What happened to me? Seriously, what in the heck happened to me? Cool, fun, and exciting were all words that were once used to describe me. Those words have been replaced with new ones like responsible, settled, grounded, and caring. Now don’t get me wrong, I gladly and graciously accept my new words, but I do laugh when I reflect on my life and how much has changed from my early 20s until now.
As we ring in 2013, most of us reflect on the past and look forward to the future. We make those crazy New Year’s Resolution lists that most of us do not adhere to. I am one of those people. Every year I will make my list, which is truly for my eyes only. I do this because I know that about 80% of the things on my list I will not accomplish and I don’t want that, “I told you so glare” from others. Well, this year, instead of a list I decided to write my old-self a letter. Actually, let me clarify. I am writing my “younger” self a letter as a now “older” self. Make sense? Let’s lay some ground work so this letter is not confusing for any of us. I am currently 37 years-old, married with two daughters, and am a college student (again). I am writing to younger Cara, a woman out of college in my early 20s who thinks she has got it goin’ on and who knows EVERYTHING. Everyone got it? Okay, here we go!
I am the ghost of New Year’s future and I am sitting here on New Year’s Eve 2012 wishing this is truly something that you could have had to guide you through the early part of your adult life. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on landing your first “real” job out of college. I think that being a radio personality is a perfect fit for you; I mean you do talk non-stop and you love music. Plus, you are following in your dad’s footsteps which I think is very cool. You grew up in this business, and I am confident that you will continue to love this industry and you will learn so many valuable business and life lessons. During this time you will meet so many interesting people and many famous musicians but just remember these exciting experiences won’t define your career but they certainly can make a Wednesday afternoon more exciting. Listen to your boss, Glenn! Trust me on this one. That man is a college education wrapped up in one human being. He will teach you more than anyone ever will. And, when it’s time to leave radio and take the next professional step, you will know. Make sure to trust your gut and follow what motivates you, gives you joy and passion. The next stage in your career will most certainly define what kind of person you want to be and the kind of role model you want to be for your children.
Stop going out at 11 at night. Seriously! You spend hours getting ready for a night out on the town and you don’t even leave your apartment until a time when many people are in bed. And, what good can come from hanging out at a bar that late at night? It’s not like you are going to meet a great guy under those circumstances. So, stop it. You are wasting your nights and there is nothing wrong with reading a good book and going to bed at 10. Plus, you have to work in the morning.
Stop spending all of your money on eating-out and clothes. Sadly, the clothes that you are constantly buying, you will most likely be “sick-of” and “hate” within a few months. And, you LOVE to cook so start making meals for yourself more often. It’s a lot better for you and it will save you a ton of money down the road. And, speaking of money you should really start saving it instead of blowing it on crap that you won’t even remember 16 years from now. Save it, invest it and do something truly special with it, like traveling.
Spend time with your Grandpa Eddie. He won’t be around much longer and trust me when I tell you that another trip to the mall is nothing compared to taking him out to lunch at Arnie’s. You will miss your lunches together, so cram in as many as you can.
Stop dating losers. I want to smack some sense in you! You are a good judge of character so stop dating just to date. You are wasting time on guys who certainly don’t deserve that much of yours. It’s okay to be alone! Embrace this time. You will know when the right guy comes along.
Oh, my favorite! Stop complaining about your body, it’s annoying. What in the heck is there to complain about? You hardly have to work out and you can basically eat anything you want! You have a nice flat stomach, no stretch marks, ZERO cellulite, and a nice booty. Just wait until you have two kids and the skin on your stomach looks like something that could be found on an elephant. Working out will become something that you do on a regular basis, like putting gas in your car or grocery shopping. And, I know that you love a good pizza, just wait a few years….one piece and you gain 4lbs! So, STOP COMPLAINING. You have NO idea.
Accept help from others, and ask for help when you need it. Stop pretending to know everything, because news flash….you don’t and you never will. Asking for help and guidance is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. The knowledge and wisdom that others can offer will be a priceless gift in your life.
So, I know that you think that you have it pretty good right now. Early 20s, cool job, cool apartment, cool friends, cool disposable income, and cool clothes (which you will hate); you have a pretty cool life. Hate to break it to you sister, but while all that stuff is somewhat cool, what is really cool is being someone’s “mommy” and someone’s “wife.” Those are both the coolest ever. And, I know your jaw is hanging wide open because you don’t think that you ever want to get married or have kids! Things that you never thought you wanted one day will become your entire life’s happiness.
All the things that you think are un-cool right now will become very cool in the next 16 years. It’s cool to be a kindergarten room-mom. Driving around town in a mom-Volvo and not a sexy sports car is also pretty cool. The stretch marks are still not cool but the reasons that you have them are. It’s cool to only watch movies that are animated. It’s cool to go to bed early. It’s cool to be kind and generous to others. It’s SUPER cool to be a good wife and mom. It’s also cool to be transparent. It’s cool to go out to dinner with your family on a Saturday night and wonder half way through the meal if you even put make-up on. It’s okay though, because your family will love you all the same. It’s so very cool to be settled. There is nothing better than that.
Enjoy being young and carefree! Growing up is hard to do but so rewarding. If there is one thing that I can promise you right now at this stage of your life, it is that the best is sure to come.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cara Essick Ontiveros is a busy modern-day mom! Cara is a business owner, culinary arts student, and mom to two very active girls. She is a theater lover, dog lover, shopaholic and vino drinker.