It’s Harder To Be Magnanimous When You’re In Your Twenties
Good advice is like gold dust these days.
Everyone has the odd piece of average advice, but to find a nugget of wisdom that is balanced, fair and actually good is pretty hard to come by. Especially on the vast and varied Internet. We have to listen to Kanye West’s Twitter rants. Career advice from Katie Hopkins. Justin Bieber life lessons on Instagram. Cara D’s quotation tattoos. We have friends who sometimes have the worst suggestions: “it’s not that hot, sure you should wear that pleather skirt”. Bad advice is everywhere.
Especially for 20-somethings who crave advice the most and confide in Google in the darkest of hours. And yet how many pieces of advice do we get chucked at us, per week, in the form of listicles? “50 Things You Should Never Do At 25”, “10 Things All 20-somethings Should Do Before They’re 30”, etc etc. Pieces of “advice” have been splattered all over the Internet like a half-arsed machine gun. Bits of it make a bit of sense, other bits you should definitely just ignore, and slowly, carefully back away from.
So I’m reading a book at the moment that is full of that gold dust: really, really good solid raw advice. Shockingly I hadn’t heard of Cheryl Strayed before I read a blog post on ThoughtCatalog summing up her book Tiny Beautiful Things. It’s a book compiling some of her favourite Dear Sugar columns, an extremely well-known agony aunt column with the website The Rumpus. Extremely well-known and yet I’d only managed to discover her the other week. Later I also discovered her memoir Wild is currently being made into a motion picture with Reese Witherspoon playing a young divorced Cheryl.
I’ve been carrying her book in my bag all week with the same seriousness as though as was carrying a case of diamonds. Even the other day I’d noticed I’d left her book at home before realising I’d also left my wallet. I grew addicted to reading her pages like a strange comfort blanket every time I faced the grim heat of the morning tube. Cheryl’s voice literally leaps on the page with the same warmth as having a glass of Cointreau before bed.
Word of mouth is still the most trustworthy spreader of recommendations. Especially for books. Because you immediately want people around you to understand all those things that had just resonated so hard with you. You want to talk about it but you can’t until the other person has read it. Every night that I’ve been out for dinner or bumped into my friend, I’d told them what I’d been upto, sure, but I also whipped out the book from my bag on a basic reflex to say “this! this is what I’ve been doing! It’s so fricking good.”
There was one page in particular that stayed with me, enough to have to write it down on this blog as I way of me finding it again and again, easily. If I was to highlight my favourite bits the whole book would be a luminous yellow, but this bit, was the most poignant, for me. Mainly, I think, because it is the best “20-something” advice I’ve ever heard:
(The question to Cheryl was: If you had to give one piece of advice to people in their twenties, would would it be?)
“To be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it. This is good advice for anyone at any age, but particularly for those in their twenties.
Because in your twenties you’re becoming who you’re going to be and so you might as well not be an asshole. Also, because it’s harder to be magnanimous when you’re in your twenties, I think, and so that’s why I’d like to remind you of it. You’re generally less humble in that decade than you’ll ever be and this lack of humility is oddly mixed with insecurity and uncertainty and fear. You will learn a lot from yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”
I thought this was so interesting and refreshing. It is obvious and not very obvious all at the same time. Because she’s right, it’s SO EASY to be a dick in your twenties. It is by far the most selfish time of our lives. We are often actively encouraged to be selfish. “You’re YOUNG! BE SELFISH! You just wait until you have KIDS, ho ho ho”.
Me, me, me, my career, my Instagram feed, ME.
But to actually step away from that and ‘fess up that you are actually turning into the “person you will be forever” means you should try your hardest not to be someone who will look back and hate. It shouldn’t be difficult to be a good person after all, it should be easy. But sometimes, it isn’t.
Forgiveness and emotional bravery, as Cheryl puts it, is something that I know I probably struggle with. If someone lets me down just once, just a little, I put them in a jam jar labelled “Shit Friend” and struggle to be the same with them again. My standards are high and I get hurt easily, which can be a recipe for disaster.
I urge you all to read it. And when you read it, please let’s go for a coffee and talk about it for five hours. I can’t get enough of it.
“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE
"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"– The Debrief
“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic