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20 lessons for 20 years: Here's what I would've told myself

1. Cry and scream as much as you want. 2. Your mom tries hard to raise you without gender roles. Nevertheless, you wrap a tennis ball in a towel at the town pool and say it's your baby. Hold on to that instinct. 3. You lose your front tooth in a bouncy house at your neighbor's birthday party. You cry really hard but it becomes a piece of your identity — and a good dinner table story. 4. Everyone was impressed with your "evil laugh" at preschool, even if you were embarrassed to do it. 5. You ask your mom if there's a country where you can marry your friend Rachel. You distinctly remember this for years. Wait a little and you'll realize why. 6. Your first grade teacher makes you fall in love with school. You become "that kid" who asks for extra homework, and you learn that's OK. 7. You get sassy and your sparkly shirt that says "BRING IT" turns into your your anthem. 8. You spend a summer at Camp Ramah for the first time. It becomes your safe haven and you find your Jewish identity. You meet your best friend, Liz. You will giggle with her as much at 19 as you do at 8. 9. You do not need to feel bad for saying no when the kid in your class asks you to do see "Ice Age" with him on a date. Say no as much as you want. 10. You fall face first on the sidewalk when you get distracted by a dog (classic) while scootering through Nyack. Unfortunately, this will not be the worst pain you experience. I dare you to still do the things that scare you. 11. You're the new kid in middle school. Tone it down with the neon pants, but keep wholeheartedly being you. 12. Your Hebrew school teacher tells your mom she doesn't think you and Simon will be able to read the hebrew at your b'nai mitzvah. You fight her on it and slay your haftorah. Keep pushing yourself. 13. You get a solo in the chorus concert and get so nervous you miss your line. You still can't listen to "Man In the Mirror" by Michael Jackson without cringing, but who really can? 14. Divorce is damn hard and girls are really mean. You don't think you're gonna make it for awhile. Do not give up on this life. 15. This year, you find out what it's like to know exactly what you're made to do. Keep doing the damn thing. 16. You come out and learn what living without a mask on is like. You also cut off half your hair in a bathroom ... but all decisions can't be good ones, babe. 17. You don't think you're gonna be able to afford college, but you still tour every school and write letters to every admissions counselor. Keep being annoyingly persistent. 18. You find home in Allentown and feel academically smart for the first time in awhile. That girl in your anthropology class is gonna be one of your best friends soon. Say hi to Brooke for me, and for heaven's sake ask her to have lunch already. 19. This was a big one. Love, loss and learning. You design a major in education advocacy — isn't it so cool to know what you're studying is THE thing you're supposed to be studying? You travel to Canada a lot, and you find a core friend group for the first time (and tons of new pals). Only took you 19 years, but you let yourself lean on others. 20. Hey there. I'm excited for you and pretty scared, too. Let's do it.

What would you tell your past self if you could?

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