By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
While browsing for books the other day, I ran across a compilation of letters written by famous, notable women. Each woman wrote a letter to her “younger self.” In an age of email, texts and instant messaging, I’m still a sucker for a personal letter. And the book got me wondering, even though I’m neither famous nor notable: What would I say to my younger self? What would you say to yours?
Dear 18-Year-Old Me,
You know nothing. And I’m not saying that in the rude, dismissive way most adults would say it to a teenager. I’m saying it because it’s a fact. Right now you think you’ve got a handle on things. You think you’re far wiser than your parents give you credit for. But take it from someone who really, really knows you – you’re not.
When you became a “legal adult”, you didn’t magically attain all the tools you’ll need to survive the 20 years stretching out in front of you. But I have a vested interest in how you’ll turn out, and I’ve been where you’re headed. So here’s what you’ll want to remember.
First things first: Things aren’t going to turn out as you planned. You’re not going to marry your high school sweetheart, even though you’ve already imagined decorating your first house together. And you won’t become an English teacher, either. And that’s okay so don’t be all uptight and rigid about it when things stray from that carefully plotted roadmap. Life has different things in mind for you, and they’re better than what you could have planned.
Next, you’ve got to learn to chill out. This whole teenage angst thing you’ve got going right now is going to ramp up into an even more intense drive to succeed during your 20’s. The long work hours coupled with that deep-seated fear of failure will serve you well professionally, but don’t torture yourself into thinking that the goal is to have everybody like you. Because guess what? Not everybody is going to like you. And you won’t do everything perfectly because you can’t. Nobody can. Just focus on doing quality work and being a quality human. The rest will work itself out.
Finally, be brave. And I know what a tall order that is because I’m 20-years down the road and I’m still working on that one. During the next two decades, you’ll need to dig down and find the guts to face things – some of them unthinkably bad and some of them joyously life-changing. Both kinds of experiences can scare the bajeezys out of you. So be brave, and during those times when you feel everything but brave, remember there’s a force much bigger and wiser guiding you where He wants you to be.
Before I close, let me say this: Go into your closet, find those acid-washed jeans and burn them immediately. They were not a good idea. And for goodness’ sake, stop trying to make your bangs defy gravity. Let me save you from yourself before another photograph records these fashion sins for all eternity.
Even though you know nothing, you’re a decent girl with a good heart. You’ve got people who love you, and you’ll meet some wonderful people along the way. Treasure them. Treasure the time you have to figure all this stuff out.
Twenty years from now, when you’re standing where I am, you’re going to re-read this dusty letter, nod your head and say, “Wow. That crazy old lady was absolutely right.”
Take care, kid.
Yours truly (and literally),