Last week my girlfriend sent me an article by Rene Syler, journalist and editor of goodenoughmother.com, posted on the The Huffington Post. Syler had received a Happy Birthday Tweet asking her what she ‘would have told her 28-year-old self knowing what she knows now.’ See her response here: Happy Birthday to Me!
This year I turn 29, about the age of Syler’s young-recipient. Reading her letter points out to me how little I know and how much I have still to grow. At the same time, it reminds me how much I have learned. My life has not only evolved since I turned 18, but it has taken a number of unexpected hairpin turns. I decided to
copy follow her lead and reflect on what I would have told myself.
Accounting is boring: Stop listening to your high school professors talk about how much money accountants make. He’s gonna win the lotto in a few years and, rumor has it, he quits his job. Find a career you’d still want to be a part of if you ever win the lotto. You’ll learn quickly that money isn’t your motivator.
Believe in your strength: Over the next few years you will be face with adversity that will at time feel crippling. You’ll feel weak, tired and ready to give up some days. This does not mean you are not strong; rather it means you are human. In ten years, you will have not only made it through, but you will have learned countless life-defining lessons — that is your strength. If you were weak, I wouldn’t be writing this.
Learn to listen: You invite and keep so many amazing people in your life. They all play a role, and a very important one at that. Cherish them, respect them, support them and listen to them. Everyone has something to teach you, and if you don’t stop and listen, you’re relationships will never grow.
Cut yourself some slack: You live a great life — wonderful family and friends; you find a career path you love and you live everyday to the fullest. When things aren’t 100% you focus on the positive and think, “Things aren’t so bad, it could be worse.” Allow yourself some self pity, occasionally — and react positively. Feeling down about an aspect of your life is the kind of motivation you need to further develop yourself in that area. Don’t feel bad about feeling bad.
Trust your intuition: Hindsight is 20/20 (but you don’t know what that means yet, and you’ll look up the word ‘hindsight’ a few more times before it sticks; it’s just one of those words). Over the years you’ll start to recognize an innate ability to understand situations and people without analyzing them, and you’ll get mad at yourself for not trusting your instincts in earlier situations. Don’t get mad. Part of intuition is letting it lead you through the good and the bad. Let the anger go and learn to listen and trust yourself. Everything happens for a reason.
Stop planning: After you graduate college you are going to tell your boyfriend that you plan on making partner in an accounting firm in XX years. Less than 6 months later you are going to apply to grad school. Two years after that you break up with said boy. Stop trying to plan, NOW! Just enjoy the ride. There is no much more to see when you aren’t focused on the road. (So cliche, but ehhhh.)
Slow down: Your to-do list is always going to be longer than most spoiled brats’ letters to Santa; the rush of work, projects and social events is what keeps you pumped. You live your life at the same speed you snowboard — fast. But when you do slow down, you take so much more in and learn a lot about yourself. Make a point to slow down and relax. Try really hard; you’ll still be struggling with it in ten years.
There are so many more things I want to say to you, but I am going to end with this one, possibly because its the most important:
Tell people how you feel: I don’t say (write) this with a dreary it-may-be-your-last-chance tone, I say it with a tearful smile. Knowing you have people in your life who care about you will bring more fulfillment than any trip, activity or amount of money. Knowing you are admired and cared for will bring you confidence. Knowing you are loved will increase your sense of self-worth. And knowing what people don’t like about you will keep you humble and striving. Give those you care about the same gift — tell them how you feel. It’s not easy for you and it’s going to be a long while before it gets easy, but keep trying, you’re worth it — and so are those you keep close.
Happy Birthday to Me! Thanks Rene Syler for offering such an inspiring column. I hope everyone takes the time to talk to themselves and give themselves a hand.
Oh, and one more thing Liz, write down everything… you’re going to need some good book fodder one day!