Words Of Wisdom For My 20-Year-Old (And Myself)

by Jamison Renfro
Originally Published: 

As my daughter is in the midst of packing her belongings and moving to Paris, I find it important to make sure that all of the small pieces of advice that I have imparted over the years are really set in stone. I wake in a cold sweat at night hoping that in addition to the toiletries, she is also packing common sense and manners. Each morning, I have been rushing into her room thinking that in her state of pseudo alertness, I can whisper statements that will stick. While I want her to remember at least of few of these things, I realize that some of the advice I am giving I wish I had known myself when I was 20:

1. Make wise choices. Your choices with your body, feelings, friends, men and money can shape who you are.

2. Call your family when you have a minute. Moving on is a big change for your whole family, not just you.

3. Do not fall for credit card scams. If you cannot afford it, you do not need it.

4. Go outside and get fresh air. Don’t forget to use the sunscreen while you are at it.

5. Smile at people–not in a creepy way, but the way you wish someone would grin at you on a rough day.

6. Always buy lemonade from children who set up a stand.

7. Be honest, unless it is only to make yourself feel better. In that case, keep it to yourself.

8. Be kind, and be wary of burning bridges. People tend to pop back up in our lives when we least expect it. But this does not mean that you should be anyone’s doormat.

9. Volunteer.

10. Get sleep at night, but do not ignore the value of an afternoon nap.

11. Use the buddy system.

12. Remember that everyone has baggage, even if it does not seem like it.

13. Always tip at least 15 percent. The kitchen staff and the waitstaff are not the same.

14. Look at the bright side things. It feels better than just complaining.

15. If you aren’t happy, change something.

16. Listen. Practice patience.

17. Establish rules with roommates right away. It will save hassles later.

18. Return things in the same condition after you borrow them.

19. Handwrite your grandparents. In fact, handwrite letters to different people at least once a month.

20. Send real thank you notes. Texts and emails do not count!

21. Do not lend someone money expecting to get it back. You may be disappointed and the friendship tainted. If you give someone money and they return it, that calls for celebration.

22. Enjoy the adventure and where it takes you. Try new things.

23. Don’t be afraid of failure if it means you are still growing and learning.

24. Pay attention to deadlines. Dates when it comes to bills and work can be a life changer or at least a pain in the credit if missed.

25. Photos and postings on the Internet do not disappear. Use privacy settings!

26. Journal about the good times and the tough. Share when you are ready, or keep it to yourself.

27. Don’t leave the gas tank empty for the next person. Same goes for toilet paper.

28. Ask others for advice. Note: You do not need to take all of it.

29. Read for pleasure, read for awareness, read for hobby, read for work. Just read.

30. Trust your gut. If you would not be proud to share your decision with others, it is not a good call.

My daughter has stopped rolling her eyes and has begun to take heed of some of my recommendations. While I may never have the daughter who loves to call and talk on the phone, I’m encouraged by her choices in stationery and the blank journals that have made their way home from Target. A new planner was purchased, which should help address some of my mom worries.

If nothing else, I know that she has the sense of adventure and confidence to pack a bag and take a chance going out on her own. My global explorer has demonstrated that she is able to take on the world and has lived up to the best advice I was given as a new mother: “Raise her to be a strong and independent young woman who wants to live life to the fullest.”

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