In eighth grade our teacher had us write a letter to our future self, to be opened when we graduated high school. Yes kids, an actual hand-written letter! People not that long ago (insert an I’m-not-that-old clearing of the throat) would actually sit down and express themselves on a piece of paper.
In the letter, I wrote of my dreams, goals and expectations. I wrote who I thought I should be at that future moment in time: a strong independent woman, heading off to college to become a teacher, not letting any guy come between my goals in life, and not to forget where I came from. Pretty insightful, aye?
I remember finding that sealed envelope when I was in my early twenties. I had not only graduated high school, but had completed basic training for the Air National Guard, was working on my bachelor’s degree in accounting not teaching, and had a full-time job. I thought I had it all figured out.
When I read the letter I not only noticed the horrific handwriting (yes, we also wrote in cursive way back when!), but the sweet inexperience and clarity only a child has. It all sounded so simple. I liked my underlying message, but laughed at my black and white viewpoint. The child that wrote that letter had yet to experience life’s tumultuous ups and downs. I felt like I had grown up so much in those years in between. That I had gone through life-changing experiences and was infinitely wiser because of them.
I reread that letter recently, now in my mid-thirties, and I thought to myself how much I’ve learned and experienced since I opened that letter so long ago and even more since I wrote it.
It made me think about all the things I wish I knew when I was younger. If given the opportunity I would send a letter back through time and it would go something like this:
Dear Younger Self,
I know you think you have it all figured out and are on the right track in life. You are to a certain degree, but here are some things you should remember and incorporate into every day to help your journey be enriched and meaningful.
1. Balance is the key to everything. Understand that with receiving should come giving, with playing hard should come working hard, with learning should come sharing and with talking should come listening.
2. Change is a good thing. Change stimulates your life so embrace it. It is a step forward even though sometimes it can feel like a step back.
3. Travel then travel some more. Open your eyes and ears to the world around you. Traveling will inspire your soul and help you realize your significance in the world.
4. Happiness starts with you. If you are not happy with yourself you will never be completely happy in a relationship. Relationships may not last forever, but your relationship with yourself will.
5. Hard times are only a snapshot of your life. It may not seem like it in the moment, but most situations are temporary and things will get better with time. Your struggles are what shapes you into your better self.
6. Listening is the greatest skill you will acquire in life. Be present and in the moment. Listen to what others have to say. See conversations as an opportunity to learn.
7. Appreciate your family. Ask your grandparents and parents about their lives. Find out their story because they will not be around forever.
8. Drinking can be fun, but also your worst enemy. Some of your worst decisions will be made while drinking, don’t go overboard.
9. Be Confident. Or at least fake it until you are confident. Smile, hold your head high, make eye contact, and expect success.
10. Find your inspiration and hold on to it. Keep your eyes out for the things that make you happy and once you find them don’t ever stop doing them.
11. Enjoy nature. Go outdoors for a sunrise, sunset, a picnic or a walk. It doesn’t matter what you do, just appreciate what nature has to offer.
12. Negativity. It can wrap itself around you and affect everything in your life. Stay positive and surround yourself with positive people.
13. Material items don’t matter as much as you think they do. Don’t worry about what everyone else has, life is about experiences not material possessions.
14. It’s okay to be different. Our biggest strengths as adults come from our past experiences. It’s not only okay to be different, but it’s what separates you from everyone else so hold on to that.
15. Admit when you’re wrong. It takes courage to admit when you are wrong and people appreciate that. Don’t ever be afraid to make mistakes, just learn from them.
16. Be Self Aware. Build on your strengths and improve your weaknesses. It will make you a better person.
Your Older Self