Letter to My Younger Self

A few years ago, I was browsing around Anthropologie (and not buying anything, since their offerings are all waaaaaaay beyond the confines of my budget) when I stumbled across What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self, by Ellyn Spragins. The timing couldn’t have been better: I was newly graduated from college, unemployed, and scared out of my mind about the future.

I’ve thought of that book often over the last 10 years, and so, on the eve of my 32nd birthday, I decided that I want to write a letter to the 22-year-old Lillian who stood mesmerized while reading in the back of an Anthropologie store in Philadelphia.

Darling girl (yes, I’m giving you a term of endearment),
Happy 22nd birthday! As you know, you’re on the cusp of some big stuff. Graduation is looming, and I know you’re scared out of your mind about the future.
First and foremost, I want you to know that everything’s going to be fine. You’re not going to wind up living in a refrigerator box on the banks of the Potomac, and you’re going to do and experience some awesome things over the course of the next ten years.
You also will learn a lot, which is to be expected in the turbulent decade between 22 and 32. Here are some key lessons to bear in mind as you venture out into the real world:
  • Remember the time at Girl Scout Camp when Susie basically begged you to stop being so mean to yourself all the time? She was totally right: you don’t deserve such harsh treatment. One of your biggest challenges has been loving yourself, and it’s high time that you show yourself as much love, compassion, and kindness as you show everyone else. You deserve it. It’s your birthright.
  • Trust your instincts. Always, always, always do this. They’ve never led you astray, despite what your brain so ardently tries to tell you. Trust your instincts on when to go, when to stay, and with whom you spend your time.
  • There are going to be some challenging experiences over the next few years. There will be times when you feel crushed by the stress of your job or the pain of a breakup, but I promise that each one of these experiences has a purpose. More specifically, each one sets you up for something better. With each of these cases, you’ll eventually find your footing and launch yourself into bigger and better things, but the challenge is a necessary prerequisite. Each of these difficult experiences forces you to grow — which, in turn, will enable you to achieve some of your biggest life goals and dreams. 
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett, the English author who wrote The Secret Garden, once said “Hang in there. It is astonishing how short a time it can take for very wonderful things to happen,” and it’s absolutely true. When things look unrelentingly bad, remember this. You’ll see this very phenomenon play out time and again.
  • A word or two on boys: stop trying to mold your life to accommodate their plans. You’ll be tempted to do this more than once, but remember that the right guy won’t require such accommodation. Build the life you want, and trust that the right one will fit seamlessly into your plans. He will move forward with you, not hold you back.
  • Spoiler alert: in the interest of saving you hours of heartache and worry, you should know that yes, the right guy does exist. You’ll find him and marry him.
  • Fitting in is overrated.
  • For that matter, so is perfection. It’s unattainable, no matter how perfect some people may seem — so stop comparing yourself to them. Do the things that make you feel happy, alive, and edified, and do them to the best of your ability. Don’t worry about whether you’re keeping up with the seemingly perfect people, because running around that particular track is a recipe for misery. 
  • You have a purpose. You’re not sure right now what that purpose is, and it’ll take a while before you really figure it out — but I promise that, much like the right guy, it’s out there and you will find it. 
  • Finally, the best piece of advice I can give you comes from someone else. Ten years from now, you’ll read this quote on CNN and feel like it was written specifically for you:
I have bad news for you: you’re not clairvoyant. Not even a little. You have no idea how the future will unfold. But it will unfold, slowly and quickly, and slowly again, in ways that you cannot now begin to imagine. So stop trying to guess what’s coming next. All the effort you put into trying to figure out what will happen, all the scenarios you play out in your mind — they’re useless. And that’s a good thing. 
Relax and allow the future to arrive on its own time and in its own way. 
Allow yourself to be astonished.
~ Robin Bernstein, Historian at Harvard University, as quoted for the International Day of the Girl
Take good care of yourself over the next ten years, and enjoy the ride!
With love,
Your Older Self

5 thoughts on “Letter to My Younger Self

  1. Caitlin Helsel January 30, 2013 / 12:28 am

    I love these letters 🙂 I think they're an amazing way to look back and see what we've learned/how far we've come!

  2. therunwithin January 30, 2013 / 12:35 am

    Such a great idea, I have done this several times throughout my life, mostly through school or treatment assignments but I have to say receiving it a couple years down the line was awesome

  3. McTbone rare January 30, 2013 / 3:41 am

    I must admit that some of these pearls of wisdom sounded faintly familiar, but not as authoritative as in your own voice. Bravoooo, as Gram would say.

  4. jessielovestorun January 30, 2013 / 7:46 am

    I really enjoyed reading this letter to yourself. I especially loved "You have a purpose". So true, and I just hope you always believe that ❤

  5. Christie Joy January 30, 2013 / 3:42 pm

    Love the "trust your instincts" advice! Happy birthday my dear friend! I hope this year brings you much joy! XOXO

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