Hello there! It is I, your future self. Right now, you are 25-years-old, single, living alone in an apartment below your grandparents, and working at the same job you’ve held since college. You're a project coordinator who bar-hops every weekend, gorges herself on pasta, and sleeps until noon on Saturdays. You are completely unaware that in 10 short years, you’ll be married with a 3-year-old, a mortgage, and the more prestigious title of director. But despite your accomplishments, you’ll wistfully recall those glorious and under-appreciated days of your youth, and since time travel is still not possible, you will instead settle for spewing advice to your naïve, younger self. So here goes:
You are NOT tired. I understand your weekend festivities begin at 11 p.m. and don’t end until the birds begin chirping. I recognize the fact that you have to set an alarm to wake up for 10 a.m. on Saturdays. But hear me, loud and clear: YOU ARE NOT TIRED. Tired is after you’ve woken up not once, not twice, but FOUR times between midnight and 6 a.m. by a screaming baby. Tired is devoting your entire work day to meeting project deadlines and then coming home to devote your entire evening to satisfying a demanding toddler. Tired is taking naps in your car during your lunch break because there’s no such thing as sleeping in your bed anymore. You have no friggin' clue what it means to be really tired, so quit complaining and enjoy your lazy Sunday afternoons.
You have more money than you think. Yes, my paycheck is more than yours, but so are my expenses. Your monthly rent is my monthly grocery budget and you’re wearing designer jeans while I sheepishly carry around a knock-off purse from Marshalls. I spend more on a mortgage and daycare tuition in a month than what you spend in a year on clothes. Your money is YOUR money, and despite your loans, you still have way more financial freedom than I do. So, I encourage you to do two things that seem contradictory. The first is to TREAT YO’SELF (definitely watch Parks and Recreation when it arrives in 2009)! Go on those vacations and splurge on those kick-ass shoes. Enjoy this private, alone time with your money because within just a few short years, you’ll have to share it with a family, mortgage lenders, plumbers, and landscapers. The second piece of wisdom is to invest and save while you can. I know it sucks siphoning off those extra bucks into your 401K now, but trust me, you will be extremely proud 10 years from now when you see how that investment has bloomed.
Work hard. Even though you’ve been at your company for three years, you’re still new at this. But don’t interpret your inexperience as an excuse to shy away from challenges. Speak up, take initiative, hold yourself accountable for your projects. Take advantage of the fact that you’re still lower level and can ask dumb questions, make mistakes, and accept criticism with fewer risks. Learn everything you can now, while you’re young, and able to stay late and travel more. As you age, security will become more important to you and you’ll be less willing to take chances.
Don’t roll your eyes at the moms in the office. Yes, I know they talk incessantly about their children, and their weekend activities do not even vaguely resemble yours. And I especially know the frustration you experience every time you’re asked to stay late or travel more because they can’t. In your mind, these women have unfair advantages because they have children at home, and I’m here to tell you that you couldn’t be more wrong. What you don’t realize is that these moms aren’t finished working when they leave at 5 p.m.; they’re simply going from one job to another. When they leave the office, they’re racing against the clock to pick up their kids, start dinner, check on homework, feed the family, and get their children to bed at a reasonable time. And when they finally have some time for themselves, they’re responding to work emails and calls. Even in 2017, these women actually have unfair disadvantages because they have children at home. Working mothers struggle every day to balance work life and family life, and will continue to do so until society makes it easier and more affordable for them. So, next time you see a working mom in the office frantically glance up at the clock on the wall, offer her assistance and help her get out of the office. She is, after all, your future.
So, enjoy these years, my younger self, for they are fleeting. And yet, as hard as life becomes in the next 10 years, it also becomes that much more rewarding.
Good luck, Your older, wiser self
Nicole Beniamini lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter. She is a Director of Research at Edison Research, where she is also part of The Research Moms, a team of experienced market researchers, who also happen to be moms.