I don't feel that I have very much advice I can give, on any part of life. But I wanted to post about the one thing I know for sure:
Whatever it is you want, try for it.
When I was in my early 20s, I talked to a lot of people the same age, who were surprised when they found out I was writing and attempting to get published at the same time as going to university and working. They'd say things like, "Oh, I used to want to be a writer, but there just isn't time with school." or "I played in a band in my teens, I figured there wasn't any chance of making a career out of it, so I gave it up." Hearing that always made me sad. That we live in a world where most people think it is *strange* when someone pursues their dreams, unless those dreams are practical (and where's the fun in a dream that's completely practical, I ask you?).
I think there's room for everyone's dreams in the world. No, we are not all going to end up rich and famous, but we can at least have something we love in our lives, whether we can make it a full time career or we work on it in the little gaps of free time we find.
You just have to try.
Trying isn't the only factor in success. There's skill and luck and all sorts of other elements. But I think trying is the most important. Certainly it's the one we have the most control over.
If you try, you can improve your skill. Trying doesn't mean flailing your arms about and hoping you hit something; it means finding out the most effective ways to try. Learning from your mistakes, honing your craft (whatever it may be), researching the industry, accepting the advice offered by others who have their own unique experiences.
And the more you try, the more chances you have for luck to find you. Maybe it's all about sending the right story in to the right editor at the right time... but if you send five stories to fifty editors you've given luck a lot more opportunity than if you send one story to five editors. (If your dream is something else, fill in your own example. If you apply for twenty jobs you have better chances than if you apply for two. etc.)
But no matter what, you have to try. Maybe you won't reach your dream. It happens; some dreams end up being further away than we can reach. But I think, at very least, you can't help but get closer. If you don't try, if you give up, then you can't help but fail.
So this is my hope for 2009, for myself and all of you. That we all keep striving toward the things we want most, no matter how far away they may seem!