I saw a Facebook update today that inspired this post. It was really simple: a message addressed to the posters’ 16 year old self. That got me thinking… Experience really is so illuminating, so what would I say to my younger self with the benefit of these last few decades of knowledge, mistakes, heartbreak, fumbles and successes? Of course this can’t benefit my younger self–that ship has sailed–but who might this be of an even modest interest to…? Full disclosure (I do say that a lot, don’t I?), as coincidence would have it, I too have found myself posing this question lately as nostalgia, womanhood, parenting and the regular course of life mash-up into a frothy mix of investigation.
So, as I write this litany of “Dear Mes,” the only young lady I have in mind is my own daughter (lead image: us pictured together) who probably thinks I am so uncool, don’t understand or can’t know what I’m talking about. Regardless, this is for her.
Dear My 12 Year Old Self,
Things seem much more complicated than they actually are. When a friend is upset at you, it feels like the end of the world… When you do badly on a test, it feels like you’re stupid… When a boy you like doesn’t like you back, you think it means you’re ugly… Guess what: Feelings aren’t facts and none of this is true. In ten years you’ll know who your real friends are, and things like school will feel more right sized in your world–because your world will be bigger. You’re already beautiful, talented, creative, smart and funny. The things you think are “different” about you will be what makes you very successful later in life. Different is weird in middle school… As an adult it’s called unique and it’s what people pay a stylist for. Be patient, or stop fighting it.
Dear My 15 Year Old Self
High school can be such a bitch, right?!? Well look, right now, four years feels like an eternity but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a blip on the radar. Doesn’t help much, huh? OK. More specifically, the mean girls, they don’t end up amounting to much–you’ll eclipse them before you’re 30–and the boys you obsess over now will either become distant memories or you’ll reconnect on some social network someday and the embers will burn again, only this time you’ll be a confident woman with an expense account and a point of view. The teachers who thought (and told you) you were dumb, they were just wrong. And the boyfriend who will “see the real you” and will be the first guy who will make you feel beautiful…he will be worth it. Wait. However long. Wait.
Dear My 18 Year Old Self,
If I can only impart these things to you for the next five years, I’ll be thrilled:
Don’t waste your youth with fear, that only turns into regret.
Remember that the one who breaks your heart isn’t the one to heal it.
Find comfort in creative pursuits, that will keep your well filled.
If someone upsets you or makes you angry, tell them when it happens. Don’t let anger fester or suppress sadness.
Be true to your word. Your word is your bond. Try not to make promises you can’t keep. But…
Mistakes happen, when you mess up own them and move on.
Don’t be afraid to say I’m sorry.
And know when to forgive (but don’t be a doormat…you’ll know the difference, probably).
Laugh every laugh, cry every tear, walk in the rain, swim in the nude, do it all!
Dear My 23 Year Old Self,
Entering the real world is going to be both scary and exciting.
Here’s the deal… You’re going to do some very amazing things… things beyond your wildest dreams and things you can’t even fathom right now. Not everyone is going to believe in you, and that’s ok. Don’t forget who you are: continue to be kind, courteous and respect others. It won’t always feel like that’s the way to get what you want, but it’s the way to be who you want.
Dear My 30 Year Old Self,
Ok, so not everything turned out exactly as you planned. What ever does? Take a look at all you have to be proud of. There’s a lot. And it’s not over. Remember what I said before about feelings not being facts… Well sometimes they are worse… This may be one of those times. Here’s the thing, sometimes all you can do is show up and do your best and sometimes that’s just perfect. What does that mean? You’re your own worst critic! Give yourself a break. You’re going to get to the same place, only this time you might actually enjoy the ride a bit more. And what a ride its going to be. Trust me.
Have you ever thought about what advice would you give your younger self if you could? What would it be?