A Note to My Younger Self

I don’t write in a journal though I’ve read that it’s a great way to get your thoughts down on paper instead of them clogging your brain.  You can then refer back to them,  think about how you’ve dealt with them, note if there’s an issue that’s still bothering you, keep track of how you’ve progressed in your life, jot down what you’re grateful for.  When I was younger I had a diary, but it was mostly a log of what I did every day, nothing very interesting.  The most revealing notes about my personal life I found in letters my mother saved that I’d written to her when I was away at college.

Now that I’m no longer “young” I wonder what letter I would write to my younger self.  What advice would I give to the Young Patti now that I have so many years tucked under my emotional belt.  Writing this was really hard.  I had to dig deep into my youth, kick up clumps of emotional dirt, to unearth what I’d like to tell myself.  So, here goes:

Dear Patti:

You’re only sixteen years old.  I get that.  But when you think that you may live until you’re 90+ years old, how come you think that you know it all at such a young age?  Wouldn’t it stand to reason that your parents might have a teensy weensy bit of knowledge and wisdom gained from having lived for a few more years than you?  What is life if not a gathering of life experiences that form who we are, right?  And sometimes older people have some worthwhile advice to lend you, if and when you have problems and questions when you’re growing up.  They don’t want to live your life for you, nor do they want to tell you what to do.  All your parents want is to help you along your path, perhaps guide you down a road that you may not have known even existed.  They may want you to look at other options so that you’ll have a more well-rounded view of what lies ahead of you.

No one knows what the future will bring.  No one.  Unexpected events WILL mark your path.  And most of your pals will not have lived long enough to experience much.  So, sometimes they aren’t the best people to go to for advice.  They, too, have their own questions for which they have no answers.  Not that your parents will have those answers FOR YOU.  But, given the fact that they’ve known you since you were a child, perhaps you’ll discover their ideas aren’t as outdated and dinosauric as you think.

I know you think anyone over 25 years old is a relic from the past, with one foot in the grave and the other on a slippery slab of ice.  But when you’re older, you WILL understand how much you DIDN’T know at 15, 16, 17, 18 and older.  You will see that your parents weren’t totally full of ideas no longer useful to your generation.  They really did have something interesting to say to you.  And they wanted to talk to you about life because they love you.  They wanted to help you out..

Listen to them.  You might find out they can indeed impart a few worthy words to you about what it’s like to grow, to age, and to mature.

What about you?  What would YOU tell your younger self?

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Posted on November 18, 2011, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Wow Patti, that opens up a gaggle of thoughts and images for us all, doesn’t it? I did keep journals, but in my late twenties until my late thirties. I based some of my posts on my blog, and its name on one of them … Ramblings.

    Even today with the so-called 20/20 hindsight, I still have a problem with the more realistic parts of those journals. What would I tell myself now?

    Slow down, kid. This stuff called life is not a sprint, but a long marathon. Pace yourself, listen more and talk less and above all … learn to forgive and let go. Holding on to some of those images weighs down for the long haul. The kids? I think we all would have taken more time, worked less and played more and again … listen.

    Loved you letter by the way. Once I wrote a letter to my kids. Would I show it to them now? I’ll ask you then, if you could write a letter to your grown children about when they were born, when they toddled into your life … what would you say?

  2. Thank you for writing such a lovely introspective comment. I’d really have to think hard about what I’d write to my kids about when they were born. And I should write it now and stow it away for later. The post I wrote today, truly, is for my 17-year-old son, though he’ll never read it.

  3. Patti, I loved your letter to your teenaged self. Gosh, I don’t know what I’d have to say that would be much different than what you’ve said. So now that’s got me wondering about how much the same our lives were or whether our lives were different but the basic teen emotions/responses are the same.

    Don’t know if that made any sense. Brain isn’t coffeefied yet. 🙂

    Ohhh, I can’t stop thinking about this topic. It makes me want to write a book about all the conflict between parents and their teenaged kids ….

    • Sheila, what I DO recall from my teen years is that everyone over 30 was suspect. We hated authority, thought our parents didn’t know ANYTHING, hated the police, etc… I was a real hippy in those days. But, my son really isn’t any different in the sense that he makes us feel like whatever we say is no longer relevant to society and my husband is 10 years younger than I am and he NEVER listens to HIM, that’s for sure. I don’t know that I would EVER have listened to advice from my parents, but I do know that stuff sunk in anyway. So, I continue to lecture my son and try to talk to him about life and such, hoping a grain of some of that might embed itself in his brain for later on. It makes me sad that he’s no longer the ever-so-sweet little boy he was until he turned 15. But, that was when “I” changed as well, so he’s following in his mother’s footsteps, eh? A counselor once suggested a superb book. It was titled something like, I Hate You, But First Can You Take Me to the Mall, Mom? Can’t recall the exact title. It really helped me out.

  4. I just recently wrote a letter to my teenage daughter in celebration of her 14th birthday. A friend of mine writes one every year on each child’s birthday and he plans to present it to them when they are 18. I feel like an underachiever just writing one!

    Anyway, the crux of my letter to my daughter would be the same advice I’d give my teenage self: stay true to yourself, don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing and respect yourself and your body.

    I left the letter on her dresser, not wanting to turn it into some mushy moment that she hates. Instead, I wanted her to process it on her own time, in her own space. It’s been a week and she hasn’t said anything about it–she isn’t one to talk about her feelings–but I am getting a lot more hugs and smiles from her, so I hope it accomplished its goal. 🙂

    • That’s so sweet, Tracy. You know, I sent my son an e-mail months ago with a youtube song that reminded me of some of the angst he was going through. He never acknowledged ever receiving it – typical – and I never said a thing. It would be useless since he’s metamorphosed into a non-speaking humanoid. He says he doesn’t talk much because that’s just how teen guys ARE. AACK!

  5. It is a lovely and thought provoking post. Even still, although recognizing the mistakes my own daughters were making, it is in putting myself in their teen shoes that advice I gave wouldn’t be understood or appreciated. I found myself more often times than not hearing my mothers voice in my ears and remembering how I thought she just didn’t understand. Hindsight is always bittersweet but experience is the true teacher. My older self sees that whereas I could guide, experience trumps my guidance.

    • I know exactly what you mean, Karen. When I put myself in his shoes, I remember my parents rambling on about this or that and I just tuned them out. So, what’s the use, right? I guess that’s where I feel that some of what my parents said DID indeed sink in, no matter what. So, I still try.
      Patti

  6. Now Patti…I did not say I didn’t try. Recognizing my own behavior allowed me to be more patient and understanding in my guidance. 🙂

    • Gotcha, Karen! You know, I re-read your comment about 3 or 4 times before I commented, so it was my misunderstanding completely. I get what you’re saying now. And I agree with you. I do hold my tongue on some things I say to my son, knowing how I must sound to him. So, I rethink my words and temper them with remembrances of my past. Yeah…

  7. I would say

    Catie,

    Don’t take it so personally. You’re smart. You’re beautiful. People are mean because they’re envious. And that’s not a lie.

    Try hard because it’s worth it. Besides, if you don’t learn how to apply yourself now, it’s going to be a b!tch to learn later in life. Follow your dreams. They are not unattainable.

    Get lots of tattoos. It doesn’t matter. Get out of Podunk, Texas. See more variety before you make big decisions.

    Don’t let the b@stards get you down. Stomp their foot and do it to break bones.

    c

    Great exercise. 😀

  8. Love this. And it really does make you think. I wish I would have written a letter to my daughter every year like Tracy’s friend…that would be amazing to look back on. Almost seventeen years in, I feel like a slacker. Maybe I’ll start this year though…and give it to her at 21? Show her what a psycho she was? LOL just joking. I can’t imagine what I’d tell my teen self. Probably to not be so shallow…and to appreciate my parents instead of taking them for granted. To not do alot of the stupid things I did…and to do all the things I was afraid to do. To follow through on many many dreams instead of just assuming I’d get another chance later. Later doesn’t happen.

    And when I had the chance to kiss that guy on that dance floor…and both of us were too scared to make the first move… I’d tell me to go get it!!

    (now crossing fingers this posts…)

    • To appreciate our parents and not take them for granted is my favorite line, Sharla. I’m trying my best to do that for my son right now and what a bloody battle! I feel like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. And I’m learning NOW how not to wait until “later” to do the things I love to do. At least I won’t say I didn’t try when I’m at my death bed – which seems all too close at this point!

  9. Great thoughts! Here are a few I’d tell my younger self:
    (1) The world does not revolve around guys. Be pickier. Your best dates won’t even happen until you’re in your 20’s, so just hang out with guys as friends now.
    (2) Go ahead and wear those funky clothes you know you want. If you wait, by the time you have the gumption to wear them, you won’t have the body to pull it off.
    (3) Be willing to fail. Try more things and see what happens. There are great experiences in success and failure and lessons to be learned from both.

    • I really like your notes to your younger self, Julie, especially the one about being willing to fail, to try more things and see what happens. I was very adventurous after I graduated high school and SO glad I was. It has given me a fuller batch of life experiences and along the way has made me a more open-minded person and helped me in my writing a great deal.
      Thank you.

  10. Adrienne Addison

    This advice is great! I love Julie’s advice about don’t lower standards wrt guys, wear the funky clothes, and Sharla saying kiss the boy on the dance floor.

    I was very uptight as a teen. Quite frankly, I was a total geeky nerd. I’d say, Loosen up. Life only happens once. Keep using your brain and making good decisions but trust your gut more often.

    On a lighter note: Wear shorts. Cellulite will hit you at 25 even though you’re going to the gym 5x/ week. Wear those cute outfits while you can. 🙂

  11. I think I’d tell myself to learn to forgive myself and others. To learn how to let go of pain. Don’t close up. Travel and experience more. Try harder and don’t get tied down with any guy until I was 26.
    ~ Donna

    • Thank you for trying to comment, Donna. Above I have done as you asked and posted your comment for you. I don’t know why you couldn’t post either – some computer glitch or something.
      Anyway, thank you for your advice to your younger self. I love your phrase “don’t close up”. If we can keep an open mind and share with others, our lives would definitely benefit.
      Patti

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