Things I would Tell my 20-year Old Self #5 – Stef

It’s time for another installment of Things I would Tell my 20-year old Self. Doing the honor today is my friend Stef Woods of City Girl Blogs.

Stef is one of my favorite people I’ve “met” over the internet. The first time I read City Girl Blogs I remember thinking “Wow, someone who has as many crazy dating stories as me!” and I have been hooked ever since. There is so much that I find inspiring about Stef. You can tell she has a big heart, cares about the people around her & stands up for what she believes in. Her blog reads like the pages of a juicy novel with practical information on sex, health and relationships throughout.

I like to think of Stef as my “bloggy big sister”. I often email her to ask for her opinion on different issues and she always provides great advice. This is why I thought she’d be the perfect person to write this post.

I can’t wait for the day that we can hang out in person over some cupcakes & drinks!

***
I’ve tried my best to embrace every year. But, if I had the chance to travel back in time
and give the following advice to my early 20-something self, I would.

1. It will all work out as it’s meant to. At 20, you should take your current role as student, intern or employee seriously. And, it’s normal to plan for the future and care about which direction your life heads. Let your goals motivate you without overwhelming you. Life is filled with so many twists and turns that it’s important to embrace new opportunities and enjoy the ride. One bad grade, boyfriend, job or move won’t alter your path irreparably. I promise.

2. You can’t have it all.
I was raised by a feminist and went to a women’s college. I was taught that perfection is possible. In true Superwoman fashion, I wanted to be a successful lawyer and a great mother. However, once I started working in a law firm, it disappointed me to see that the best female partners had to sacrifice time with their children. Older women who stayed home with their children felt like they had lost touch with their cerebral side. And, women who tried to balance the two worlds always felt guilty about not being good enough – as a mother and
as an employee. (There’s a reason why a recent study of the habits of working mothers indicates that they work more on an hour-per-hour basis than their non-working female counterparts.) Perfection – in any arena — is unattainable. Decide what is important to you and work toward that. Allow yourself the permission and the flexibility to do what feels right to you at a given time in your life. Seek partners who share similar priorities.

3. Pay it forward. We have the power to change the negative stereotypes about how women interact with each other in the workplace. Seek strong female mentors in each course of study or at each job you hold. Reach out to younger students, interns and employees. Mentoring others will enable you to be as inspired and learn as much, if not more, than when someone mentors you.

4. Take a stand and believe in yourself. In a classroom setting, I’ve seen young women defer to the males in the class just because of their gender. In the workplace, I’ve seen administrative assistants and paralegals treated poorly by attorneys because they thought they couldn’t challenge their superiors. In the social media community, I’ve met incredibly intelligent women, questioning whether they are as competent as their male counterparts with the same or less experience. Believe in yourself! Don’t apologize for your points of view. Politely question those in the work place who are disrespecting you or seek out a female mentor’s guidance. Stand up for those at your university or office who aren’t being treated well. And, never doubt your own strengths and expertise!

5. Don’t take your health for granted. When I was 20, I called my parents and told them I thought I had frostbite. As it turned out, I was starting to go paralyzed. I thankfully made it to the hospital before it was too late to reverse the symptoms, but I learned at a relatively young age that my body was not invincible. If something is off with your health, see a doctor or go to the Emergency Room. Make sure that you are feeling your breasts for changes every month. Visit the gynecologist annually. See a dermatologist if you notice any abnormal growths on your skin. Learn to be your best health advocate now!

6. A few random asides:

a. Keep laughing and seeking out what makes your glass and your life half-full! Don’t ever lose those abilities!

b. Enjoy the energy that you have now! There will come a day when you won’t want to dance on the platform of a club until it closes, but you will look back on those days fondly.

c. Your old crazy sex stories will still make you laugh and shake your head when you’re older. But, as much as you love sex now, it gets so, so, so much better.

d. You’ve always made a conscious effort to prioritize your female friendships. That won’t change. You and your girls will see each other through more highs and lows than you can imagine. They are your soul mates.

e. Quite a few people will comment that you are abnormally close to your parents in your early 20s. Continue to spend as much time with them as you can. These are the memories that will sustain you when your Mom passes away.

f. Look in the mirror. Your 38-year-old self will miss your 20-year-old body, but that’s about it. You liked yourself then. You know and love yourself now.

xoxo

Stef Woods is a university professor, attorney, sexuality educator, writer, and women’s health advocate. She writes about relationships, sexual health, breast cancer, and dating on her blog, City Girl’s Blog.

What would YOU tell your younger self?

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