Lessons Learned at 40: A Letter to my 20-year-old Self
To my 20-year-old self,
Hey girl. It’s me, your 40-year-old self. You’re probably getting ready to head out the door to one of your absolutely FAVORITE classes like Statistics or Intro to Macroeconomics…...that just made me snort-laugh. Kidding, you’re likely headed out the door to the library to pull an all-nighter writing a paper that’s due tomorrow in your Intro to Philosophy course (what were you thinking??) you’ve had 3 weeks to write, but are just now getting started. You’ll likely stop on your way at the convenient store on the corner to grab a disgusting caramel latte from a machine that tastes like coffee-candy. But you also probably choose to take the long way to the library. Grabbing the last bus at IU stadium, that’s across the street from your apartment complex. You’ll ride the bus, while reading the IDS (IU’s student newspaper), and everyone else just sits and stares out the windows, no one is scrolling through their cell phones because they are a rarity (All you have is a car phone that you use for long trips and emergencies ONLY for heaven’s sakes). You get off at an early stop, just so you can walk through campus and take in the crisp, cool autumn evening. Fall in B-town is your favorite (still is). You’ll be plenty warm, because you’ll for sure be wearing your favorite extra-big JCrew chunky knit sweater, with your puffy down vest--your go-tos in 1997. You shuffle through the piles of fall leaves, and as you do, it will remind you of your childhood. And you will remember all the good things that go along with being a kid in autumn. Jumping in mountain-high piles of leaves, apple orchards, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating with friends….and suddenly, you’ll be back in the present, heading into the Library, ready to take on a long night of studying, writing, and rewriting in the computer lab (because that Brother word processing typewriter you have can only do so much). You’ll take occasional breaks to check your campus electronic mail, or maybe even use a payphone to call Mom to just hear her reassure you that you’ve got this. But you’ll stay until 3 a.m., get your paper finished and take the long walk home. You’ll be tired, but surprisingly not too tired. Because when you get home, you’ll head to your room--being careful not to wake your roomates--you’ll pop in VCR tape they recorded for you earlier--you have to watch it before falling asleep, because it’s a new Friends & Seinfeld. You’ll fall asleep to the sounds of studio laughter tracks, and your biggest cares in the world at that point will be that you can sleep in til 9:30, because your first class isn’t until 10:05. All is good.
Oh man….I say this honestly, I LOVED those days. But now, I’m married to one of your best friends--you know, the one you always had a crush on?? Yep, Drew. And we have 3 boys, a rascal of a dog and have an absolutely crazy-amazing life together. Oh, and get this---you’ve never used your Psychology degree. But you DID start a small, handmade business. So, as much as I loved that time way back when life was seemingly simple and carefree---I know it wasn’t always the case. I remember the constant worries of the future you had. So, life lessons have been learned my dear. 20 years older and just a tiny bit wiser, here it goes girl...
Things I’ve learned that I want you, my 20-year-old self, to know to be true.
*You will make a lot of mistakes. Some bigger than others. Some will make you cringe 20 years later(!), some you’ll completely forget. But here’s the thing...at some point, you’ll start learning from those mistakes. They’ll challenge you, teach you, and mold you into the person you’ll become. And you’ll even be grateful for every single experience that created the person you are. The good, the bad, the hard, the ugly, the exciting--all of them made you You.
*You have to learn to trust yourself and your instincts--You know You the best. Ask for advice and guidance from those you trust, but also know that when it comes time to make a decision, it’s your call. Trust your gut feeling, trust your heart. P.S.--stop second-guessing yourself.
*You can’t please everybody. You are bound to disappoint, and not measure up to someone else’s expectations at some point, and you have to learn to be okay with that. This coming from an lifelong people-pleaser (as you well know), I can tell you--it is NOT EASY. That said, the older I get, the more I realize that life is short. And when you are constantly trying to do what everybody else wants you to do, expects you to do, or be someone you’re not--you are forgetting something very important. YOU and what you want. You have zero control over what people think about you. All you can do is do what your heart tells you, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.
*Do whatever it takes to let go of the strongholds in your life. Whatever it is that causes pain, stress, anxiety, doubt, fear---let it go. Find ways to overcome those things that seem to hold power over you. I know you’re a perfectionist and struggle with not feeling like you’re ever good enough. That’s a big one for you. Find a new hobby, go on an adventure, cross something off your bucket list, or I dunno, start your own business---whatever way you find that lets you release it, DO IT.
*Be impeccable with your word. This comes from the book “The Four Agreements”--which just happens to be a game-changing, life-altering read for you after college. What’s it mean? Well, it means “to refrain from expressing criticisms, judgements, or find fault with yourself, or someone else. Not just by the words you speak, but with the thoughts you think also.” SO, that’s a pretty big one, huh? I’m telling you, choose your words wisely. Still working BIG time on this one. I need reminded of this daily. Words and thoughts are so very powerful. They hold more power than we can even imagine.
*Don’t just say you’ll make a difference in the world, DO something. These times are crazy lately, girl. This broken world needs as much love, hope, good, light and positivity as it can get. I know it can feel overwhelming at times, but even one little act of good or smidge of kindness can absolutely make a difference, and you’ll NEVER regret it.
*You are worthy. You’ll need to hear this one a lot. Just make it your mantra. Because you are.
*Dream big, live bigger. I know it seems cliche, and it totally is. But it’s truth. Don’t let fear or doubt prevent you from trying new things, taking risks, going on adventures, challenging yourself, stepping outside your comfort zone. You will be your worst critic. Once you start trusting yourself and letting go of the fear/doubt, I PROMISE it will be worth it. Life is so much more amazing when you aren’t being so hard on yourself.
*Life will throw you some curveballs. Some will bring such incredible grief, heartbreak and sadness. You will also find that you will need your family and friends more than ever when faced with these times. Lean on them, and ALWAYS be there when they need to lean on you. You should never be too busy for the loved ones in your life--trust me on this. You’ll absolutely regret it if you aren’t. Family and deep friendships are priceless gifts, that we are blessed to have. Don’t ever take them for granted.
*Carve out some me-time every day. Whether you do a devotional, pray, sing in the car by yourself, read--whatever it is, make it a priority.
*Don’t take life so seriously. Laugh. Dance in the rain (YES, so cliche too, but I’ve done it with my kids and I’m telling you--it really is the best) Go on lots of trips. Smile more. Have FUN! Let down your guard. Let go of things that are out of your control. Eat the cake if you want it! Read books that educate & challenge you to be the best version of yourself--Brene Brown will be a favorite! Learn something new everyday. HUG your favorite people every time you see them and tell them you love them. Surround yourself with people who let you be you, who inspire, encourage and support you.
There’s a whole lot more I could tell you, but part of the beauty of getting older, is that you get to EARN that wisdom. You gotta go through all of it on your own, constantly learning and growing along the way. And when I’m 60 and I look back to my 40-year-old self, I’ll have all sorts of new lessons learned, wisdom gained and priceless moments on my heart & mind to share with you.
Until then, keep being you.
Shine on, sweet girl.