I say this half laughingly, half perfectly seriously: it feels as if I’ve spent the first half of my twenties on a waiting list for a book that doesn’t exist.

It’s possible snippets of it are already out there, but they’re not all in one place. Place is important. As are pretty covers and publishers — all of a sudden — but let’s stay on track.

I’ve become an expert at holding my head awkwardly askew in order to sideways-read paperback book titles. Title after title, on shelf after shelf, in library after library.

Surely someone has written this down. Surely someone somewhere has said: good grief, there’s got to be a book.


I just turned 24, and I’m afraid I don’t have a book to show for all of my searching. But I do have bookmarks. Lots and lots of bookmarks, in no particular order:

1. You will do a lot of wandering through wet city streets, wishing there were a way to make parts of this feel less lonely, less huge, less stressful, and/or less expensive. Wander in the morning, through all the layers of the morning. The morning makes everything both look brighter and sound softer.

2. Rest assured that the quality of your worries will change. One day you will have happier worries.

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3. It is likely that what you want will change dramatically; try not to cling to any one wish too hard. Exception: “I wish for the same thing I’ve hoped for since the beginning. I wish for a life so brave, so unpredictable, so full of unexpected joys and unforgettable love that no box could possibly contain all my memories.” -Chelsey Philpot

4. Don’t back away from anyone who asks for nothing beyond your well-being. Those people are few and far between. Can you go bear hug those people?

5. If at any point your life starts to feel like an especially sad series of unfortunate events, remember you have control over these three things: you can make your heart kind, your mind fierce, and your spirit brave.


6. There will be a few people you will find you have an infinite tenderness for. Now and likely for the rest of your life. Accept that for the beautiful thing it is, and then aim to be one of those people for more people.

7. Take notes. Leave notes. Save notes.

8. Jot down analogies you like. Is it the little duck for you — the one who is calm/cool/collected up top, but busy paddle/paddle/paddling away down below? For me it’s the hard green knot of a blueberry, not quite ripe enough to leave the vine. It’s the much-needed reminder that there is a timing to everything — and an eventual readiness that will come, almost absolutely.

9. When you’re busy mourning the end of fall, pay attention. The trees are about to show you how lovely it is to let the dead things go.


10. Fill your life with experiences, not things. People with stories to tell are generally more fun than people with stuff to show.

11. If you’re a writer, take heart, and never stop trying. “Starting a novel is opening a door on a misty landscape; you can still see very little but you can smell the earth and feel the wind blowing.” -Iris Murdoch

12. Contrary to what your too-quiet telephone may be trying to tell you, you are not alone in the world. Not ever. Not even when you move 3,000 miles from almost everyone you know.

13. If you can step away from anything, sidestep the idea that you should be looking for The Right Person. There might be multiple right people, time of your life depending. Or there might be a “right” person, but one of you just isn’t ready to meet the other yet.


14. Your legs will start to hurt from all the running, one day. (On this note: go to yoga! Go, go, go. Maybe invest in a shirt that won’t ride up, before you go.)

15. Keep in touch with your parents. Let them know you.


16. Figure out what it is that you want. It’s okay to do this primarily by figuring out what you don’t want. Example: I don’t want small talk. I want the opposite of small talk. I want talk so concentrated and so curious I need to retreat to my room afterwards and rest. I want talk that picks up right where it left off, with no awkward silence ever. I want talk punctuated by thoughtful pause — talk with new friends already feeling old, old, old.

17. If being someone someone else can lean on, laugh with, cry on, yell at, and reach for is high on your list of wants…you must say hello to strangers. Same goes if you don’t want to keep dumping one cold cup of espresso down the drain, every morning.

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18. Change the way you think, and one day “life” will no longer appear to be this big, ominous thing. Instead: a series of wonderfully small moments specifically there for you to discover and take part in, every day.

19. Really think about what you’re afraid of. And right after that: consider everything you used to be afraid of, and no longer find frightening now. Remember that fear often = false evidence appearing real. Find comfort in little things. An acronym, or a bath at night. Also: be present, and try not to brace for what’s to come. Let your limbs be liquid.

20. Charge your phone in the living room — you’ll sleep better. And take a hiatus from Facebook, from Twitter, from all of it, every once in a while. Know the people who want to be in touch will find a way to be in touch.

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21. The way you feel about home may become a little murky. Where is home, anyway? Is it yet another apartment (with a lease you’re bound to break) in yet another city (you’re not sure you should be)?

22. You can feel grounded, or at least somewhat solidly rooted, in the person you are becoming. In the values you’re developing. In the thought patterns you’re creating. In the kind of future you’re envisioning.


23. You can change your mind about what’s likeable, what’s pretty. What’s pretty: unbridled enthusiasm and uncompromised authenticity. What else: confidence and compassion // kindness and grace // flexibility and patience // sincerity and smarts. Also: a sense of self and a contagious laugh.


24. Read. Read, read, read. Read the things that can’t be translated into obnoxious illustrations on BuzzFeed. Read real books // live real stories.

{Old/broken/beautiful cabin by @withhearts on Instagram. Tiny treehouse by @blueridge.edition.}


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