I recently unearthed a letter my 16-year-old self wrote to my 30-year-old self. I’d told myself that at 30 I’d better have fulfilled some astronomical expectations. The future me should have had at least three best-selling novels on bookstore shelves.
The future me would wear high heels and expensive jewelry. The future me would sell movie scripts. The future me would live in a big city and have a perfect life.
The future me makes the current me feel a little dizzy.
I didn’t publish novel. I never moved to New York, and my life certainly isn’t perfect, but I’m no longer sure that I would have been happy with that future me.
You know the saying: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”? It’s true.
I couldn’t have designed the things that life threw at me after I wrote that letter — beautiful and wonderful and tragic adventures that were better than any written plot I could have developed.
If I could travel in time and step back to the day I wrote that letter, I would tell my 16-year-old self not to be so focused on work to the detriment of everything else. I would tell her to explore her hobbies beyond writing, to savor every moment with friends and family.
I would tell her not to stress about not having a romantic date for the prom. I’d tell her that it’s OK to not be skinny and pretty. You’ll meet a guy that cares more about you than your dress size. You’ll be happy to realize that this also happens to all of your friends.
I would tell my past self that life is so much better once you start loving yourself for who you are, not who the world says you should be. You will eventually get over the heartbreak you feel from breaking up with your first boyfriend. Someday you’ll see him again, and when you do, you’ll feel vaguely relieved that it went nowhere because you can now see that he was a jerk.
Teens have so many dreams and so many desires, especially in today’s world, where technology and social progress make virtually anything possible and where teens feel really stressed from exams, friends, relationships, homework and social pressures.
Work hard, but don’t cut yourself off from life. Keep your dreams in front of you while you walk the path and stay focused, but don’t be afraid to smell the roses, meander onto a side path or linger over a picnic now and again.