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Advice I'd Give My 21-Year-Old Self

LDS Living Readers - April 10, 2012

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We all know that when we’re older, hindsight is 20/20. What things do you wish you had known when you were younger? Enjoy these gems of hard-won wisdom from some of our readers.

Only care about what the Lord thinks and not other people. Everything else just seems to fall into place when that is my focus.
—Anne; Arizona


Volunteer. Someone could use your help and you’ll get a better feeling that lasts longer. You’re poor, so act like it—that is, in terms of spending. Learn about every good thing you can; the more you learn about something, the more interesting it will become.
—Danny McClure; Blacksburg, Virginia


Don’t get a credit card in college.

Listen to your parents and your friends. If they don’t like the person you’re dating, there’s probably a good reason.

Pick your battles. Decide what is worth fighting over and then don’t sweat the rest of it.
It’s fine for other people to “win” arguments.

Apologize even when you don’t think something was your fault. It never hurts, and if it mends fences, it’s good.

Worry less about what other people think about you.
—Rachel Ausband; Marblehead, Massachusetts


Words of wisdom I received from my grandmother: “I decided that life was too short to go around feeling offended, so I just decided to never be offended.” This mindset has saved me considerable emotional energy over the years. Try to see the big picture, give the other person the benefit of the doubt, and always make the choice to not be offended.
—Elizabeth Forsyth; Doylestown, Pennsylvania


Appreciate your parents. It’s hard sometimes—I remember all too well. But your time with them is so limited. Take the time to call them, check on them, go see a movie with them, or just hang out eating cookies. I promise that when you are older you will cherish those moments.
—Carol Stuart


Keep physically fit. That is a blessing you will be grateful for throughout your life. Eat well, work out regularly, and walk whenever you can. Walking is a great way to connect with your spouse once you get married. If you do it on a daily basis, it can be a great time to discuss family situations outside the home in a neutral surrounding.
—Debbie Justesen; Roseville, California


You can do anything but not everything.

You have your entire life to get married and have children; live a little first. Work, travel, and enjoy. You will eventually be a better mother and wife for taking time to become who you want to be.

Don’t worry about what others think. Be true to yourself and God. The rest will take care of itself.
—Jacqueline White; Springfield, Massachusetts


Develop a strong testimony because the decisions you’ll make in the next few years will be the most important decisions you’ll perhaps ever make.
—K.D. Paniagua; Nevada


Just having retired, I really wish I had started saving for retirement much sooner. Learn the tricks of those who are good with money and don’t get into debt.
—Ann Reynolds; Everett, Washington


You’re going to live to be 100, so don’t freak out when something doesn’t happen in a few months or a few years. It’s okay if you didn’t graduate in exactly four years. It’s okay if you didn’t get married by 25 like you’d always planned. For some things, you just have to go with the flow and let what will happen, happen. The timing will always work out, even if it is not the timing you wanted.
—Heather Galovan; Salt Lake City, Utah


Avoid mid-semester weddings if possible. Don’t take a career path that restricts you to only a certain geographic location.
—Mike McClure; Tazewell, Virginia


Organize your classes well and develop good academic skills as fast as you can. Don’t overload your schedule, even if you can still pass your classes. Be diligent and patient in your schoolwork and leave time for dating and earning a little extra cash to have some fun, too.
—John Leonard; Sacramento, California


When it comes to finding a future companion, it is more important to focus on being your best self for her rather than trying to find “The One.”
—Brian Bourgerie; Spring Lake Park, Minnesota


Take your time in school. Slow it down and enjoy life for where you are at right now. Some of the greatest times are missed or overshadowed by always being busy and wanting or needing to grow up. Remember the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race. Speedy and greedy leaves you tired and needy.
—Jay Tucker; Mesa, Arizona


When you have children, play with them—a lot! Read to them—a lot! Lie by them when you put them to bed each night and talk, maybe for only two to five minutes. These things will make all the difference in your relationship with them throughout the years.
—Gayle Halversen


Flossing is a hassle, but do it anyway. Your skin never forgets what you do to it; sunbathing will age you quickly. You’ll thank me when people think your younger siblings are older than you. Look upon the challenges and trials of your life as “all part of the adventure.” Read Hugh Nibley and other LDS scholars in conjunction with your scripture study.
—Lisa Howard; Adana, Turkey


Don’t go crazy thinking about your weight. You’ll look back 20+ years later and realize you looked pretty great and would give anything to be that size again. It’s all about perspective. Be kinder and more forgiving of yourself in thought.

Wear a high-level sunscreen every day! Your skin, especially your face, neck, and hands (yes, your hands) will thank you later with fewer wrinkles, blemishes, and sun spots in your 40s. Need proof? Just look at your mother’s face, neck, and hands. Now go get some sunscreen.
—Loralee Humphries; Henderson, Nevada


Sometimes it can be hard to believe in yourself and your abilities. Don’t take counsel from your fears; shoot high. This is your opportunity in life to be whatever you want to be. Once you have made up your mind, work hard and take daily action to accomplish your goal.
—David Jenkins; Yuba City, California


When things look really bad and you have done all you can do, take a long, hot bath, have a good cry (in the tub if possible), go to bed, and sleep. Things will always look better in the morning. This was the best advice my mother gave me when I was a teenager. It still holds true.
—Judith Adams Grant; Waycross, Georgia


Sweetie, you are worth so much more than you think right now! Spend some time learning all the wonderful things about yourself and then start thinking about getting married. Most of all, I love you, Mom and Dad love you, all of the family loves you, Heavenly Father and Jesus love you. 

P.S. When you do have kids, take tons of pictures because they grow up so stinking fast that it seems like a blur.
—Bethany Seher; Murray, Utah


Don’t waste your time on Facebook, video games, or other stuff like it. Go out of your way and don’t be afraid to serve or talk to others about the gospel. Always be learning, improving, and developing talents.
Colin McKay; Mesa, Arizona


Take the bull by the horns and never look back. Don’t rely on someone else to make you happy; happiness is a choice and you should never let someone tell you different. You have more talent than you know, so don’t be afraid to show it and build upon it. Most of all, never make the mistake of thinking you are alone in your efforts. Treat a janitor as you would treat a CEO.
—Andrew Fry; Fernley, Nevada


Love is half how you feel about the other person and half how you feel about yourself because of that person. If you admire him/her like the sun, but whenever you are with him/her you feel like you are a toadstool, even though the words “I love you” are passing between you, you only have half of love—you’re not bringing out the best in each other. Find someone with whom you feel like a princess and who feels like he’s a prince because of you.
—Chris


When you get home from your mission, make sure to talk about other things when you go on dates.
—Vince; Pasco, Washington


Fill your bucket now! This is the one time in your life (if you are single) when you are independent and able to make decisions for yourself. Once you are married and have a family, you need to put others’ needs before your own. Thus, if there is something you have been dying to do, do it. Fill your mind with scriptural knowledge, knowledge from great books, and knowledge from people you know and trust. Create a “bucket” that is full of wonderful experiences and wisdom that you can draw from in the future when you need it for more difficult or stressful times.

—Debbie Justesen; Roseville, California


You cannot reap if you do not sow.

The task that takes the longest to complete is the one you never start.

True obedience to the gospel is more than just active avoidance of unrighteousness—it is active avoidance of unrighteousness coupled with active engagement in righteousness. Too often
the latter is forgotten or eclipsed by things that do not edify (D&C 50:23).

The pain of loneliness, disappointment, despair, and heartache is actually carving reservoirs into your soul that will later be filled with joy. 

Carbohydrates will make you fat.
—Grant Hart; Grand Junction, Colorado


No, you don’t have it all figured out. No, you are not the person you have to be for the rest of your life. Let yourself change, let yourself learn, and let yourself grow. 
—Amanda Taylor; Salt Lake City, Utah

Do you have more wisdom and advice not already included? Leave a comment below!

Check out some of the advice our Facebook friends gave here.

See what advice our LDS Living staff had for our former selves here.

© LDS Living, March/April 2012.
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