Top 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me in My 20s

1. Travel. Spend a lot of your money and time traveling when you’re young. See how others live. It’s how you develop compassion and learn that there is always someone worse off than yourself. This will, in turn, make you appreciate being you. Learning about other cultures and religions and customs helps open your eyes and your heart and your mind. Time and money spent on this will never be wasted.

2. Do Your Secret Dream. You know that thing you love to do? That thing that makes you stay up late and rise early just to find time to do it? The first love that you dream about while working at your “real” job? Find a way to do it for real. While you are unencumbered by children or mortgages or demands of career advancement, do your thing. See if there is a place in your world any way you can to do this secret dream so that you won’t get into your thirties or forties or even fifties and look back with regret that you didn’t do your thing from the beginning. You’ll have less time and energy and more responsibilities later that will make the road to your secret dream much longer and more bumpy.

3. Be Choosy in Who You Love. The whole “love the one your with” is ridiculous. I’m sorry to take such a hard-nosed approach on this one but it is better to be alone than with the wrong person. You may somehow wind up married to the one you’re with (it seemed like a good idea at the time…) so be sure the one you’re with is worth marrying. If not, see #2. You need more time for that anyway.

4. Have a Plan (but you don’t have to have everything figured out). If you float through your twenties without a plan, you may end up somewhere you didn’t want to go. I’m not saying things have to be written in blood or stone, but get a general idea of a direction. And then go that direction. I’m convinced that any direction is better than apathy or complacency with your current situation. If you’d rather be working as a real artist rather than a sandwich artist when you’re in your thirties, get started on that in your twenties. Understand that your twenties don’t last forever so use them wisely.

5. Get to Know Yourself as a Grownup. Who are you now? Do you like that person? If you do, congrats! You’re way ahead of the game and I’m not even sure why you’re still reading this. If you don’t, no worries-you’re completely normal. I suggest you spend some quality time with that person you see in the mirror. Take a moment to sit down and ask yourself what’s important to you. If you can’t figure this out, you may not know yourself very well so get to know yourself better. And if that’s the case, pay particular attention to #3.

6. And Then Embrace Who You Are. Once you figure out who you’re supposed to be becoming, embrace the best parts of yourself and hold onto them for dear life. And those gross parts, those things about yourself you want to keep locked up in the closet-work on them, be vulnerable with them, and then embrace them too. Maybe you don’t love some things about yourself, but I bet the things that you are most hesitant to share with the world are the things that will make you most endearing to those who truly love and appreciate you for you. Follow their lead and give yourself a break.

7. Start a Roth IRA. I’m not one to give financial advice or do math on this blog. But I have heard of this thing called compound interest and I know if you start with small amounts they add up over time. You think you can’t afford to start in your twenties? Wait until you have the aforementioned kids and mortgage. Start young and small and just trust me on this. Your forty year old self will thank me. And you.

8. Use Sunscreen Every Day. Your skin is gorgeous and pliable and unmarked by scars of that glorious sunshine you don’t even think about now. Want to avoid things like wrinkles and skin cancer? Just slather it on your face and neck every single day before you walk out of the house. Make it part of your routine. You will not regret this choice in any way so just do it! How many other situations in your twenties can you say that about?

9. Feel the Fear, Do It Anyway. Those things that you really want to do (see #2-6)? Things that scare the hot mess right out of you? They’re probably actually good for you-you just can’t see it yet because you don’t have a lot of life- or self-experience. These might be those life-altering things that will bring you great personal joy or self satisfaction or glory or riches or rainbows or unicorns. But you won’t know til you take the leap. It might feel terrifying, but if you feel a layer of excitement and intrigue underneath the fear, it might be a good leap for you to take.

10. Be Adventurous (for these are the stories you’ll be telling the rest of your life). This goes hand in hand with #9. Being adventurous doesn’t mean being stupid. But it can mean taking calculated risks. It can mean leaping, jumping or diving for that thing you really want. Maybe in your job or personal life or school or introspection. Only you can decide where your adventure will take you. And if you have no adventures to speak of, you will never be invited to parties in your forties, a fate worse to consider than death when you’re twenty, I realize. You will be more interesting, more engaging, more satisfied and more joyful if you live a life full of adventure.

Don’t wait for life to happen to you. Embrace it with a sloppy wet kiss that will surprise you both. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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Homecoming

Yesterday was pretty great. And a little surreal. I went to a book signing for My Pink Champagne Life (available here) in my hometown. And I finally felt authorish.

Holding my finished book in my hand for the first time was so cool. Making the first sale to a long time friend was amazing. Showing my parents that my weird artsy fartsy lifestyle wasn’t in vain was freaking awesome. But if I’m honest with myself, I haven’t felt too much like an author.

I still have my day job. I’m still trying to find time to write this blog with four kids underfoot, much less work on my next project. My kids, frankly, aren’t terribly impressed with Mama’s book since they write books all the time. My three year old showed me her book and said I should write a better book like hers because it had pictures in it. She may be onto something.

I grew up in the middle of farm country. Where, if you drive thirty seconds any direction out of town you would be surrounded by wheat fields. The town itself has two stop lights and sports still reign supreme. It was tiny by any standards but when I lived there, it was my whole world. I didn’t need anything beyond its borders. My friends, my family and everything I loved was contained within its small radius.

On my drive back this weekend, the memories came flooding back. Every turn reminded me of some moment from my past. And then I had the sudden epiphany that I had only lived in my hometown for six years. 

Six years?

Why did I still consider it my hometown? I’ve lived other places much longer. It dawned on me that from sixth grade through when I graduated high school were some of my best, hard, wonderful, life-shaping years. And the town I called home was instrumental in shaping me. 

From the moment my family moved there, the town embraced us and adopted us as ones of theirs. Even though we were new. Outsiders. And even though my parents were so embarrassing to me at the time.

There were a whole bunch of people who kept an eye out for me and my siblings. I knew if I got in trouble somewhere in town my parents would know before I rode my bike home. My friends’ parents were authorized to treat me like their kids: put me to work, feed me, ground me, expect me to do my best.

It’s hard to believe six years could make such a difference. But they did. They kept me safe. They broke my heart. They made me try new things. They made me grow and change and start on a path that has led me here. And through the good and bad and ridiculous (judging by the way we wore our bangs back in the day), they planted the seed of the idea that one day I might write a book.

So I went to my hometown for a book signing where former teachers and classmates and friends stopped by, let me hug their necks, and caught me up on their lives. And they bought my book. And asked for my signature.

And said they were proud of me.

Six years. In the scope of my life it’s not much, but in some ways it was everything.

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

To All the Mamas

Can I just tell you good job today? And thank you! I know that this gig is hands down the hardest, craziest, most rewarding and yet often, thankless job you can find. As the Mama of Littles, I know they can’t really say thank you; as the Mama of Bigs, I also know sometimes they just don’t think to.

And that is ok. It’s not up to them to build your self esteem as a parent, even though they may tear it down sometimes. So that’s why I have taken it upon myself to say thanks. I am a bona fide grownup (most days) and now that I’m a Mama, I get the need for encouragement from outside sources.

During the dark days of Littles, when you’re sleep deprived and don’t even recognize yourself in the mirror because you suddenly look like an old woman with carrots stuck in your hair it’s hard to find encouragement. Especially if others around you have opinions. About everything.

And I hear that there are also dark days for Mamas of teenagers too. I have a tween right now and all of the eye rolling and sighing is making me super excited for those years to come.

Sometimes the minute to minute, day to day stuff gets in the way of our enjoyment of these children. And then we get cranky or forget who we set out to be in the first place or feel mired in the weird nooks and crannies of our lives where we have left small pieces of ourselves. Maybe we left them accidentally, like skin sloughing off. Or maybe it was on purpose, like cracker crumbs to help us find our way back someday.

Oh, this Mama gig! The only thing I can guarantee is that it’s probably not what you expected it to be. And you’re probably not who you expected to be. And that’s ok too.

That is why I’m going to say thank you today to all the Mamas doing hard work. And I’m going to say to most of you (you know who you are): you’re doing a good job. You’re giving your best to your kids and family and spouses and work and activities and lessons and recitals and sports practices. You’re up early and staying late just to finish the job that has no end.

I’m proud of you. This is hard but you’ve got this. 

And just in case you didn’t catch that: 

YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!

Now I’m going to go call my Mama.

  

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Betty

I’ve discovered I almost can’t have an emotion without writing about it and I’m feeling lots right now. We laid to rest one of the good ones today. The woman who was the matriarch of several generations, community leader and friend to many had a packed house at her funeral.

Stories were told, tears were shed, laughter was heard and music was sung. Everyone was so sad to see her go because she gave joy and food and mischievous smiles and help to everyone she met. But it still felt like a celebration.

That’s what happens when you live 89 years really well. People notice you and want to be around you because of that special thing you have that makes you shine from the inside out.

She was many things to many people. I connected with her because besides being related, she was one of my Grandma’s closest friends and she was an artist. She discovered her talent later in life, proving that late bloomers have their place too.

I had the privilege of painting with her and my Grandma at their little artist retreat. They called themselves the Pal-ettes and every Tuesday they fellowshipped together, shared a meal, talked, laughed and occasionally, painted. What they did for me was inspire: creativity, friendship, thirst for knowledge.

From the apples of her cheeks to her helping hands and giant heart, this lovely lady had a fine celebratory send off today. She is with my Jesus, the one I pray to, cry to, talk with. That blows my mind and makes me smile. She  has found her way home after a job very well done.

  

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Cornucopia of Thoughts from Today

Missing the Bigs-my two oldest boys from a previous marriage. They’re at their dad’s this week for spring break and I. Hate. That. Hard to share and be away from my babies. This Mama really likes all her chicks to be in the nest. Wonder if they’ll let me move in with them when they go off to college.

My first book store book signing event was today…and I forgot pens! Rookie mistake. But it was cool to be in my favorite local independent book store where My Pink Champagne Life is now for sale (along with online booksellers like http://www.amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com). It was the second time I’ve felt like a real author. The first was when I held my published book in my hands for the first time. Cra-azy!

Mr. Wonderful went waaaaaaay above and beyond his comfort zone to bring the Littles to the event-no easy task for anyone, much less a guy with PTSD who isn’t crazy about crowds or narrow spaces or people loudness. It made my day!

 

(Mr. Wonderful making the rounds, even with the stroller.) 

Enjoyed catching up with old friends. There is something very special about spending time with either 1) someone you’ve known for a long time or 2) someone you’ve watched grow into an adult. The former is great because they know all your secrets and still love you, even if you haven’t seen each other for awhile. The latter is fun because you get to see how someone turned out and when they’re awesome it makes your heart smile.

Went for pizza at our fave spot-all I can say is bacon wrapped cheese filled jalapeƱos are a-MAH-zing!

Today was a pretty good day. It felt like confirmation that I’m headed the right way.

Finally.

 

(Photo credits Meredith Shafer 2015) Would you look at all those gorgeous books? I want to live here!

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015