In a little over a week I will be the big two five. The other day my best friend and I were discussing things that we wish we could have told ourselves growing up based on what we know now. In honor of twenty-five and the person I am now compared to the person I was way back when (or yesterday), here are twenty-five things I would tell a younger version of me if I could – in letter form because I love to write letters:
- Don’t feel ashamed because you don’t like the things that everyone else likes.
I would love more than anything to tell first grade me that it’s okay that she wants the rainbow colored shoelaces instead of the pink ones that all the other girls wanted. It’s okay that you don’t even like the color pink. Don’t cry when some of the other girls in class make fun of you because you got the rainbow colored shoelaces. Instead string those bad boys through your dirty tennis shoes and skin your other knee playing tag with the boys. (You ruined the other one when your best friend was teaching you how to ride a bike and that scar will still be there at age 25.)
- A brain is a brain and a heart is a heart.
For the most part these things look exactly the same as any other person’s. Without the skin or gender wrapped around them there’s no way to tell them apart. They are still simply that: a brain and a heart. Remember that when someone is different than you in any way. Underneath it all, they’re really not at all.
- Don’t let others cause you to feel bad about who you are.
When you’re the first one in your class who learns to read and you are so excited and proud of yourself and your teacher asks you to read a few pages of a book to the class… Continue to be happy with yourself. When the other kids laugh at you and tease you just try and smile. Keep escaping to the places the books take you. When some “friends” bully you on the internet in high school and post poorly photoshopped photos of you with terrible names don’t let that destroy you the way it did for years to come. Please don’t let those responsible have any say in your self-worth or the way that you trust others. That damage will be something you never really get over. You are not the person they tried to make you out to be.
- Ask for help and accept help.
When the people who care about you see you struggling and try to help you, let them. Don’t push them away. You’re strong but sometimes you need people to make it to the other side. The people who care about you want to help you and will help you when you need it. You just have to ask and allow them.
- Treat yourself the way you treat your best friend.
You would never let someone treat your best friend(s) badly or let them feel badly about themselves. Do yourself the same honor. Stand up for yourself. Be honest with yourself. And never let yourself feel ugly or fat or unworthy. Think about how you react when someone makes your best friend feel bad about herself. Now show that same loyalty and love for you.
- Always be kinder than necessary.
Especially when the other person isn’t being kind at all.
- Try really hard to see things from the other person’s point of view.
You never know what’s happened in someone’s life or what is currently happening. The girl behind the counter at Marble Slap who you thought was being rude might have just found out her dad has cancer. The man driving at a snail’s pace in front of you might be driving his car for the last time before he has to report to a nursing home. The point is, you don’t know another person’s struggles just like they don’t know yours.
- Learn to be a morning person.
Like as soon as possible. I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds. And yes, if you’re wondering, we still struggling with this sometimes.
- Be honest with yourself about your mental health.
When you first start having thoughts and feeling things that scare you – get help. Don’t be afraid. I know it’s scary but it gets easier once you have a name for it. You’re going to wait way too many years, don’t do that. When you first know something is wrong with you in middle school talk to someone. You’re going to struggle for a lot longer and come out on the other side with a lot more scars that you could have avoided. So take a deep breath and tell someone these scary thoughts and feelings. It won’t make you any less of a person and won’t make the people who care about you love you any less.
- Don’t surround yourself with people you constantly feel like you need to impress.
Before you found girlfriends who loved to read as much as you did and play in the woods you were constantly trying to be someone that you weren’t. In elementary school you will meet a blonde girl who lives down the street and loves to read and doesn’t think it’s weird to pretend you’re fairies or secret agents or mermaids. You will also meet another girl who to this day believes you both saw the headless horseman. Another girl who’s a little (a lot) taller than you whose old house becomes a playground complete with a dungeon and a ghost. There will be girls younger than you who are still more like sisters to you than friends. You don’t see it in fifth grade when you aren’t invited to a birthday party or in middle school when it was your day to receive the silent treatment. But I promise you those are your real friends. They will be the ones who are always home to you. Don’t worry about impressing the people who make fun of you or leave you out. Worry about the girls who keep you in the sunshine and nurture your imagination.
- Be honest with the people in your life.
Especially when you’re most afraid to. That’s when it’s the most important. When your roommate asks you about your job, don’t hide it from her. She cares about you and wants to help you. Keeping things from the people who care about you only put a bigger weight on you and a distance between you and them. Remember how good it feels when you finally tell someone what you’ve been keeping from them. When you’re upset with your boyfriend about something tell him. Don’t try and brush it off. Be honest when you’re deciding whether or not to do something. If it’s something you wouldn’t want the people closest to you to know about – don’t do it.
- Just because someone has different opinions than you doesn’t mean either of you is better.
You will go through a time period when you think you’re better than other people because you don’t drink or smoke or curse. You’re not. You would love nothing more than to be hanging out with them but you’re scared of getting caught. Which will probably save you some trouble but make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Make sure everything that you do is for the right reasons and not solely for appearances.
- Don’t make others feel ashamed because they have different opinions than you.
No one is going to have views that line up exactly with yours. People aren’t going to agree with your point-of-view and you’re not going to agree with their point-of-view. But that doesn’t mean one of you is wrong or one of you is right.
- Don’t bash others (especially other women) because of who they are or how they look.
Listen, the slut shaming, fat shaming, skinny shaming, stay at home mom shaming, career woman shaming, etc. etc. etc. has got to stop. Who cares how someone dresses or how they choose to use their bodies or if they choose to have a career or just take care of their children? As long as they are happy, that’s all that matters.
- Don’t bash anyone or anything in an attempt to make you look better.
Promote yourself but don’t do it at the expense of others. This is only detrimental to you and your views if all you do is try and make others look bad or put down their views.
- Sometimes people won’t understand.
It doesn’t matter how much they try or how much you try, they just won’t. Be it because they haven’t experienced what you’re going through or they just can’t see things from that perspective… it’s okay. It doesn’t mean they are bad people or that you are a bad person.
- Your boyfriend is not your best friend.
Sure he might be one of your best friends but he is not your best friend. The ones who there helped you construct the perfect response to his “what’s up” text is your best friend. The one who held you as you cried when the guy you liked suddenly started ignoring you is your best friend. The one who told you to get it together and stop moping around because you felt fat is your best friend. Your boyfriend, regardless of how much you love him and he loves you, is not your best friend. Your best friends are very important. Don’t cast them aside. Always make time for your friends.
- Most things are out of your control.
There aren’t many things that happen that you have control over. Instead of focusing on the things you can’t control or change, focus on the ones you can. Like getting out of bed in the morning. Let yourself off the hook. There was nothing you could have done to change the fact that the first boy you loved lost his life while driving drunk. There is nothing you can do to control a rumor that was started about you. You’re giving yourself way more credit than you deserve regarding your influence in fate or destiny. Let it go.
- Choose your battles wisely.
You have a temper. Especially when something or someone you care about is threatened. Learn to pick which are worth fighting. Don’t let your anger blind you into being hateful. Learn when to take a deep breath and walk it off and when to speak your mind. Kenny Rogers said it best when he said “know when to walk away.”
- It’s okay to mess up.
Everyone does. Apologize if your mistake hurts someone and try and fix it if you can. Don’t hide yourself away or refuse to do things simply because you could fail or you have failed in the past.
- It’s okay to be “weak.”
When your friends go behind your back senior year and message your mom to say they’re worried about you – don’t be angry with them. And don’t be angry with your mom. It’s because they care about you. Everyone can see that you’re struggling so just admit that you are. Don’t try and put on a front. Stop running to the wrong people and places to hide. It’s only putting off the inevitable and will only cause you more damage in the end. Instead of being angry admit that you need their help. You also owe them a huge hug for putting up with you.
- Stop trying to convince people to be in your life.
It doesn’t matter what you say or do, if someone doesn’t want to be in your life there’s nothing you can do to make them stay. Stop wasting your time trying to make someone see that you’re worthy of their time. Your worthiness has nothing to do with what another person deems as important or unimportant.
- Wear what you want to wear and what makes you feel good.
Most of the time this will be a tshirt and gym shorts. That’s perfectly fine. Don’t worry about what everyone else is wearing. If you’re not wearing something you feel good in then you’re not going to look good in it.
- Show up.
Get up for class. Actually, just go to class in general. I know it’s a nice day and your friends are all hanging out but you can give up at most an hour and a half to show up. Go to work. I know you hate it. I know you’re having a rough episode of depression but that’s not an excuse your boss is going to buy. I know you don’t like your job but you need money. Show up for that thing you told your friend you would go to with her. Sure she’ll forgive you but you will lose credibility in the future. With that being said…
- Stop hanging out with people who don’t make you feel good about yourself and going to places that you don’t like to go.
You have the freedom to choose who you spend your valuable time with and where. Don’t waste it on people that you’re not excited to see or places you’re not excited to go. It’s always more fulfilling to spend some quality alone time with yourself than to spend time with a group of people you don’t want to be around in a place you don’t want to be. Be conscientious with your time.
I love you. You’re going to be alright. And remember – Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll.