Five Pieces of Advice to My Younger Self

I turned 40 last month. As in, I’ve existed on this planet for 40 years. I’ve breathed in the same air as everyone else. I’ve looked up at the same moon and felt the same sun on my cheeks.

And, like everyone else, I’ve wondered what it’s all about.

My son drew a picture of me for my birthday… as Poison Ivy (from the DC Comic Universe). And it’s not the ultra-hot Uma Thurman version of Poison Ivy. We’re talking a post-apocalyptic badass, a cross between Peter Pan and a Terminator. Think metal forearm guards and eyebrow protectors. And a cape. Always a cape.

poison ivyAs I stared at the picture, my eyes pricked with tears. Not because I had a thick waist or boobs that were too high, but because my son saw me as a strong, fierce woman. One who could walk around town in a breastplate if she wanted to. Edgy, standing in her own power, ready to rock her corner of the world. It’s everything I ever wanted to be. And now, at 40, I realize that I have arrived.

The road to 40 has been a long, winding, wild ride. Most left turns should have been right turns. I’ve found myself constantly turning left into the heavy traffic of life, waiting with my blinker on, until I could get back on track. Now here I am, older and wiser, a bit chubbier, and a proficient driver on the highway of humanity. What have I learned along the way?


1. Your life is not carved in stone.

Sometimes it feels like it is, but there are always options. It’s okay to change your mind… whenever you want. If a situation doesn’t fit right, hang it on the back of the door and try on something more fabulous.

People will bestow unfair expectations upon you that can become a burden if you let them. Know this: You are here to be happy. This is your one and only life. Make it count.

Don’t let your mistakes define you or they will rule your life. Everybody makes them… and you’re going to rock out in the mosh pit of Fucking Doozies. Forgiving yourself will be one of the toughest lessons you’ll ever learn. And it will provide the sweetest relief.

2. Love is out there

You are going to get involved with men who treat you badly. They’ll take advantage of you, ignore you and blast chunks out of your independent spirit. Learn from these experiences. And for fuck’s sake, try not to repeat them.

Your heart is full and wide-open. Never let that change. Skepticism will put you on the fast-track to loneliness.

Love is going to find you, and when it does, it will blow your mind.

There’s a guy out there who will vacuum the floor mats of your car. Just because. He’ll go to the store for toilet paper and come back with pickled asparagus because he knows it’s your favorite. When you cross the street, he’ll grab your hand. And then keep holding it because he likes the feel of your palm in his. He’ll lightly draw patterns on your bare back with his fingertips because he knows it makes you feel divine. His energy grounds you. You’ll cry ugly tears in front of him, the kind that wracks your body and leaves you no option but to wipe your nose on the back of your wrist. He’ll draw you into his arms and love you more than ever because of your vulnerability.

I wish I could tell you to wait for him, but if you do, you’ll never find him. You’re going to have to slog through the shit to discover this kind of love. It will be worth it. Trust me.

3. Your dreams still matter

Just because you are getting older doesn’t mean you need to stop dreaming. Dreams don’t have expiration dates. Only our expectations of ourselves do. Rise above this and keep on dreaming.

Remember your Humanities professor in college? The one that told you there was no money to be made in Art History and that you’d be better off getting married and having children instead… and you believed him? He was a F-U-C-K-I-N-G moron.

You can do anything you want, girl. Don’t let those disenchanted with the world tell you otherwise.

Someday, you’ll be in that rock band. Hold tight to that secret childhood fantasy.

Traveling the world with a backpack isn’t that far-fetched. Buy the backpack now and look at it every day.

Remember that dream you had to be a writer? Well, it came true. And you are going to rock your corner of the world with your writing.

Nothing is off the table.


4. People think about themselves way more than they think about you

Most people are figuring their own shit out. So don’t worry so much about what other people think of you.

Stop covering up when you change in the locker room. No one is looking. Wear that fancy dress just because. Sing in the car whenever you want. No one is paying attention. People are too busy taking selfies and worrying about bank account balances to care if you are wearing the right shade of lipstick or using the word “literally” incorrectly.

Get those tattoos. Show them off proudly. Express yourself in an authentic way. Don’t apologize for swearing. Hell,  don’t apologize… ever… for what you are.

Stop worrying about the opinions of others. You are fab.

5. Youthful is as youthful does

Never lose your curiosity for life and learning. It’s what keeps you young.

Try new things (especially that lame ghost hunting class). Laugh as much as you can. You can still wear Chucks when you’re 40. Chat with teenagers… they will open your mind to a new realm of possibilities. Wear short skirts if you want to. Toss every article of clothing that needs to be dry cleaned. Learn one signature move that rocks the dance floor. Eat ice cream liberally. Play with Legos.

There are no rules for how you should be.


Life isn’t going to be this straight and narrow freeway with each exit clearly marked. Most maps are someone else’s perspective. You can take a cursory glance at their markings but you will mostly be hacking down your own path. With a machete. And a shit ton of sunscreen.

Coasting isn’t going to be an option for you. And that’s okay.

Keep shouting out an emphatic “YES” to possibilities. You’re going to rock your corner.

Trust me.

12 comments leave a reply
  • September 4, 2014 at 11:04 am

    I love this, Maisie – and Happy Birthday! The sentiments are just as wisely shared with your 40 year-old-self, and most likely your 65-year-old self as well. Aging is such a strange process, with the body and brain frequently at total odds (in my experience). There’s a great HuffPo piece by Paul Raushenbush where he dolls out advice to his 50-year-old self (upon turning 50) from his 25-year-old self. The advice is so similar, no matter the direction — less fear, less stasis, more passion, more faith.


    • September 5, 2014 at 9:08 am

      Love it, Emily! I can imagine the advice my 25-year-old self would give to me now at 40 and it would be very weird. I acted like a 50-year-old during that decade… so serious all the time, a bit frumpy, locked into a boring life. The late 30’s was my “arrival” time, when I finally felt comfortable with my eccentricities and threw off the shackles of expectations. 🙂


  • September 4, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Five really good pieces of advice, five things I need to be reminded every now and then.


    • September 5, 2014 at 9:09 am

      Thanks, Deborah. It’s a great exercise to reflect back on lessons learned over a lifetime.


  • September 4, 2014 at 11:29 am
    Lyn Delmastro

    What great wisdom you’ve shared here! I definitely can relate to some of the points and lessons you’ve learned!


    • September 5, 2014 at 9:11 am

      Thanks for the comment, Lyn! The funny thing about wisdom is that it comes from experiences. I never would have gained those insights without slogging through the crap first. 🙂


  • September 4, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Great advice, the kind I need to hear lately. Thank you!


    • September 5, 2014 at 9:11 am

      Glad it resonated with you, Sara!


  • September 4, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Oh, Maisie, this is awesome and badass and wonderful! Thanks for sharing this piece of your heart with us all. Spreading the news now, esp. about #2… 🙂


    • September 5, 2014 at 9:12 am

      Thanks, Margaret! It was fun to reflect back on my life experiences and hone it down to important lessons learned. (And I agree… # 2 was an especially hard lesson to learn but one I am forever grateful for).


  • September 4, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I LOVE your writing style, Maisie. It took me a long time to learn these lessons, especially #1, but I got there! Although I still need to remind myself about #4 – that’s a toughie.


    • September 5, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Thanks, Beth! I’m blushing. 🙂

      # 4 for me is always a work in progress. It’s held me back from doing so many cool things in life. Baby steps, eh?


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