On a recent trip to Borders, I caught sight of a book titled What I Know Now: Letters to my Younger Self. I didn’t pick the book up to see what the author had to say to her younger self, but the title got me thinking: What would I want to say to my younger self? What wisdom do I have to impart to a younger me?
My first instinct would be to say none. Most of the time, I’d say that I am still pretty clueless and lost in the world. Writing a letter to my younger self would be somewhat akin to the blind leading the blind. Especially given I’m only 24 – it’s not like I’m on my deathbed or anything, sitting at the end of my life with some much-needed perspective gained from age and experience. I have no idea how it all ends, so how can I possibly have anything productive to say to my younger self? In many ways, I still am a younger self hoping for letters from an older, wiser me.
In spite of all that, however, there are some things I do have to say to a younger me. So I offer you a letter, written to the ten-years-ago me.
Fourteen years old, and about to start high school - big changes are coming, little girl. I know you’re scared, and you feel very alone in your world sometimes. I wish I could say that will go away someday, but it really won’t. The fear and the loneliness – they’ll go away for a while, but they’ll always be back. You will learn to handle them better as you get more practice, but for now, buckle down and do your best.
I wish I could give you all the right answers, but to be honest, I can’t even give you all the right questions. I can, however, give you a few pieces of advice based on the limited wisdom I’ve gained over the last ten years. Take them with a grain of salt – 24 is not so different from 14 when all is said and done.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are not as bad as you make yourself out to be, and you are worth more than you give yourself credit for.
Asking for help does not make you weak. Let people help you when the time comes. You will know when the time comes.
Life is precious. Not just your own, but everyone’s around you. Learn from those lives whenever you can. Embrace them while they’re here, ‘cause you will miss them when they’re gone.
On that note, Dad loves you more than you realize, and he really is trying his best. Cut him a little slack when you can.
No one’s life is perfect, so don’t write anyone off. The people whose lives seem the most on-track now are often the ones who will feel the lack of direction most keenly later.
You will hurt. A lot, and often. Learn to accept that and deal with it. Fighting the inevitable pain will only wear you out, and you will need all your strength just to overcome it.
To love completely is to allow yourself to be vulnerable. But it is worth it – so, so worth it.
You will not be good at everything you do. Do what you can to the best of your abilities, and let that be enough.
Don’t listen to Step-Bro – he’s full of crap most of the time anyway. He loves you and doesn’t know how to show it. Just love him back and wait for him to grow up. When he does, it will be worth it.
You will have some amazing friends through the years. When you find one, grab hold and don’t let go, though time, distance, and circumstances beyond your control may try to drive you apart. Some friends are worth the fight.
Most importantly, life is not fair – not remotely. You will have some really awful times, and some bitter struggles, and you will feel – quite rightly – that you did not deserve these. But you will also have miraculous blessings and joys beyond your expectations, and when you’re honest, you will know that these are just as undeserved.
I wish I could be more help, but I have no doubt that you will survive the road ahead, though perhaps a bit the worse for wear. Love will make it worth it, I promise.
With fond nostalgia,
The ten-years-from-now you
Seems like good advice, no? As I wrote these pearls of wisdom, however, I realized that in the vast majority of these cases, I’m not practicing what I preach. I’m still too hard on myself, I still write off ‘perfect’ people as not needing anything, I still let friends slip away, I still complain about life’s injustice. Do I wish I’d learned these lessons when I was fourteen? Of course. Do I still wish I could somehow internalize them now? No doubt.
If only I could send myself a letter telling me how to do that.