10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 21 Year Old Self

August 27, 2015

Today I turn 26. 26 beautiful years on this planet. Some hard years, some amazing years, some lost years but a life lived without regret. Nevertheless, it’s still such a crazy feeling to look back in time and see how much you’ve grown.

Just when you think you have it all figured out you discover that you really don’t know anything at all.

10 Things I wish I could tell my 21 year old selfYes, this is me at 21 – so sassy.

I wouldn’t change a single event along my course. They’ve all taught me something about myself and brought me to where I am today, which despite the official number I am still pretty damn stoked about.

But as I look back on my 21 year old self (exactly 5 years ago), I do wish I could tell that lost, young woman a thing or two. Perhaps you are there right now. If you’re anything like me you probably won’t listen to a word of this post, but rest assured that time will reveal it all to you. And if you’re more open-minded than I was, I hope you learn a thing or two.

With that, here are 10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 21 Year Old Self:

1. It’s okay to love your parents and not listen to them.

Even when you defy them and challenge their notion of what they foresee in your future, if you’re adamant and hard-working, they will come around. And even if they don’t, a little self-reliance goes a long way. Sometimes that fire under your ass to perform is exactly what you need.

2. Wear sunscreen.

5 years from now you will genuinely start to fear skin cancer and wrinkles. Stop competing for the darkest shade of bronze; It’s a dumb decision. Also, hats are your friend and when all else fails, use bronzer.

3. Love is not the same as comfort.

Love isn’t because you’re scared of not being together or being alone. Don’t confuse the two. Love is knowing that you’d be just fine on your own but your life is infinitely better with that person. Also you’re about to meet the love of your life…hold on tight.

4. Losing those 10 pounds won’t make you happier.

This message will allude you but you’ll eventually come to understand it when you hit that goal and in the process make yourself more miserable. You’re allowed to want to improve yourself but how you feel takes precedence to how you look. Unfortunately you’re gonna injure the hell out of your back to discover this, but it’s a lesson worth living.

5. All of those Thought Catalogue articles you read about being in your 20s…they’re all true.

Yes, you’ll get lamer and movie nights become far more exciting than hitting the bars, but you’ll also love and appreciate how awesome it feels to wake and be productive. Also hangovers (on the rare occasion they do happen) are THAT much worse.

6. Friendships require work and it’s okay to give up on some to make room for the ones you want to invest in.

It’s not about quantity, but quality. Friendships are precious and necessary but don’t overload your life with half-ass friendships that don’t make you excited. Friends should add value to your life and you should add value to theirs. History doesn’t mean future, so let go of the friends you don’t connect with anymore without any shame or guilt. Hold on tightly and invest what you have in the friends you hold dear. They’re worth it.

7. Doubt doesn’t mean don’t.

It’s okay to be afraid of something and then do it anyway. It’s the situations you fear most that end up being the most rewarding. Use this with discretion but unless your life is in danger, feel your fears and do it anyway.

8. You’ll never regret rising above it.

Situations will occur where you are pushed to a point of anger and frustration. You will think that acting and sharing your mind is the solution, but trust that it never is. Give yourself time to absorb a situation before you act. 90% of the time you’ll choose to rise above it and when you look back you’ll be grateful that you did.

9. You don’t have to be who you think you are.

Don’t spend your life trying to fulfill a prophecy you have set for yourself. It’s okay to be inconsistent and outrageous. You think you know who you are, but you don’t. The only way to find out who that is is to step outside your comfort zone even if it’s well beyond the definition of who you believe you are.

10. Everything is going to be okay.

Things have a way of working themselves out. It doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be some struggle, but have faith that it will all be okay in the end. And breathe, my friend. Breathe deeply and powerfully.

Here’s a couple of things I hope I can tell myself 5 years from now (Holy 31!):

-Value comes from within, not any kind of external gratification. No amount of money, page views or gold stars will bring you happiness. You are the same person before and after these accomplishments. These are things that happen to you, but they are not YOU.

-Accept that there will always be more to do. Don’t let the stress of a never-ending to-do list rule your life. Enough said.

-Gossip, drama and everything that comes with it is never worth it. Eliminate your life of these toxins and the people who come with it.

-Communicate to others when you are unhappy or upset, don’t just pull away. Probably my #1 vice in life is running without sharing. It hurts others even if you think you’re protecting them.

I’m off to celebrate another year past! Have a slice (or two) of cookie cake for me! Thank you all for making this another memorable year <3

What do you wish you could tell your 21 year old self or however old you were 5 years ago!?


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  • Reply
    August 27, 2015 at 7:51 am

    So many things! 21 was rough for me, and arguably it was more 17-22 that didn’t go real well. But I agree, its important to acknowledge that you wouldn’t be where you are today, if you didn’t go through those things.
    Katie recently posted…New Job Check-In

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      August 27, 2015 at 10:51 am

      Same here. I wouldn’t change a thing but yeah, 17-22 was TOUGH. So happy to have grown up haha

  • Reply
    August 27, 2015 at 8:35 am

    I wish I could tell my 21 year-old self that by following your heart and your dreams, you are doing what is right for you; don’t put pressure on where you think you should be at this age. Pull your focus to your dreams and closest relationships that will continue to support you.
    Kelsey recently posted…Gratitude of the Past / January 2012

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      August 27, 2015 at 10:53 am

      AMEN SISTER!!! Seriously. I wish I’d done that sooner!

  • Reply
    August 27, 2015 at 8:44 am

    We are blog post twins today!
    This is great advice 🙂 Love that you said you wouldn’t change any event that happened — I totally feel the same way.
    Bri recently posted…{thinking out loud Thursday} What advice I would give to my younger self

  • Reply
    kaitlin @4loveofcarrots
    August 27, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Happy Birthday!!! I love doing posts like this, it really shows you how much you have grown over the years!
    kaitlin @4loveofcarrots recently posted…Natural Ways To Cure a Hangover

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      August 27, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Thanks hun! And I LOVE hearing from you! Hope all is well with you, beautiful!

  • Reply
    Ashley @ Fit Mitten Kitchen
    August 27, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Love this!! Especially number 9 right now. <3 Happy Birthday, Davida! You are one inspiring woman I hope to meet in "real life" one day! 😉 xoxo
    Ashley @ Fit Mitten Kitchen recently posted…5 {Easy} Ways to Reduce your Sugar Intake

  • Reply
    August 27, 2015 at 10:50 am

    I’ll try to remember all these things from now until I turn 21 (I’m 19 now). I’m just starting to grasp #4 and have finally accepted #7–sometimes the things we fear are the best things for us! And of course, everything will be okay. It all seems to work itself out. Thanks for the wise words!
    Emilie recently posted…Chunky Chickpea Quinoa Tabbouleh

  • Reply
    Miss Polkadot
    August 27, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Advice I’d give my then 19-year-old self? Well … that’s a tough one. Okay, how about this first: Happy birthday, Davida! A happy birthday to the lady who amazed and inspired me by deciding to turn her whole career/life around and succeeded at it.
    I’d tell my younger self that it’s okay to not know everything and ask others for advice BUT if your heart doesn’t agree with their advice follow it in anyway. And right now that probably means taking your #9 to heart …
    Miss Polkadot recently posted…The Power of Writing

  • Reply
    Hillary | Nutrition Nut on the Run
    August 27, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Happy Birthday darling Davida! I totally agree with #2 😉 #paleisthenewtan
    Hillary | Nutrition Nut on the Run recently posted…Sculpted Superset Workout

  • Reply
    Beverley Cheng
    August 27, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Happy Birthday Davida!! Hope you have an amazing day. Love that picture of you at 21… so much SASS!! and great list – the one that speaks to me the most is wearing sunscreen
    Beverley Cheng recently posted…What I Ate Wednesday: Happy Cat-erday!

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 1, 2015 at 7:31 am

      The sass certainly hasn’t changed in the last 5 years haha. Thanks so much!!

  • Reply
    August 27, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Laur recently posted…new job + 7 miles + running survey

  • Reply
    August 27, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Happy Birthday Lovely. Great advice.

    I’d tell my much younger self (think 16) not to get the tattoos and to stop smoking. Everything else I’d keep. 🙂

  • Reply
    Kelsey Preciado
    August 27, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Happy Birthday Davida!! Honestly when I saw you were 26 (as am i) and have a brief moment of panic! I have a food blog too and my dream is to have that be my full time gig like you. BUT then I remembered #10 is so incredible true. Everything will work out in time and I have so many other things going my way. Your confidence and attitude towards life is SUPER inspiring and I love how transparent you are about everything. HAVE A KILLER B-DAY SISTA!
    Kelsey Preciado recently posted…Raw & Grain-Free Toasted Coconut & Blueberry Tart

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 1, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Kelsey! So excited to have company in the 26 year old food blogger club 😉 Keep at it! #10 is SO true. Things don’t happen overnight but life certainly does have a funny way of working out! xoxo

  • Reply
    Brittany @ Barr & Table
    August 27, 2015 at 3:51 pm


    I 100% agree with #4 and would tell myself the same thing at 21 (and remind myself of the same thing today!) I’d also tell myself to take chances and not get too comfortable. Your 20s is the best time to figure out who you are and explore the world. Moving across the country was once one of the scariest thoughts but it’s crazy what you can do when you let yourself live and break routine every now and then.
    Brittany @ Barr & Table recently posted…PB&J Pie Parfait {Recipe ReDux}

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 1, 2015 at 7:08 am

      exactly! It’s crazy to look back on the events that scared us and realize how capable we really were. It’s very empowering and encouraging to continue to take chances. Thanks so much, lovely!

  • Reply
    Kelly @ Eat the Gains
    August 27, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    happy birthday! It’s my birthday as well! Love this post, a lot I can relate to.
    Kelly @ Eat the Gains recently posted…The Nardog – My Birthday WOD

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 1, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Happy belated, lovely! I hope your day was equally as wonderful! xox

  • Reply
    Jen @ Chase the Red Grape
    August 27, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    I turned 30 this year which definitely makes you reflect on your life past and the future ahead! I feel in a better place now than I ever have and with age, for me, has come courage, determination and self belief.
    You are pretty lucky, I wish I knew and believed at 26 what you do now. You certainly have an amazing head on those shoulders and a good heart inside of you – you will do well and go far 🙂 happy birthday! X
    Jen @ Chase the Red Grape recently posted…Blogging – Changing someone’s day!

  • Reply
    Dani @ Dani California Cooks
    August 28, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Happy birthday to you!! I turn 26 later this year as well, and I recently did some reflecting back on the year prior. It’s crazy how much I wish I could tell to relax a little, and plan a little less! So much changes in our 20s, and usually for the better 🙂
    Dani @ Dani California Cooks recently posted…Marinated Chickpea and Kale Salad (vegan + gluten free)

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 1, 2015 at 7:09 am

      I’m with ya on the planning less! #10 has been one of my greatest life lessons. Loosen the reigns and I think we’re all surprised where life will take us! I’m excited for you to join me in the 26 club 😉

  • Reply
    Stella @ Stellicious Life
    August 28, 2015 at 5:48 am

    Happy belated birthday Davida! 🙂 I hope you had a terrific day celebrating!

    And your wisdom bits are sooo true. And amazing how wise and grounded you are at 26. 5 years ago I was 26! 😀 And what I would tell my younger self: Don’t worry, love will come along, just stay put, and don’t ever doubt yourself.
    I could also tell my younger self not to work so much/late and stress about work, but I believe that led me to where I am today, so that was a step in today’s direction, so it’s all good. Now I can appreciate where I’m at, and know what I really want from life and from my career/work.

    I’m still coming to grasp with #1, but I guess it’s called growing up. 😉
    Stella @ Stellicious Life recently posted…Strawberry Mango Asparagus Salad

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 1, 2015 at 7:25 am

      #1 is a toughie! Love my parents dearly but only I am an expert on myself and while they certainly have quite a bit of wisdom on me and on life, I ultimately have to make my own decisions/mistakes.

      Love hearing your perspective 5 years from now. I certainly hope I have your wisdom! Thanks for the bday wishes, lovely xoxo

  • Reply
    Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen
    August 28, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Happy belated birthday! Hope you had a great day of celebrating. 🙂

    I completely agree with almost all of these! And I really like your point about doubt not meaning “don’t”. I think that’s something I’ve struggled with for years – I still have some massive regrets stemming from that. But having those regrets makes me a lot more aware, so I always keep it in mind when I’m having doubts now.
    Chelsea @ Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen recently posted…Cookbook Review: The Canning Kitchen

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 1, 2015 at 7:18 am

      Exactly! Self-doubt is still something I struggle with but those moments where I ignored it and just tackled something anyway have by far been the most rewarding. I miss you lady! I hope all is well with you. I think we’re due for a life update!!! xo

  • Reply
    August 30, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Yes. Love all of these. As a 21 year old, I cringe at all of the Thought Catalog articles, and often wonder what the heck I am doing with my life. Hopefully it all falls into place in the next five years.. Happy Birthday!!!
    Shannon recently posted…Vegan Iced Coffee

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 1, 2015 at 7:11 am

      I assure you it will! Deep breaths and relax a little. You’re on one hell of an adventure! Enjoy the ride 🙂

  • Reply
    Lisa @ Healthy Nibbles & Bits
    August 31, 2015 at 10:50 am

    AMEN to all of these, girl! Happy belated birthday, and I hope you had a great time celebrating it!
    Lisa @ Healthy Nibbles & Bits recently posted…Gluten-Free Pluot Torte

  • Reply
    September 1, 2015 at 4:40 am

    Hi Davida, happy belated birthday! I congratulated on instagram and celebrated with you via snapchat 😉
    I love especially numbers 3 and 8. 3: I think I’ve found that true love <3 hashtag cheesy! 8: I'm working hard on this one. Dealing with difficult, unforeseen situations in an appropriate way is hard and I tend to over exaggerate quickly. But in the end I've always managed everything…I should learn from those lessons right? 😉

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 1, 2015 at 7:14 am

      I’m so happy you were following along during the celebrations! It’s like you were there 🙂 #8 is by far the hardest for me too. I’m a sensitive/emotional person so I feel my emotions strongly and fiercely. It can be hard to de-escalate sometimes. I try to look back on previous events where I’ve handled myself calmly and remember that it all played out for the best. Usually that helps to calm me down. But yeah…work in progress 😉

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Foodie Loves Fitness
    September 1, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I love all of these, Davida! The love one is so true, and so is the SPF caution. I used to be lax about wearing SPF on my chest, where I really easily burn, and now I’m starting to get wrinkles there GAH! I’ve been religiously putting 30 on every day for the past year or two 😉
    Nicole @ Foodie Loves Fitness recently posted…Mediterranean Freekeh Salad + Giveaway

    • Reply
      Davida Kugelmass
      September 3, 2015 at 9:18 am

      Me too! I feel like I’ve mastered the art of SPF and I have no shame that I’m sporting the pale look! #paleisthenewtan

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