Letter to My Younger Self: Adrienne Wallace

Hey younger self,
I’ve been working in PR for well over a decade, even longer if I use my *real* age (which I won’t). I wanted to catch you up on a few things that you should be thinking about, especially when you are just starting out. I’ve been giving out this information to individuals for a few years, but now it’s going on the 834 blog so basically the entire universe will benefit. It’s a lot to take in, so bookmark this for safe keeping.

bw pic
Image: West Side is the Best Side Project. Photog: April G.

Give freely of yourself. Find at least one cause you can get lost in and give yourself to it fully. The more of yourself that you give away, the more that will come back to you.
Be kind. To the doorman in your building, the secretary in your firm, the lady waiting your table, the subway change-giver… these are the people with real power. Trust me.
Conquer people who suck and obstacles that don’t want to move. Learn how to cram that sarcastic comment down and just smile. Walk around the obstacle, don’t try to move it. Use the system to your advantage and your smarts to manipulate it.
Dress well. Even if you are broke–and you will live in varying states of income your whole life from broke to wealthy and everywhere in-between–save up, find a few nice pieces and wear the shit out of them. Consignment stores are your BFF for everything else.
While we’re talking about clothes, and being broke, stay the fuck away from credit cards. Your Target Isaac Mizrahi shoes look just like that other bitch’s Manolo Blahniks, only you are not paying 26% interest on them for the next 50 fucking years. She can’t afford them either. At least you can be honest with yourself and your wallet.
Physical appearance can fool everyone.  Even if you feel like shit, look like a model. Sometimes this means LESS make up. Don’t leave the house without sunscreen on your face and lip gloss or lipstick in your bag… it’s for your health!
Smile and fake it. More than once you won’t know what the fuck is going on in a meeting or with a client, so do yourself a favor and channel your inner idiot. Shut up and listen, smile, blink a lot and engage gleefully. Eventually you will know enough to add content.  Then promptly go home and research the shit out of it so as to come back an expert–you will never, ever make this mistake again.
Think big, manage small. You will be celebrated for your ability to break things down to clients, coworkers and students; however, think of the big picture as you are doing this so as to not lose perspective in the micro things.
Don’t use sex to get stuff. Just feel sexy; you will get stuff anyway. Sleeping with bosses and co-workers sounds epic and so romantic; however, it is a giant #fail no matter what. Don’t shit where you eat. Really. Really.
Continue to learn. You can never be “too smart.” The best teachers are those that do not stop learning themselves. Get a masters, hell, get two and keep up with life, go to lectures, read stuff that’s not for work, and audit classes at a university for free; hey why the hell not get a PhD too, smart is sexy.
adrienne lights in the nightOwn your choices, mistakes and successes. Yep, all of them. Even the big fuck-ups. Say you are sorry, if you are indeed sorry, and then move on to make it better. In success, be humble yet gracious. If you did it, claim it. People will hate you for your successes (it’s called jealousy). That doesn’t mean you have to forgo celebrating your success. Invite them along; eventually they will either leave you or join you. Win win.
Follow your dreams. Will them to become reality, make them happen. Live your life with purpose.
Keep calm and carry on. Sometimes you feel like OMFG, but you really have to look like LOL.
Wait the 20s out…the 30s are way better.  By the way, I never thought that this was true until I turned 30. You are only as lame as you act, so act young and enthusiastic to stay young and enthusiastic. Eventually it all makes sense.
Don’t settle. On anything. Period.
Be careful while drinking. DO NOT GET DRUNK AT WORK FUNCTIONS!! You would be surprised how a tonic and lime can look exactly like a gin and tonic, or a soda and lemon can look like a vodka soda.  Keep yourself sober enough to make sound decisions and FYI… calories immediately flock to your ass (which is the first thing to grow larger in your late 20s, so keep running).  Someone is always watching your behavior–maybe a friend, maybe a foe. Watch out. You have been warned.
Be true to yourself AND play office politics. However, know the boundary and don’t be such an ass as to cross it; especially while drunk. I know you are not doing that anyway because I told you not to above, but just in case the red wine takes hold.
Celebrate the generation you are. You don’t think you got here on your own, did you? You represent the one before you and before them and on and on. Many women worked to pave this road, so keep the potholes patched for a smooth ride for the next girl, okay?
Don’t be THAT girl. Women get catty. No, REALLY catty like you don’t know about yet in college. Conquer a bitch with total kindness; it will drive her crazy. You do not have to mean it–she probably totally sucks–but you have to look like you do. Women first look to make you appear incompetent, then want to be friends after you prove your toughness. It’s like a test. Don’t ask me, I didn’t write the rules on this damn topic.
Give up. When all options are exhausted and you can’t take another minute of something, don’t be afraid to give up. Failure is our greatest teacher in life. This does not mean you shouldn’t try hard. Sometimes quitting IS the solution. This holds true for work, friendship and love.
Ask for help… Then take the help. I’m still working on this one.
Purchase eye cream that costs more than $30.00. Use it starting now. One bottle/jar lasts for like six months. Use twice a day every morning and night. Don’t rub your eyes!! Be gentle. I use Clinique. If you buy it during bonus week, they give you free make up…this will help everything!! FREE lipstick is like winning the lotto sometimes!
Wear sunscreen. This and the eye cream will prove to be beneficial when you are crushing on that guy you want to impress who is a few years younger. You will look five years younger than your friends that don’t do this in their 30s, ten years younger than those who didn’t do this in their 40s, and almost 20 years younger than those “tan gals” who didn’t ever do this. No shit.
adrienne proof
Image: StellaFly. PRoof WMPRSA awards.

Save money. Even if it’s only $5.00 from each paycheck in a savings account or starting a small CD… don’t friggin’ touch it.
Cry. If you want to, but not at work. PLEASE… NOT at work. Do it in the car at a stoplight while eating a donut like everyone else, okay?
Love yourself. This sounds easy, but trust me… you will find reasons to loathe yourself all the time. Talk yourself out of it.  If all else fails, call someone who loves you and let them tell you that you are wonderful. Choose someone other than your mom… that is her job. Make it a friend or a mentor; they will give you feedback and help you forgive yourself at the same time.
Splurge a little. On your birthday, for a few minutes, celebrate you with just you… eat a full fat hot fudge sundae, savor a really dirty martini with garlic stuffed olives or a hot-as-fuck bloody Mary extra pickles, get a pedicure in the color BLUE, dance naked in your living room with the curtains open, wear something that you feel fab in, buy a new scarf and wear it bravely; but more importantly, celebrate you. Life is AWESOME!
Pay it forward. Give of yourself to the next generation; they need your help to become the next batch of amazing PR pros.
Finally, find your version of happy, despite your past. Learn to process and move forward or you will never see your future. Compartmentalization is so 2008. Happy is the new Hollywood.
I know this is exhausting–just thinking of this makes my head spin. Frankly, I can’t believe I remembered all this shit long enough to write it down. You know how short my our attention span is. You probably knew a lot of this already didn’t you…always so damn self-aware. Anyway, I’m sure like always you need a kick in the ass to jump start those ideas. You were always the most successful with a little push. Lastly, believe in yourself, particularly when you feel like no one else does. They will come around and, if not, fuck ‘em… their loss.
Keep working hard. It’s what separates you from the rest of your peers now and will in your field later as well. I love you. I love the *adult* you. I couldn’t be more proud. You are so fucking awesome. I just knew you would be.
xoxo – Adri

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13 Responses

  1. You rock…. You are like Gandhi with the life lessons but way, way younger, much hotter and, of course, a lady……

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