Hindsight can be a wonderful thing. Looking back, it's amazing how the mist clears and everything suddenly makes sense. You realise that all the roads you passed through were actually lined with massive billboards emblazoned with 'No, not that way!' and 'Stop talking, you're about to say something really stupid'. At the time though, we're often so busy staring at our feet that we don't see the billboards until it's too late.
Sometimes, I look back at my younger self and I'm amazed I made it through. Younger me made a lot of mistakes; thankfully most of them pre-Facebook, so the evidence can stay in the past where it belongs, rather than popping up as a tag in a 'hilarious' status update.
I occasionally wonder what I would say to my younger self, if by some weird warping of the space/time continuum we ever came face to face. I would tell her to stop drinking Archers, for a start. Then I would have to let her know that the nineties are actually back in fashion, and that her customised boots and dress-over-jeans combo is pretty much bang on trend.
Once we got that out of the way, there are a few other words of wisdom I would pass on, to help make her onward journey that little bit easier.
You can't always be the best - and that's fine
One of the hardest, but most important life lessons out there is the tough realisation that however brilliant you are at anything, there is usually someone out there who is better than you. It's tempting to see this as a negative, but really it's quite the opposite. When you let go of striving for a generic standard of perfection, you can put that energy into being different from everyone else. Set your own standards. This is what will make you memorable, happy and ultimately successful.
Sleep, sleep and sleep some more
You know those people who can survive on half an hour's sleep and be perfectly glowing, efficient and cheerful? You're not one of them. Take away the sleep and you are a hideous, angry ogre who snaps at strangers on the train and has been known to spend an entire day wearing odd shoes without realising. Admit this, accept it and get an early night. For everyone's sake.
Take a risk
The older you get, the harder this becomes. As you move further through your career, build relationships and have more responsibilities, you have more and more to lose. Youth and freedom offer you the time and the energy to make your mistakes, learn from them and come out stronger.
You will always be your own worst critic
That voice in your head can be vicious. The things it says are far worse than anything anyone else will ever say to you and it needs to stop - before you start believing everything it says. You won't understand how much it's holding you back until you can learn how to silence it for good.
Don't forget to stop now and again
Everyone loves to talk about how busy they are. How many times this week have you replied to a 'How are you?' with 'I'm ok, just really busy.
A busier life isn't always a better, more successful one. Often it means you're hanging on by a thread and a small jolt could send everything crashing down. You don't always have to be busy: stop every now and then and remember how it feels to take your time.
Learn when to let go
Yes, I know. You're never taking that friendship bracelet off. She's the only person who really understands you. You'll be best friends forever...
If you end up being best friends forever then that's great, but you need to understand that people grow and change. It's not disloyal to reassess your friendships every now and then and make sure they're still right for you. A good friendship is an equal balance of give and take. Don't accept anything less.
Spend your money wisely
I'm pretty sure no one lies on their deathbed bemoaning the fact that they never bought those boots they saw in the sale last week. They might regret the fact that they never saw the world, learned how to speak another language or spent time with their family.
When you focus too much on the short term, instant gratification can seem hugely important. That car, that laptop or that dress might seem life-changing at the time, but chances are in a few years you'll be distracted by a newer, shinier thing. Spend your money on the things that matter: investing in your future, creating memories or learning lessons that last a lifetime.