manage and live with chronic pain on a daily basis inflated both my frustrations and anger. During these years I spent a lot of time wading around in a torturous pool of self-pity.

Though the advice below is not exhaustive, this is what I would write to my 21-year-old self:

Att: 21-year-old Leish
Read this right now…

Don’t feel sorry for yourself

Feeling sorry for yourself serves no one, especially not you. You are going to go through tough times and I mean really tough times. It is most certainly not worth wasting your time wallowing in self-pity.

Don’t be so angry

Self-pity has a nasty little side effect of morphing into anger. And anger only transmits bad vibes and surrounds you in a bubble of negative energy, serving as a buffer zone for all things good. Good vibes can’t penetrate the bubble, they only bounce off it like laser beams. So, don’t be angry. Count your blessings rather than misfortunes.

Keep making mistakes

You won’t learn anything if you don’t make mistakes. Cherish your mistakes as the most valuable form of education there possibly is. If you don’t make them now, you’ll only make them later so just get it over with.
Just keep the learning curve at the forefront of your mind. What I mean by this is recognise where and why you fucked up, acknowledge it, own it, learn from it and try your hardest not to do it again. Sometimes you will make the same mistake multiple times, so just be aware of it and don’t be mindlessly blind to it. Blow them out of the water before they become icky habits – you know what I mean.

No regrets

Following the last point, learn from your mistakes but don’t regret them for too long either. Having regrets only makes you focus on the past instead of looking forward. Regret whatever it is while you’re addressing it, show due remorse and apologise if necessary, but don’t hold onto it. Let it go and move on.

Accept how you look

Don’t be so fixated on your physical appearance. Now, I don’t mean you shouldn’t care about how you look, it’s important to feel good and confident, which help you be you better. What I am talking about is to understand your appearance isn’t who you are, it’s just what you look like. You are going to look like you forever, so the sooner you embrace that fact, the sooner you slip into the comfort of your own identity, appreciate your individuality and be the real you.

Travel way more

See as much of the world as you can. The world is an orb of wisdom.

Don’t worry – the Universe has your back

There will be times you will ask yourself ’why me?’ The answer to that is simply, ‘why not you?’ Every fucked up thing that has happened to you has made you me. Know that it’s all going to happen the way it’s supposed to happen, just as the Universe intends. I am far from perfect but I know based on everything that will happen to you, I am now enriched with resilience, empathy and worldliness. Accept your journey as it is.

Resilience is a work in progress

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to be resilient – you will learn to be resilient. My advice is to take it as it comes. Every time you are knocked down, and there will be plenty of those times, you will bounce back harder and faster each time.

Do your thing

Don’t worry about what other people are up to, do your thing. And give zero fucks about stuff that just doesn’t matter. When you fixate on things, especially insignificant things, they swell into their own vicious, consuming entities. As long as you lead with your heart and follow your moral compass, keep doing what your doing. Providing you follow the above advice, generally when others have a problem with you, the problem is theirs, not yours.

I ignite these luminous beacons of advice not so much to help guide you but rather reassure you that everything is going to be ok. Your 31-year-old self can assure you that you’re going to get to where you need to be regardless.