Inspired by a prompt from A Year With Myself, I decided to write a letter to my 20-year-old self. Last week’s theme was “Your Roots, Reconnecting with Your Core,” and this letter is one of the actionable ideas in the Explorer’s Worksheet.
The exercise got me thinking about the idea of time travel again, and of the possibility of changing the past – because what is it but something that exists only in our minds anyway?
At 20 (and all through my 20s actually) I remember longing for an older and wiser guide to point out a path, show me some tricks.I think I did sense that guide hovering there in the ethers. And now I know she was actually me!
So here is my letter, I hope it visits my younger self in her dream state.
Dear Sallie, (that’s what I was called back then)
I know you’ve always had to be the oldest, to be mature, to be in charge. And yet, you are still so soft and malleable, just barely formed into your adult self. It’s really okay not to understand everything and not to have mastered it all. You worry there must be something wrong, that now you’ve turned 20 and you still hadn’t gotten it all together.
I’m here to say: Relax, there’s nothing wrong at all. You never will have it all together.
And that is so okay.
Because guess what? Every single person you meet – friends, teachers, the authors of each and every book you read – they all have flaws to. They’re all scared deep inside, just as you are. Some of them are just very adept at not letting it show.
I know you are convinced you’re one of the only ones who is unsure of herself. But believe me, you are in the majority.
It’s a funny thing, like we all walk around wearing our most beautiful masks, along with an invisible suit of armor. We do this because vulnerability is a scary thing. But the sooner you discover that baring your vulnerability is actually an act of boldness, the more joy you will discover in life. People will open and share themselves with you in ways you can’t imagine.
You’ve already delved into a little bit into the darkness that every human heart must find. And before long you will confront some more of life’s painful side. Let the tears flow as they will, let them cleanse the wounds. If you allow yourself to plunge into pain, you can pass through and rise out on the other side so much the wiser. You can try to run away from it, to push it so far down that it seems like it’s disappeared, but guess what? It doesn’t just go away, and it will rear someday, just like an infection that never quite healed.
So you’ve been hurt in love. It’s made you a bit bitter and more than a little wary. You’re tired of being naive. Let me tell you something now – this is not going to serve you well. Broken hearts are part of all of our journeys. Your experiences are not as unique and devastating as you may think. Try to remain open and don’t let yourself be consumed in worry about how much you may be hurt if you let someone in. The healing of these cracks and breaks is where we find new insight and growth. If there are no breaks to repair, how can we heal and grow?
You and me, we live a lot inside our heads. After so many years I can tell you that can mess things up. Allow yourself to reside solely in your body sometimes. Experience the pleasure, the pain, the sublime. Whether it’s your heart pounding as you run across the sand in tune with the ocean’s roar, or the sweaty ecstasy of moving in rhythm toward a solid orgasm, or dancing half drunk to the pulsing beat of a soundtrack – get into your body and out of your head. Stop thinking about it and just live it.
And, by the way, You Are Not Fat! But you’ve not yet learned to nourish yourself. Try to find what you can love about your strong and supple body. Believe me your value is not measured by the size of your Levis. The sooner you can move beyond comparing your body to others’ the healthier and happier you’ll be. I’ve got a little bonus tip for you: that stick thin body type usually doesn’t last. Someday you will wonder how it worked out that you are stronger and more fit and healthy that some of those beautiful girls you once eyed in envy.
Nourishment comes in many forms. The foods you take in are just one little part of that. The next few years will bring you so much guidance and teaching on how to nourish yourself on the inside and the outside too. Breathe easy, you will learn to eat well and care for yourself, inside and out. That journey has only just begun and believe me, it’s so much more than yoga and millet bread.
You are one of the lucky ones. You will find long-lasting love and companionship, and you will find more joy than you’ve ever imagined in creating a family – and sooner than you may think. Life is about to take you on a little roller coaster ride, but know that you will eventually emerge all the stronger.
I know that you often feel lonely. Someday you will have more friends than you can count, and you will lament that you don’t have time to keep up with all of them. You will be needed – so much that you will wish for those long hours when there was no one to think about except your own self. Many will depend on you. I can only remind you to stay loyal to your own needs even as you attend to those of everyone else. Pay attention to that voice inside yourself, and don’t let it be muffled and obscured by the cacophony.
It’s hard to believe now, but a time will come when you will crave time alone. But you will simultaneously avoid it. Don’t. Push through that resistance and make the time for introspection. Sometimes being “selfish” is really making more room in your heart to give your love to others.
You’ll hit some road bumps on this rocky road we call life. But in these coming few decades you will be so lucky and loved – so safely embraced in family and community – that you will have to work hard to find the courage to dare to step out and fill that potential you were given. You will need to cultivate a bold spirit and a willingness to forego safety for growth.
Sallie/Sarah – I know you don’t believe this now: But you are whole and perfect exactly the way you are. Somewhere inside you is everything you need. Sure you will acquire new knowledge and skills, this is a good thing. And of course you should seek out new experiences, new knowledge. But the creative spark is already smoldering and all it needs is the belief in yourself to fan those flames.
If you can find this courage, if you cultivate boldness, who knows what you might one day bring to the world?
Sarah at 50 (Your older and wiser self)
I encourage anyone who is interested in some inspiration and motivation this year to check out the A Year With Myself Full Adventure Kit. It is just so packed with food for thought – or that nourishment I spoke of to my younger self. And actionable ideas too. It’s just the spark I need to nudge me into the self-introspection and that will hopefully lead to new breakthroughs. And what a web of wonderful women! You too could join this network of like-minded women and be part of this journey. Today’s the last day to get in on it for the lower price, it goes up tomorrow. Take a look here.