I spent an hour writing out some sort of emotional disclaimer for this post. Why I’m writing it, what led to it, why I think it’s a great idea–basically a bunch of excuses as to why it’s ok to want to talk to your younger self.
I deleted it. I don’t need a reason to write to myself 15 years ago. I’m just going to do it. Here’s the letter I wish I had been sent by Older Heather, the 30-year-old version.
Dear Younger Self,
I’m not writing this letter to you so that you’ll change any of the things that happen to us. I’m writing this letter so that I let you know that at least until you’re 30, you’re still alive, well, and you’ve learned a lot more than I could ever explain in this letter. I just want you to be sure of yourself for the next 15 years because doubt can really tear you apart and you have a lot to take care of in the next two decades. Yes, decades. You’re going to be old. (And for the record, being 30 is great. Remember that.)
You won’t believe much of what I have to say to you unless I can prove that I’m Older You. Ok, how about this? You’re in 9th grade right now and you’re really hateful and petrified of figuring out this thing called high school because you have hair like a clown and you have not been introduced to hair gel yet and I need you to stop brushing our curly hair with a wire brush. I know you want straight, brown hair, but you don’t, really. I promise. And stop worry about your braces and glasses. Your braces come off Junior Year and you get contacts soon. Junior year you also learn how to use hair gel. It’s a huge year for you. No, you won’t be any taller. I hate to break it to you, but you’ve already maxed out–so when people start telling you this year not to drink coffee, ignore them. It doesn’t matter.
Another thing. Don’t trust the safe our parents put in our room this year. Really soon they’re going to wonder what you have to hide and so they’ll have a big surprise for you one day after school. They will have put a safe in your wall “Just for you, so that you can keep all your private and important stuff in there. And here’s the only key.” Yeah, it’s not the only key. They have the other one and they use it. So don’t use the safe and we’ll be fine. If you choose to ignore me, I know what you put in that safe and it gets you grounded for a month. And you have to flush it. All of it. In front of them. So just do what I tell you. Give them back their key and keep a mental note that the safe trick isn’t the only spy tactic they use in the next five years. Good luck, they are really sneaky.
And lastly, to prove I’m you…you know that boy you’re madly in love with? The really athletic one? The one that’s a constant prick to you? Yeah, he ends up being a car salesman. Don’t worry about it. Just ignore him. You win.
So yes, I know you, I told you so. Now I’ll tell you a few things that’ll help you along the way, because you’ll need a little help and reassurance from time to time.
We’re 30 now–old, right? We’re alive, well and living an unexpected life filled with love and travel and surprises and good fortune–for the most part. You won’t appreciate that now and you won’t believe me as you face obstacles on the way to 30, but it’s true. What’s also true, and it’s not a bullshit saying like I know you think it is. You love cynicism and you hate this line, but really, you won’t be dealt with more than you can handle. I don’t want you to change our path because 1. I don’t think we can and 2. I think everything that has happened to us has happened for a good reason, or maybe a terrible and unfair reason, but we don’t believe in changing fate and yes, we do believe in fate.
Other things we believe in and things you should know. Wishing on stars. Good things happen to good people and bad people choke in restaurants or get attacked by rabid squirrels. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat grilled cheese every day. Spitting is for rookies. The nice guy always finishes last so please date him… You’re going to grow up to be a weird version of mom and dad and I know, that’s worst case scenario right now but I promise, it’s really bizarre but also kind of nice but yes, you’re right, really fucking annoying at the same time. Katie and David are two of your best friends (I swear) so get used to that and stop beating them or letting them beat each other because you now believe you couldn’t live without (most of) our family. You hate guns and you give up Republicans in 2007. Hmmm, this might be a bit much.
Here’s some advice…
Keep your major in college, but don’t bother with the Arabic. You have no idea right now why you end up thinking it’ll be so important, but it will be. Don’t take it anyway. You never use it after college. Take German. I know, you think it’s an ugly language. It is. But you’ll need it. In real life you end up needing to speak it because you move there (I promise) and the Arabic really seems dreamy but ok, I’m going to be honest. You bombed the hell out of your GREs and you didn’t get into the Georgetown Arab Studies Program so don’t act irrational when the time comes and when you get to college, take German. Also, I know in 8th grade you picked “AIDS Activist” as your dream career choice but I have no idea what we were thinking. You don’t have AIDS and you don’t know anything about it and it’s kind of insulting to go around on your soap box on this one so I’ll give you another little hint. Stop listening to that hippie guidance counselor of yours and just know that all you want to do is write books. So take as many creative writing classes as mom and dad will pay for and write down every insane thing anyone ever says or does because later in life you will be dying to write about things you vaguely remember. Save those journals and start writing the truth in them. I know you’re paranoid that someone will read them so you write these awkward half-truths about people being “moody” when you meant wretched and vile and “he’s cute” means you want to know what he looks like in the boys locker room. Stop pussy footing around and write it all down.
Now, moving to DC after college was the best decision we’ll ever make. You meet some of the best friends you’ll ever have there and find yourself surrounded by people who don’t take themselves so seriously, or some do, but they all keep you young and somehow you find yourself there. It’s in DC where you learn not to settle and you find the person you’ve been looking for your whole life–or not looking for, because we weren’t, but we found him! The minute you meet him, and I’m not telling you where you’ll meet him, but I promise, you’ll know. You just will, I promise. (This will blow your mind. The, I don’t believe in stars aligning, people are meant for each other, bullshit? Well, that just goes right out the window, Younger me) I will tell you that the timing won’t seem right for a very long time and that you will think he will never love you back with the same amount of insanity and depth, but he does and the years of bad timing, dysfunction and shameless, drunken declarations of love (you kinda turn into a trainwreck one summer) will all be worth it. This is important to us at 30, so keep it in mind as you sort through the assholes and others from 15-20howeverolditiswhenyoumeethim. You won’t feel this way with anyone else you are with or meet, but please date them all the same, because they end up being really good practice and they teach you a whole lot about “who not to be” in a relationship and “what not to put up with (this part is fun)”.
Now some fun stuff. You end up living a life where you can travel the world so stop hating home so much and enjoy it while you can. Older us misses home and everyone there. You will one day realize that Maine is one of the most beautiful places on this earth–and we’ve been to 18 countries now–we know. You also end up liking onions and peas. Shocking, I know. You have met a few Presidents and a lot of politicians and I’m going to tell you right now that one day, the President is going to be African-American, you have met him and he is quite a looker (he works out), which you end up telling him, which is a great story. Another great story is the time you killed all of Mom’s exotic fish in a 60 gallon fish tank because you thought it was ok to let John Ricker pour beer in the fish tank, which you will never live down. That happens this year to us, 1995, so if you can, just don’t let him near the fish tank.
Now, there’s one last thing, and it’s probably the most important thing you’ll learn and I want you to be somewhat prepared. You will love people in your life and people will drive you out of your fucking mind. (We really grow to like swearing in our 20s) I need for you to love the people you love with every last ounce of passion you have and do not spend a second worrying about the people who are not worthy of your time. Don’t be scared or upset, but one day, you will lose someone you will never be able to replace. It will be the worst time in Our life, I’m sure of it, and every day you find yourself crying on the floor, or breaking something, or feeling this emotion called regret that you haven’t ever felt yet, I need you to remember something. As long as you can promise me that you’ll love every person that’s important to you with every drop of you, and that you live like you aren’t afraid of failure, or disappointment or being different, you will be ok. Bad things happen to good people. Life really isn’t fair. These things suck, but they are true and another thing you should remember, at 30, we really do end up believing we have a pretty nice life. And so just know that when things get really hard or stagnant or sad, as they sometimes do for everyone, don’t be scared and just remember something…You will overcome anything, because that’s just how it has to be.
Now, you’re probably really confused and excited and petrified and anxious. Ha. Sorry, don’t be. I just want you to enjoy the road to 30. Our road is paved with bad intentions and lots of great memories. You will laugh more than you cry and you will end up proud of who you are. Just do the best you can between now and the next 15 years, and we’ll be fine. 🙂
Good luck, Younger Me.
The Wise One