16 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner – A Letter to My Younger Self

posted in: Inspiration, Travel | 12

16 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner

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


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Angela E. is a travel writer from the Chicagoland area who has visited all 50 states in the US and has traveled extensively around the world. She is passionate about exploring the great outdoors and hiking in particular. Her love for nature has taken her to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. She has written extensively about her travels on her own website, Dang Travelers, and has been published in collaboration with other travel websites and multiple visitor bureaus around the country.

12 Responses

  1. Chris travels

    I loved this post! Thank you for opening up your personal thoughts and reflections so candidly for those of us who read your blog. Lots of great insights and life lessons to ponder!

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks Mick! It’s funny how a few years can give you a lot of perspective. Thanks for reading, we really appreciate it!

  2. Lucy Lu

    Great job Angela , you are so different from your parents and I am so proud of the woman you have become. I absolutely agree with everything you said. Don’t forget who took you on your first vacation to Disneyland….how old were you then???? What a Blast we had right??? I think we went to Universal Studios too??? And Hollywood?? I can’t even remember what year it was. That’s why I moved to Southern California, I just hated the Chicago winters.

    • Dang Travelers

      Thank you so much!! Yes, Disneyland and Universal! I only remember certain things like seeing Jaws!! Lol I was really little. Thanks for reading!!

  3. Jamie Speros

    I am so proud of you my friend. Beautiful post, amazing pictures, and inspiring words. Pretty crazy how we can get so busy and caught up in the day to day things and a little piece of perspective can be such a gift in a moment. So glad we have shared many stages of life together over the years and many laughs! I still say I need to jump on this travel band wagon with you! You are my positive inspiration today.

    • Dang Travelers

      Thank you so much Jamie! We have had some great times and will have so many more. We definitely need to stuff you in a suitcase at some point! I really appreciate the positive comments and hope to push some inspiration out into the world.

  4. bagaglioconsentito

    “1. Balance is the key to everything” So much truth in just few words… Thanks…

  5. Robert

    Some great inspiration and tips everyone should follow. I’ve always set goals for myself and made sure I reached those goals. One of my favorite travel quotes … “Don’t Think About What They Say … Go See!” Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Rob

    • Dang Travelers

      Thanks Rob. I don’t necessarily regret anything in life because it’s all an experience but I do wish I had a little more wisdom over the years! We love quotes that help inspire others. Good one.

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