What would I tell the 21 years old me. Advice from the vault.

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A couple of weeks ago, I started working in a Brazilian steakhouse, close to my house. I went there for lunch and they offered me a job. The manager told me they needed another manager and with my experience in restaurants, I could do the job. He called me the next day and offered me the hostess position. According to him “You will need to know the other employees first, so they don’t get frustrated with the new manager.” I accepted the hostess position. They just hired a new manager. 

Was I tripping? No, because we had the interview in Portuguese, so I can’t even use the excuse of being lost in translation. They just allured me into getting a job, to get a better position later, that won’t probably happen. So here I’m, 36 years old, working again as a hostess. 

For little to no money. It’s all good. I’m working with some 20 something years old, and I feel like I have a lot to teach and share my wisdom *insert sarcasm*. I think I do have some life experience that’s worth sharing, and the best part is, they listen to me. At least I think they do. 

So here is some of what I’ve been telling them. Some things which I would love that someone would have told me when I was 21. 

Arraial do Cabo – Rio de Janeiro – Sorry about the 2008 Camera Resolution.

Don’t jump into College so fast.

I started college when I was 19, almost 20, and I still drag thinking about what could I have done differently, if I had waited just a little longer. Tourism and Hospitality Management is a vague degree, that you normally don’t need to work in hotels and restaurants. I had friends who took journalism, New Media classes and went to Culinary schools, who don’t work with that anymore, in their 30’s. They all followed their heart at some point and decided to do what made them happy, instead of what society expected from them. 

It’s ok if you don’t have money.

Don’t get 70 hour work weeks and be exhausted to enjoy the time of your life, because you need to catch up with all the bills. Be broke, accept some help if someone offers. Help comes in different forms.

Maybe the help is staying in an apartment for free, when they don’t live there, like a housekeeper. Or some food donations from friends, when you have zero money. Make sure to befriend a chef, they are the ones who can feed you, because they always cook too much. It’s ok to struggle in your 20’s. I’m not talking about the kids whose parents are rich and yet they pretend to suffer when the only suffering is to check their bank account for allowance. 

I’m talking about the chicken noodle ramen folks. You know who you are.  

He/She might not be the love of your life, and it’s ok to admit it. 

Life will move on and so does you. They need to feel loved and validated is real and at some point, we all feel like we are going to die if the person doesn’t reciprocate the love. It’s a dead-end zone. Don’t give someone exclusive attention, if the feeling is not mutual.

It’s almost guaranteed you are going to crash at some point. Some people just do that to feed their ego and you are their unlimited amount of coins. You just have to hit your head on the brick a few times, and they get the coins.

Some people just like to allure you into their world, like nothing else matters, only to make themselves feel validated. Make plenty of mistakes, learn from them and move on. Or be like Taylor Swift who wrote a 10-minute song and profit from heartbreak. Something gotta give. 

Don’t let people dictate how you should behave. 

“Oh, look how crazy she is.” I’ve heard that plenty of times when I was just being as happy as I could be. I didn’t need anyone’s validation and tagging me like the crazy one was their easiest way to bring me down. As you start taming yourself because your loud mouth is not accepted by some members of society. People are usually led by church believes. Bless your heart, honey. Be loud, be crazy, laugh, and make memories. Those shameful folks are always going to judge you, no matter how you behave, so might as well have fun. 

First time seeing snow in 2007- North Carolina

Travel. As much as you can and as far as you can. 

I remember being in my early 20’s, visiting different places and staying at hostels. Hostels are shared accommodation, very popular in Europe, where the type of hotel was originated. You have CoEd rooms or Male and Female dorms, usually with bunkbeds. It gives you a sense of respect and freedom, and if you are traveling alone like was my case most of the time, you can make friends and meet people from all over the world.

In most of the hostels, you have a communal kitchen, a shared living room, and sometimes a bar, as they had at the one I stayed in Perth, Australia. They offered breakfast in the morning and became a bar at night. 

While young and broke, visiting coastal cities in Rio, I had the chance to figure out what I love doing. Photography and travel to new and not-so-popular places. One of my biggest dreams at that time was to backpack around Europe. 

I even bought the guide and the backpack itself, but I couldn’t afford to go. I wish someone would have told me to take a risk and go anyway. That’s why I say, if you are broke, go broke. Sleep in a hostel, have one meal a deal, make friends, check out less touristic places, eat like a local. Make memories. Work abroad. 

The only time I visited NYC, in 2007. Stayed in a hostel, had 1 meal a deal, +coffee. I was utterly alone in the city. Asking for strangers to take pictures. Other tourists, cause new yorkers don’t stop for you.

If money is a real problem, work abroad. 

If I remember correctly, Europe has a type of visa called a Holiday Visa, which allows European citizens to work and travel around Australia for up to two years. And that’s how most of the people I met from Europe were doing in Australia. For some other people, you have to get a working visa and pay some agency fees, but you can get it back with your work in that country. You need that first investment though, but after that, you can make it. It’s all about taking chances. I did. 

Before becoming a permanent resident in the States, I came over two times on a J1 type of visa, that allowed me to work for a few months at a time, like in Ski Resorts and restaurants, during the winter season. I also went to Australia, on the same type of visa, to work for a year. Remember you can always volunteer, research what type of temporary visa the country you are interested in has and explore all the options. Not saying this is only a 20’s something thing to do, it’s because it’s much easier when you are younger. 

When you have some baggage, you are not as free as you were at some point. You are more cautious. 

I have this conversation with my coworkers and I feel like I’m their Mr. Myagi. Go ahead Hostess-San, be wise and live your life. Take chances. Giving some advice to the novice makes me want to stay in that place just for that purpose. My ego. 

See you next week, weather permitting.

XXX

JS