Why You Shouldn’t Waste Your 20s Worrying About The Future

Amanda Pena
Amanda Pena is one of those bridge and tunnel people that frequents the city for her job and the Chipotle on every other block. She hopes to be the next Cheryl Strayed and touch people's lives through her writing and/or find the best prosciutto deli in Manhattan.

Mary Schmich, a columnist at the Chicago Tribube, delivered a graduation speech to the class of ’97 that has since made waves in the conversation of harnessing the power of youth. Young people cannot (literally cannot) understand the immense amount of power and opportunity they have solely due to their youth, so essentially, it is wasted on the young.

It reminds me of the scene in It’s A Wonderful Life when George Bailey is taking his time to kiss the beautiful Mary and an onlooker screams, “Why don’t you kiss her instead of talking her to death? Ah, youth is wasted on the wrong people!” But, I digress.

Schmich began her graduation speech with her belief that inside every adult is a graduation speaker eager to impart their knowledge and wisdom on a group of young folks. Her words and advice have impacted my life ever since I heard this speech on the day of my high school graduation. One of the best takeaways from the speech is, “Wear sunscreen.”

Here are the top 5 things to apply to life from Mary Schmich’s timeless essay, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.”

1. “Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.”

2. “Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”

3. “Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.”

4. “Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”

5. “Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.”

… “But trust me on the sunscreen.”