In presenting this interview to the youngins, we fabulous and not-at-all-old(!!!) advice-givers, myself and my dear friends Amy Anders Corcoran, Arlyn Valencia, Lindsey Teschke, Rachel Horowitz Kimelfeld, and Sasha Shultz Reid are in no way saying that we have all of the answers. LOL no way. (In fact, following our advice may end up sending your life crashing to the ground, but don’t worry, because honestly you’re not doing your twenties right if your life DOESN’T crash to the ground at LEAST twice.) I am saying, however, that our hindsight is coming close to 20/20 when it comes to the last decade and a half of our lives, including those tumultuous twenties, and if sharing the lessons we learned can help someone avoid the bullshit we dealt with, we think it’s worth tossing them out there. Also, our awkward photos are PURELY for entertainment, and SHOULD NOT BE USED for styling inspiration *shudder*
Now let’s get into it.
TARA: Are you guys ready to try to help the kids avoid the pitfalls we hit in our twenties?
RACHEL: Oy veh.
TARA: Exactly. Well let’s start off with a big one for me – not sure if you guys are guilty of doing this, but I had stretches of weeks, months or (sadly) years of avoiding get-togethers and/or hiding in the pictures taken at said events because I wasn’t my ‘ideal weight’ (a constantly changing, bullshit, meaningless number). Look. There will be perfect pics that show your glowy skin and your tiny waist and your sick OOTD, and there will be shots of you from angles that make you think that you look whale-like. I’m not saying you have to post them all to IG, I’m just begging you not to stop your life because you’re not ‘perfect’ today – no matter how shitty you think you look, in 10 years, you’ll look back and think you look fucking amazing, and I mean it. Just think about your high school photos! Aside from the outfits, the acne, the hair, and the angst, you look fresh and thin and beautiful, right? Exactly. Embrace where you are RIGHT NOW. You may not have as much definition in your triceps as you’d like, you may not be loving the hat you decided to wear, whatever it may be, but dammit, smile in that photo instead of sneaking off to the bathroom while it’s being taken. 25 years from now, you’ll be thankful the memory was captured, and you won’t notice the ‘BILLION CHINS’ you’re seeing on yourself right now.
SASHA: But you don’t have to have your boobs out in every outfit!
TARA: AGREED. Always with the boobs in my 20s! I think the thing I needed the most that I overlooked the most back then was to just take a minute for yourself to check in with what’s going on in your head. In my twenties I ran from job to party to sleep to gym to job to party and didn’t give myself much of a chance to just. process. it. all. There’s a ton changing in your life in this phase, and if you don’t talk to a therapist or someone you trust or write in a journal or somehow process it all, you may find yourself overwhelmed and underprepared for challenges thrown your way. And there WILL be challenges! You’re not going to get exactly what you want in your career right away, or have the perfect partner, or much of anything perfect at all in your twenties – this is your time to try things, fuck up and get back up and try again. It’s beautiful, but it’s MESSY. And it’s supposed to be!
AMY: Exactly. Stop worrying so much about what your life will be, that is always my best advice to women that are younger than me. I was such a shitshow in my 20s! I went to grad school for 2 quarters and hated it. I did fine, but hated it. Then I danced at a dinner theatre, then I taught voice lessons for 2 years, then more dinner theatre, then a near miss with 2 broadway shows after my AEA card. I was trying to find my way and was drowning for a large chunk of it. Worry will get you nowhere.
TARA: Of course, Amy ended up breaking ground as a director in the male-dominated theater world, and that, right there, is proof to me that it just takes time and some patience to get where you’re going. Do the work, keep that hustle, but don’t lose your mind over not being *exactly* where you thought you would be.
ARLYN: Also, try to keep your inner critic and social comparisons in check, spend less time and energy on self-blame and shame, and take a break from Facebook and social media if triggers can’t be avoided. It’s taken me 33 years to learn how to fully own and love my life’s journey, including the good, bad, ugly, sad, and really sad parts. Staying focused on the present (and letting the ‘should bes’ and ‘would’ve beens’ go) has helped me appreciate who I am, what I do and the people who love me at this stage in my life.
RACHEL: Right. And enjoy the freedom more – don’t be in a rush to “get it together” or “move on to the next step”, etc. Relish only having responsibility for yourself! (Can you tell I’m a little burned out on mommyhood 😜?)
TARA: Speaking of responsibility, and on a much shallower (childless, aww yeah) level, I feel like this is an obvious one – but start an anti aging regime YESTERDAY. It can only help, and the sooner you start, the younger you’ll look, longer. Cleanse, tone, and moisturize AM & PM, use sunscreen EVERY FUCKING DAY on your face, DO NOT TAN, and for goodness’ sake, do it all your NECK and CLEAV too, because I only really focused my skincare on my face and I am the proud owner of a face that’s 20 something and a neck and décolletage that’s… not. Not to mention tech neck. Not cute. GET ON IT.
TARA: When it comes to your career, don’t hesitate to speak up just because you’re twenty. You may be the youngest person in the room, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something to contribute to the conversation. Listen to and learn from the people you respect and look up to, of course, because there is always more to learn, but hear what’s being said and then speak. Claim your space in the boardroom or the classroom or the dining room or wherever you work, unapologetically and unflinchingly, because what you have to say deserves to be heard, and no one will make room for you (or pay you what you deserve) without you stepping up for yourself confidently.
LINDSEY: I was underprepared and/or under qualified for some of what I was doing at that age, yes, 100%. But you have to start somewhere, and not having enough self confidence will only hold you back drastically!
ARLYN: Also, in getting to where you want to be in your career, you may have accumulated up to 3 degrees by the end of this decade and will pay student loans forever. Accept this and don’t let it keep you up at night because your education allows you to do what you love and were meant to do.
TARA: Ah, yes – debt. Something twenty somethings know very well. As Arlyn said, pay what you can and don’t beat yourself up over it, kids, because life is long, and you haven’t even dealt with mortgages and 401ks yet! Don’t sweat the money stuff too hard. Address it, and then move on, and breathe.
SASHA: Along with all of this worry, don’t forget to have FUN! I hope my child is just as dumb as I was, because I had a lot of fun in my 20s, and that is the bottom line. It’s a time for so much fun, you don’t even know! But then one day you are 30 and you don’t want to go out as much and that’s when you start having less, or at least different, fun. Hmmm, what else? OH. Always keep your shoes on in large metropolitan cities, especially when drunk (even though I never did, for example, Tara’s bachelorette night and the pic below).
And if there is a fish bowl at any bar and you are 24, always order it. Even though it’s gross and you usually black out from the sugar and the crap alcohol in it.
TARA: Exactly! Drink. Dance. Act like an ass. Wear ridiculous outfits. I’m not saying that any of this will stop or anything as you get older, I’m still having a great time! But your hangover won’t be half as bad for you now as it will be in ten years, and what is fun in your twenties becomes a pain in the ass in your thirties and beyond. So dance on the bar in that probably-too-short skirt all night long, and if anybody has a problem with that, fuck ’em. Live your life to the fullest! Be ridiculous!
LINDS: Yep! Drink too much and then crawl out of your house the next day at 4pm to get Mr. Hero (Tara note: an Ohio fast food company with DOPE greasy hangover helper food), land back on your couch, and stuff your face while watching Jackass reruns, like Todd and I did. On the other hand, I think that it’s very important to make sure to have fun by yourself and with your girlfriends, not just with the one you love. Your partner will (hopefully) be around for a long time, and you don’t want to risk having regrets about coupling up too young or give up your twenties, for better or for worse, for a partner.
TARA: AGREED, Linds. And on the flip side of that point, DATE! Be safe and use protection of course, but GET OUT THERE. Who knows if you’ll be married in a year or happily single for the rest of your life? Meet people. Be swept off of your feet and get your heart broken. Get it on. Figure out what you like, what you hate, what’s important to you, make memories and enjoy the thrill of first dates. You’ll end up with a ton of great tales to tell and no regrets about what ‘could have been’ whenever, if ever, you decide to end up with a forever love.
TARA: Also. DON’T TOUCH YOUR EYEBROWS. Stop over plucking, stop plucking at all, and grow that shit out. NOW. In fact, when it comes to body hair, only remove any of it if YOU want to. Not because of what a partner wants, or because society expects us to be hairless cats, and if someone isn’t into getting busy with you because of a little leg or pit or puss hair, MOVE ON. Not the kind of person you want in your bed.
TARA: So, when I asked all of you what your best advice would be to your twenty something self, everyone’s #1 point, including mine, was to not hang on to people in your life simply because they are there. The people you surround yourself with, friends, family, and lovers, help shape who you are as a person, so engage and foster the relationships that matter and move on from those who shat on you in college, those that bailed on you twenty too many times in the past few years, those you really don’t have much in common with anymore, and/or those who make it about themselves and take more than they give. Obviously don’t be reckless or cruel about it, but let someone who no longer adds to your life go as kindly and cleanly as possible, for them and for you. It hurts like hell, but it’s worth it for all parties.
AMY: Do your best to maintain your true friendships and stop worrying so much about cultivating lots of fake, bad ones.
LINDSEY: A true friend is a friend that you can talk to every three months and you pick up with as if you talked to them yesterday. Life changes in your twenties, and sometimes friends that aren’t living the same life as you don’t understand what you are doing. If and when they push away, let them go, because they weren’t true friends to begin with.
RACHEL: Make sure to put in the effort with people you actually like and care about, though, because it is really easy to drift apart. There are a lot of friends from my 20s that I’m no longer in touch with and wish I was. We just kind of slowly drifted because we didn’t put in the effort.
ARLYN: Right – value quality rather than quantity. Choose to invest in relationships (both local and long-distance) with people who choose to reciprocally invest in you at a mutual level. It can be painful to acknowledge a friendship or relationship that isn’t working that way (i.e. rejection or recognition that you don’t value a friendship as much as you thought), but letting go will give you back the energy that you can now invest in the relationships where BOTH people find unconditional support, love and meaning in the other.
SASHA: Yep. I wish I would have been strong enough to let some friendships go and have a clean break, especially when it got petty and bitchy. I was too nice to old friends and processed ‘why isn’t our friendship working’ for wayyyyyyyy too long. Get over it and move on to focusing on your better relationships!
TARA: Well THANK YOU divas for taking the time to talk about being ridiculous a decade ago, and hopefully helping a few of the twenty somethings out there along the way. Next stop, the TONS of questions I have for my forty something and fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, and hundy something sisters… Any takers?! Call me, ladies!!!!!