A Letter To My Younger Self

iStockPhoto.com / LaraBelova
iStockPhoto.com / LaraBelova

Hi there, You.

Been a long time. Or has it whizzed by so fast that there has really been no time at all? I don’t really know. I suppose time is existentially confusing and I had hoped this intro would be much more graceful. Please don’t judge me, younger self; I am still a work in progress. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.

Let’s start again, much more simply:

Hi there, You.

There has been time.

I write this letter to you from my apartment kitchen. My apartment is not quite the brownstone that Carrie Bradshaw led us to idealize as adolescents, but it’s functional and there is a nice building manager who comes to fix the appliances when necessary and I’ve learned to pick my battles.

Today I went to my favorite yogurt shop and ordered our favorite topping: extra rainbow sprinkles. It is on days like these when I feel as though we are still exactly the same person. That is both comforting and depressing, I suppose. (Somewhat because I had thought by this point I would have defected to the chocolate sprinkles camp, but mostly because I have come to an age where the lady behind the counter now judges me for requesting extra.)

There are other days, however, when I struggle to find where you went. I couldn’t possibly begin to explain to you all the things that are going to shatter you. I won’t elaborate on it too much because some things are better to not know ahead of time. Do know, however, that you will be impressed by the strength and resilience you find within yourself as a result.

Speaking of knowing, you will continue to find that you know nothing. You may set out to write a letter to your younger self in flowery narrative prose and then discover midway through that wtf this isn’t a eulogy and it is probably going to work better in bullet points. This will happen over and over again in your life. No need to start from the beginning because life doesn’t allow do-overs. The knowledge you’ve acquired in experimenting with what doesn’t work will inevitably lead you to what does. Just pick up wherever you are and go with the tides.

Here is what I want to tell you:

Stop studying so much.

Getting an “A” means shit in life because life doesn’t give grades. Life gives experiences, and you are wise to take them. Does the homecoming game fall on the night before a big test? Get your head out of the book, paint your face, dress like a powder puff, and go to the homecoming game. In 5 years you won’t remember what that test was even for. You will, however, remember how your high school football team scored zero points during the entire game and, afterwards, you and your two best friends went to the kosher deli across the street, ordered cannolis, and talked about that cute new algebra teacher. (Side note: He has since picked up and moved to LA to pursue acting because, yes, he was that attractive. ::sigh:: I rest my case.)

Is there someone that asked you out but you aren’t sure if you want to go? Do it.

Go. Sometimes the vision in your head of who you think you are going to like is not going to fit the image of the person who you actually like. No, all the time. The people with whom you fall in love are so outside the parameters of who you thought they would be and how we fall in love is so outside the box of the way we always thought it would go. Love is tricky like this. It sneaks up and surprises you at the most unassuming times. It also never disappears. Even when someone you love is ultimately not right for you, it has nothing to do with a lack of love. You will hate this. You will hate that person for this. You will hate yourself for this. But this is how it will go. And you will still probably never accept that this is how it is.

Sex is awkward the first time.

It’s a rite of passage. Let it happen. It gets better. It also gets less significant. Unless you really like someone. In that case, be careful.

I’m sorry to say, but the dumb popular girl won’t one day be working at the convenience store like in the narrative your parents fed you.

She will probably just marry up and be set for life. She is who she is because she has perfected the art of being exactly who society awards: a polished version of average. It’s a hard reality with which to grapple. Being different is not rewarded. Going against the grain is not celebrated. But always remember that if you don’t fit in, don’t try. Making everyone like you is not the end goal. You have to like you.

You will think bad things can’t happen to you because you are you.

You will think bad things only happen to bad people who put themselves in bad situations. You will be wrong. Bad and unjust things can and will happen to you and you must always speak up about them. As you become a woman, don’t ever let anyone silence your voice. It is the one thing you will always own and the one thing no one can ever take away from you.

Men and women really aren’t that different when it comes right down to it.

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then Mars and Venus share a rocket ship. We all want the same things. We all fear the same things. So don’t be fooled by the packaging—the only things truly different are our ways of going about obtaining said things.

Fuck extraordinary.

It’s worth repeating. Fuck extraordinary! Winning that debate tournament will afford you bragging rights for a few days, but it won’t make you happy in the long run or enrich you as a person. Life is not about the accomplishments you amass or the trophies you collect. It is about allowing yourself to take in the feeling of the wind on the back of your wrist. It is about smiling because your newborn niece threw her rattle at you. It is about crying because nothing has ever spoken to you the way that Charlie Kaufman movie did. It is about moving outward instead of moving upward.

Always trust your instincts.

You have them for a reason. If you think someone likes you, they do. It’s not rocket science. Don’t get insecure and talk yourself out of it. Yes, the person who makes the first move is always the most vulnerable, but they are also probably leading a far superior life because they take chances. Be that person.

You may be wondering when things will get less confusing with that boy at school.

You may be asking yourself what direction you will take your life. You may be desperately searching for a solution to the struggles you currently face with your family. The truth? You will grow older and still ask yourself many of the same questions. You will struggle with many of the same things you struggle with now. You will become much better equipped at dealing with them, but time doesn’t actually change anything—it does, however, create a better understanding of the “why” and “how” and, often, that can set you free.

Your mom and dad are fumbling around this awkward terrain called life exactly the same way you are.

None of us knows how to navigate it and we are all just trying our best. Give them a hug.

If there is anything I can leave you with, it is this: Don’t focus on the future too much because you will inevitably arrive in it and wonder how you missed so many opportunities to live in the present which are now forever in the past. The present is confusing and I want you to give yourself permission for that to be OK. Nothing is ever black and white. Life exists in the grey area and there are never any right answers. There are only the choices you make. And the only wrong choices are being too afraid to make any at all.

Your older, always searching Self.

P.S.: You will get carded a lot, but looking young gets awesome in the future. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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