Monday, August 8, 2011

What Would You Tell a Younger You?


Last night I was at a barbecue and a 40-year-old man was speaking about what he would say to his naïve 28-year-old self.
My first thought was, of course, “naïve?” I am not much older than 28 – I’m just over a month from 30 – and I wondered at what he had learned in those 12 years that made him think he was naïve at 28.
When I thought about it more, though, I realized that this is a pretty natural occurrence: you look back on your life from a place of greater experience and more lessons learned, and you wonder at the actions you took and the thoughts that prompted them.
I don’t think you can look back and judge a younger you for something you didn’t know – even when groaning over something that you’d prefer not to remember, you have to think, “How would you have known better without that experience?” Nevertheless, if I was going to sit down with a younger version of me – and I was convinced this younger self would listen – there is definitely some wisdom I would like to impart. Some of it is information that I should still try to remember. If life teaches us anything, however, it’s that we’re never done learning and changing. That, in my opinion, is one of the best things about it.

So, without further ado, a letter to me. Feel free to share what you would tell a younger you in the comments.

Dear Morgan,

Happy Almost Birthday! You’re almost 28, and even though you don’t know it, your life is about to change forever. You’re only months away from starting your first cookbook, and less than a year away from spending a summer in Mexico, and that time is going to make everything different.
I read some of the things you wrote recently, and I get it – I understand exactly where you are and what you’re going through; I’ve been there. I know you don’t believe me, but you should: you are not the only one who has felt this pain.
You’re going to be just fine. I know it’s scary, and you don’t know what’s coming. I know that you love surprises, and that underneath the logical side of you that gets caught up in the details – where will the money come from, how will you survive, etc. – you revel in the idea of your life as a series of gifts that you get to open, and be surprised at what you find.
I know you aren’t really into listening to advice right now, but I’m going to give you some. I know you’ll pretend that you don’t need it, but I hope that sometimes, in the dead of night, when your fears start to get the best of you, you will pull out this letter and read it, and remember that there are wiser people than you who told you it would all work out just fine. Here are a couple things I wish someone had told me when I was your age:

Let yourself feel, regardless of the emotion. You have just as much a right to react emotionally as anyone else. If you’re angry at someone, let them know; it will ultimately make the anger dissipate faster, and you’ll grow closer to the person as a result.
Trust yourself. Learn to know when you’re making a decision to please others, versus one that will help you become a better, happier you.
Stop comparing yourself to others. They have their own paths, and they’re very different from yours. Stop wondering why you can’t follow someone else’s destiny because it seems more clear-cut.
Regardless of how much it hurts, realize that all experiences – good and bad – lead to becoming a better you. They are necessary, and should be welcomed.
Let yourself love more, and more deeply. In the end, you’re only hurting yourself by not letting anyone in.
Believe others when they compliment you, and sincerely thank them for their words. It will ultimately lead you to love yourself more, which is not a bad thing.
Remember that both compliments and criticism are just someone else’s opinion, and they only have as much power over you as you let them.
Stop being your biggest critic and become your biggest fan.
Let yourself have an opinion, whether you think it’s a good one or not. By allowing yourself less than what you allow others, you are showing them that you believe they’re better than you.
Remember that people love you, whether they’re with you or not. Remember that we are all only human and we can’t always express our love perfectly, but that doesn’t mean it’s imperfect love.
Crying is healing; stop holding it in.
Laughing is contagious; let yourself laugh more.
Yelling is cathartic; do it when you need to and you’ll feel better.
Admit it when you’re wrong. People will love you for it.
Play more, work less.
And finally, forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made in your past. You’re the only one who hasn’t already done so.

I know you’ll have a great birthday, Morgan. I wish you nothing but the best, and I know that’s what you’ll get. Have faith in yourself and the rest will come to you. I love you.

Love and knowing kisses
Morgan

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