You know what it is.

The ultimate piece of advice I’d give my younger self.

Dear 24.5 year old me,

I remember you. Terrified of hitting your mid-20s with no direction, life seemingly falling apart around you… You were a hot mess.

One of these things is not like the otherrrrrrr…

You will soon start a project (and then a blog) where you ask interesting people what they wish they had known when they were 25 years old. You’ll receive some advice online, some through formal interviews, and some from spontaneous conversations. Many will ask to remain anonymous and a few won’t let you publish their answer at all. The responses, around 100 in total, will come from people in all walks of life — Uber Drivers to college professors to vagabonds to millionaires.

Today, on your 26th birthday, you will end that project and attempt to encapsulate the best of what you learned.

You’ll lose sleep for days as you strain for a thread of harmony amongst the cacophony of voices chiming in your head. The voices of loved ones, professional role-models, and broken strangers on the bus. You’ll reread each and every documented piece, seeking to see both the forest for the trees and trees for the forest. You’ll cry — No longer because life seems overwhelmingly difficult but because you feel overwhelmingly loved. Because it feels like once you began to ask for it, the world was happy to hold you gently in the palm of its hand and guide you forward.

You’ll start by sorting the advice, carving out the slices that seem most true and publishing them categorically under relationships, careers and the pursuit of happiness.

And then you’ll finally spot it: The Most Important Truth to Share. Once you realize what you’re seeing, you’ll know it so deeply that it’ll feel like you’ve known it your entire life. A few of the wiser people you interrogated hinted at it and one said it outright.

And, this, my dearest beloved and muddled younger self, is what I would say to you if I just had one moment to speak my truth:

(Pause for effect)
“Oatmeal tastes even better with almond butter. Totally worth the extra 50¢.”

… Why? Well, it’s true. Wouldn’t want you to miss out on that simple pleasure any longer. Also mildly funny.

Most importantly because the real answer is nothing. Absolutely nothing. I wouldn’t tell you shit.

Really? Still think you looked great in that dress.

I could tell you to have grit when things are hard, but you’ll learn that sobbing over your laptop after you blew a promising lead during your first month in sales. You’ll do by it chanting “don’t quit your job today” in your head for weeks until you get better. You’ll internalize it much later when the operations manager emails you to ask if he’s covered all the deals for which you’re owed commission, and you politely reply back with, “you forgot a couple.”

I could tell you that love should feel differently than you’re experiencing it, but you’ll reach that conclusion in the hospital when you tell your current boyfriend it’s over — effectively dumping yourself at the worst possible moment because he so clearly doesn’t love you anymore and is too nice to say it and you can’t stand it another minute. You’ll explore it by observing couples that have been together, happily, for a long time. You’ll know it’s true by dating others who actually laugh at your corny sense of humor and make you feel a-maize-ing for what you are.

Just wait until you meet these cats. They’re perfect. Or… well… they’re something.

I could tell you to build community. That nothing feels better than a sense of belonging and love. Unfortunately this, like all the other platitudes above and the infinity of others I could list, will be meaningless to you until you figure them out for yourself.

You’re smart. You ask questions. You work hard. You allow vulnerability. You take risks. Your heart’s in the right place. You have all the tools you need already, and you’ll figure the rest out as you need to.

I believe in you, younger Kate, more than you believe in yourself. I love you more than you love yourself. I’m proud of you. And I can’t wait to see what you accomplish. Spoiler alert — you’re off to a good start.

All my love,

The 26-year-old Me