What would mixology pro Rosie Schaap tell her younger self if given the chance? Read on to find out.

By F&W Editors
Updated May 23, 2017
© M. Sharkey

F&W's #FOODWINEWOMEN series spotlights top women in food and drink in collaboration with Toklas Society. Follow the hashtag on Twitter (@foodandwine). What would mixology pro Rosie Schaap tell her younger self if given the chance? Read on to find out.

Who: Rosie Schaap, @rosieschaap
What: Bartender, Drink Columnist for The New York Times, Author of Drinking with Men: A Memoir
Where: New York City

If anyone had ever told me that spending much of my 20s sitting on a barstool would lead to a pretty cozy and fun niche as a writer, I don’t think I would’ve believed her. I don’t think I even would’ve believed there’s such a job as “drink writer.” It would’ve sounded too good to be true, and in truth, it kind of is.

But I’m glad no one told me. I’m glad that, instead, I flailed and floundered, tried a whole bunch of different jobs, made lots of mistakes and frequent missteps until, in my 40s, I finally found what I love to do (or it found me).

The 20s can be tough, unsettled, beset by uncertainty. The night before I graduated from college, I had a long cry in my little off-campus apartment. I hadn’t a clue what I’d do with the rest of my life. I’d considered being a labor organizer in Texas, but I didn’t have the mandatory driver’s license. I was thinking about doing a PhD in English. I daydreamed about moving to Nicaragua and living life as an expat poet. Instead, I moved back home, tended bar, worked in a store.

Life in my 20s wasn’t always fun. Or lucrative. Or fulfilling. But it was life, it was experience, and I’ll never consider any of it a waste of time. So here’s what I’d tell my younger self:

1. Go ahead and f**k up…
I bet you’ve already heard this quote from the great Irish writer Samuel Beckett: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” Beckett was one of the most original, fearless writers of all time, but this quote teeters just on the edge of cliché—and I mean that in a good way. It rings so true, it sounds so obvious, it’s such good counsel—and yet you probably feel uneasy when you follow it. My less elegant way of rephrasing it is: Let yourself fuck up, and don’t hate yourself when you do. Nothing interesting happens unless we take chances, try new things and come to understand that some notion of “perfection” is both unimaginative and specious.

2. (…but stick with those music lessons and practice your Spanish verb conjugation).
Mastering languages and instruments doesn’t get any easier, and some day you might really regret that you can’t just launch into a Cole Porter number at a holiday party or engage in a grown-up conversation in Mexico.

3. Your mother’s not right about everything, but she’s right about some things.
Mom was an erratic dispenser of advice. But along with unhelpful chestnuts like, “It’s as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is to fall in love with a poor man” (ugh), there were occasional morsels of real wisdom. The best of these was: “Surround yourself with people you can learn from.” I took that to heart long ago, but I’d add to it something mom didn’t say: You can learn something from everyone you meet if you keep your ears and your mind open. (Her second-best piece of advice pertained to cooking: Clean as you go.)

4. Uncertainty is a virtue.
In your 20s, so much feels uncertain and unclear. You might feel adrift. You might feel you don’t measure up to peers who seem to have clear paths stretched out ahead of them—to careers, to relationships, to parenthood, to spiritual bliss, whatever. Quit comparing yourself. While it’s obviously crucial to be an active agent in your own life, it’s also essential to stay open to chance, to surprise, to the possibility of following a direction you never anticipated.

5. You probably can’t feel it now, but life really is short.
Brace yourself for loss, because it will come. And chances are, the more of it you experience, the more likely you are to notice how short, incredible and precious our days on earth are. Cut your loved ones more slack. Show up for them when they need you. Pick your battles more wisely. And always, always strive to be kinder to everyone you encounter.