Hi there readers! I haven’t been blogging very much. I guess I have just been busy. Busy with the J-man. Busy with being pregnant…well, that seems like a lame excuse—doesn’t it? However, if I weren’t pregnant, I wouldn’t be tired. If I weren’t tired, I would have all kinds of energy and I wouldn’t have been sick two weeks out of every month since January. And, these hormones actually get in the way sometimes.

I won’t pontificate about being pregnant, I will save that for a post called: “The truth about my pregnancy”. I think the only good thing that comes out of pregnancy is a new baby (DUE AT THE BEGININNING OF AUGUST, BTW). But now I digress from the real topic of this better-late-than-never blog entry: ADVICE TO A YOUNGER SELF.

My niece will be coming to Switzerland for the summer to help me out with these last few months of pregnancy (since I can’t seem to move all that well) and the first month after he is born. I am pretty excited. I hope everything works out.

I began to think of things I will need to tell her. About washing her hands whenever she comes in from outside, about putting huile d’amande on J-man’s butt when she changes his diaper, about making sure the fringe of the diaper is out…especially around his legs…so it reduces the chance of leaking poo…about tips about staying safe while in a foreign country.

I then thought it would be fun to compile a list. A list of things I wish I had known or thought of when I was 18 and leaving for university in Ottawa or even when I was 19 and becoming an au pair in France. Maybe I should start a meme in Facebook…10 things you wish you had known when you were 20.

At the risk of sounding too preachy, here is my list (in no particular order):

1. Make the first thing you do when you come home is wash your hands. Well, take off your shoes, put them away, and then wash your hands. Statistics show that 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted through touch. Also, always wash your hands before you put groceries away and before you turn on the television or the computer. (On a bit of a separate note, also use rubbing alcohol to clean your mobile phone or mobile device at least once a week.) The Center for Disease Control says to wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After you come in from outside *I ADDED THIS ONE…
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

I think that is one of the most important things I would tell a younger self. However, I have always believed in washing my hands. I don’t think I over-wash my hands and I am certainly not OCD about it. But, really, I do wash my hands quite a few times a day—especially when I am sick.

2. Take care of your body and your body parts. It is the only one you get, and it has to last a long time. A LOOOONG TIME…at least five times as long as your life as you currently know it. Go to the dentist at least once a year. Those teeth are the only teeth you will have (at least until you decide to get dentures). Also, a healthy smile does wonders for your self-esteem. And people respond better to you if you smile first–and you are more likely to smile if you feel confident about your teeth. I am sure there are tons of reasons to go to the dentist. But those are the first few that comes to mind.

3. Lead a healthy lifestyle. “What does that mean?” you may ask. I guess that is related to #2.  It means…learn about food. Learn about healthy choices and the correct size of portions for you. Learn how to make different meals. Learn how to shop at a grocery store. I think I was 21 or 22 and I was shopping for groceries after work. I was so tired. I was tired of thinking about what to eat. I was tired about trying to make healthy decisions. I was just tired of the whole process. I guess it showed on my face because the elderly lady behind me in line told me: “Well, you had better figure out how to like it dear. You have to do it for a long time.”

4. Related to #2 and #3, make exercise part of your lifestyle. Do something every day. If you want to lose weight, 1 hour, 4 times a week helps. If you want to maintain weight, 2 or 3 times a week is OK. Maintaining weight is only one reason to have exercise in your lifestyle. Muscle holds your body together longer and more efficiently than fat. You will have less pain and other health issues if you have more muscle mass than fat mass. Also, exercise is the only known and recognized elixir of youth. The longer you are active, the longer (and more pain free) you can live. Exercise is also known for contributing to a level of happiness—something about releasing serotonins and such. I am sure you can find a ton of research in the Google.

When I lived in California, my neighbours took me on a ski trip to Tahoe. I was 32. They were 55 (ish). They have exercised at least one hour a day for most of their lives. They also skied circles around me. I was tired by 2:30 or so. They kept going until the last run (AND not on bunny hills either–double diamonds and moguls I am sure). Regardless, I vowed when I was 55, I wanted to kick some 32-year-old butt. So, I struggle along (especially when I am pregnant). But hopefully, I will struggle less next year.

5. Dress well. Dress appropriately. Lean how to dress (why do you think there are all of those makeover shows out there?. Too many women wearing men’s clothes and thinking it is OK. OR getting stuck in a fashion rut–Should I mention the intervention we had in San Francisco when someone we all know and love wanted to wear a banana clip?).

Learn about fashion. I didn’t really learn about fashion until my mid-thirties. I spent most of my twenties in oversized men’s clothing and t-shirts and sports bras. (On that topic, I highly recommend getting fitted for a proper bra at some specialty store–and always wear matching bra and underwear. If nothing else goes right that day, at least you can rely on the fact that your under things match.) I guess it feels the same as being confident about your smile.

You don’t need to spend a whole lot of money on clothes. However, you have a few pieces that you like and feel good in, you can accessorize with jackets, scarves, belts, and shoes. A classic pair of jeans and a few shirts (ALWAYS A GIRL SHIRTS) go a long way.

On the dress appropriately note, dress appropriately for your job or family function and also dress appropriately for going out. How you dress gives everybody and anybody an impression of how you are as a person (on the inside and out). Dress with confidence. Have confidence. Dress for attention. Get attention. There is a time and a place for everything.  But, really, more often than not, it is better to keep the girls inside and appropriately covered. NONE of your family ever wants to see them. EVER.

6. Learn how to create a great resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile. A resume is a first impression any employer or potential employer has of you.  It is the stepping stone to creating a life for yourself and making a living. Make sure you have a number of people look at it for you so they can comment from their perspective. Make sure it is ABOSOLUTELY and COMPLETELY free of grammar and spelling mistakes. Also, learn the difference between a hobby and a job to earn a living. If, eventually, you can make a living from your hobby, be grateful.

7. Save a percentage of everything you earn. Start as early as possible. Saving $1000 in your twenties is equal to saving $20,000 in your forties. Which will be easier? Learn about retirement savings and the effects of compound interest. Save for special occasions (a trip somewhere, a new car), and save for retirement. Ideally, save the maximum you can each year in a tax-free account (I think it is 13%, of your previous year’s claimed income–but I am not sure). Minimally, save 10% of everything you earn.

8. Credit cards are not money. More specifically, credit cards are not FREE money.  Need I say more? I guess I could say use a credit card or line of credit to build a credit score which will help you buy a house or get a business loan or something more productive than getting caught in a desperate and destitute spiral of credit card debt. That credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life.

On that note, know the difference between good debt and bad debt. Like, borrowing money to get an education (for example) is a good investment. Consumer credit card debt is just bad. Don’t even start down that road.

9. On the education note, make further education and continued improvement part of your lifestyle. Pursuant to #8, if you need to borrow money to go to school, do it. Do not hesitate to do it. Once you are finished post-secondary education, keep up-to-date with yearly conferences or continued improvement learning. Do something every year that improves your life (physically, financially, or however). Plan it and it will happen. Every year, two years, five years, or even once a decade, re-evaluate what you are doing and how you are getting there. Are you making progress?

10. Last, but not least, hand sanitizer is strictly for hands.

What about you Readers? What do you wish you had known when you were young and just starting out?


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  1. I think this is a lovely idea Jennifer.

    I made up my mind (early) that I was going to travel before I got married and sure enough I did. Then I made sure that Ken liked to travel too.

    If you make promises , try and keep them. Sometimes it doesn’t always work. Don’t flip flop back and forth between decisions.

    Go by gut feelings and what you feel most comfortable doing. Sometimes the head and heart have to work together

    Be true to yourself and others! Don’t hold a grudge, don’t let “monkeys” sit on your back – get on with life!

    That’s all I can think of for now!
    Love Mum

  2. I must say that I have been giving this request some thought. Of course there is the old “be true to yourself” But, what does that look like?

    When I was my younger more insecure self, I ate more than I wanted too (when food was offered), I laughted harder at other’s not so funny or sometimes downright stupid jokes, I went places with others I didn’t really want to, I even cried at times to please others.

    So, to make a long story short:

    Be as true to you as you can. Even when it feels incredible difficult to do. Learn early that you do come first (without disrespect to other). Love you so you can love others. Love you physically (the physically self that the universe has bestowed you with), your spiritual self (this is a learning one….) figure out how you feel about the world, the connection of the people in the world, how a spiritual sence makes sense to you. Perhaps explore spirituality from other cultures and lastly love you emotionally.

    Gosh, so much to tell a young systa. I hope it helps.


  3. Well, of course I would say be true to yourself and don’t compromise your beliefs for the thoughts and ideals of others. Just live well. Live honestly. And don’t worry too much about what others are thinking of you. It’s your life. It’s your adventure. Make sure that when you arrive at the end of your line, you can honestly look back and be proud of your accomplishments & can say “What a hell of a ride”.

  4. Dear Jen,

    I’ve been thinking about this since I read it, and realised that though there was lots I would have liked to know in theory, in practice, I was really ok with all the things I experienced.

    That said, my nickname was for a long-time “Sensible Sarah”!!! I wasn’t much of drinker, and still am not and was fiercely against drugs of any kind and never even smoked a cigarette. However, I wasn’t ever really described as square though and certainly had a lot of fun 18+ and certainly made mistakes!!

    Anyway, here are my “pearls of wisdom” that are based either on personal experience, or from what I have seen others go through, or what I see today’s young people around me go through.

    – If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. TRUST your instincts/intuition and react sooner rather than later.
    – Even your nearest and dearest friends can make appalling flat-mates that drive you crazy unexpectedly. Sometimes “strangers” are easier to live with. Choose carefully who you live with, and consider whether you really need to share at all.
    – Don’t lend anyone (even very close friends) money if at all possible. And If you need to share a deposit, or need re-paying for a piece of furniture for a joint flat or something, then make sure you have some sort of little contract.
    – Don’t drink and drive. Obvious really, but this also includes being a passenger to someone that has been drinking which can be harder.
    – Don’t hitch-hike.
    – If you are out and drinking/partying, you are still the best person to take care of you. Never expect others to be able to walk you somewhere, remove you from a tricky situation, hold you hair while you throw up etc!!!
    – Think very carefully about going on Facebook/Twitter etc drunk
    – Social media makes it very difficult to stop unwanted photos from appearing online. Try to avoid being in a situation where unwanted photos could be taken in the first place and remember that by law, no one is allowed really to post of picture of you online without your approval. Well in Switzerland anyway.
    – Do you want attention or respect from boys? The two can often be confused and yet are VERY different.
    – Don’t go down the drugs root. It is no good. Ever.
    – Enjoy these years when you are energetic and enthusiastic about so much. It is such a wonderful time.
    – Try to see the best in the people around you
    – Enjoy being you!

    I could go on, and I didn’t really mean this list to be as long, not seem like a list of school rules! I hope I’ve not rambled too much. I have enjoyed 18+ years so much and don’t really have any regrets but it might not seem that way from my list ha ha. I also didn’t dare go down the love/sex route because it’s just SO different for each person and so much could be said depending on the person.

    Good luck with your new baby!

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