As way of a little background, I reprint here a portion of an essay I wrote when I was 51 years old and my sons were 13 and 15 years old. The conclusion of the piece entitled “15 & 51” reads something like this: “I need to relax a little and lighten up on my kids. After all, who was I when I was 13 or 15 years old? ”
I was a pretty good kid at my core who was loved by my Mother and Dad.
I was scared and insecure and pretty and smart.
I made good friends and good grades when I wanted to. I made poor grades when I didn’t care.
I had great courage sometimes and great fear sometimes.
I made good choices sometimes and really stupid ones sometimes.
I broke my parents’ hearts a time or two, although I really didn’t set out to.
I put the needs of others before my own sometimes, and thought only of what I wanted sometimes.
I did dangerous things that could have got me killed or hurt or pregnant or sick, but I really didn’t see it that way at the time.
I didn’t see the big picture or plan ahead very far to set my future in motion according to some grand design.
I didn’t live up to my full potential, all the way, every day.
And still…I think I turned out OK.
So here I am at age 58 and this is a letter to my younger self.
Dear Mia or as I spelled it as a little girl “Miya”,
“How are you? I am fine.” I am still inclined to start my letters like you do. “How are you? I am fine.”
I want you to know all these years later, I really AM fine. I know from time to time you have your worries about how this will all turn out. I want you to know it’s been quite an adventure so far and it really has turned out even better than fine. I’m not sure whether or not you will pay any heed to this– probably not, come to think of it, knowing you — but never-the-less, here are a few tips that may prove helpful to circumvent some of those heartaches that lie ahead. However if you choose to ignore these little nuggets of wisdom from your seasoned self, I need you to know it’s still going to turn out just fine, so relax a little and enjoy the ride!
The one who will make the most trouble for you is the one looking back at you every morning as you blow dry your hair. No blaming anyone else for your predicaments. Own your own mis-steps and learn from them.
Get serious and stay serious about filling your heart with the things of God: the Bible, prayer, and community. These things will be your shelter in the storm and your bridge over troubled waters.
Rest assured your parents are giving you everything you need to make it: faith, love, a good work ethic, a sense of home, and the notion that you bring your own fun with you.
Don’t take it to heart when the mean girls don’t invite you to their parties. There are bigger fish to fry.
Don’t listen to those who tell you that you are dumb in math. It turns out you are not.
Use your fastest shoes and RUN from easy credit and easy men. They are both more trouble than they are worth.
Christopher Robin was speaking right to you when he said, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Grab these words and repeat them daily until you turn 30 — and then weekly thereafter.
Don’t be scared to step out. “If you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never get anywhere.” (This is probably the first time Bob Marley and Christopher Robin have been quoted in the same essay.)
Your dad is right … nothing good happens after midnight.
Begin to cultivate friendships with women sooner rather than later. They will sustain you. Plus they are loads of fun!
Relationships and money are, always have been, and always will be the two constants in the lives of all mankind. The more you learn about people and finance, the better off you’ll be. Start taking notes today.
If you have to stand on your head to make someone happy, all you’ll end up with is a big headache.
Spend less. Save more. Start now.
Treat each pound you gain like it is a one degree fever. It turns out that just two pounds a year equals 80 pounds by the time you go to your 40 year class reunion – which is this year btw!
Don’t underestimate those cookie-cutter suburban neighborhoods. Some of the most interesting people, living out their passions, making a big impact in this world, live there. You’ll want to be friends with them.
Expand your world view and embrace the vast experiences this life has to offer. Material possessions just wear out or break or fall out of fashion anyway. Owning stuff will never make you rich.
Pay attention to the stories the old ones tell even though they repeat themselves and drive you crazy. You might learn a thing or two without having to suffer the lesson yourself.
I cannot wait for you to meet your amazing husband and sons. You will be so surprised to see who they are! They will rock your world!
Do not fear the hard stuff that is inevitable. The weeks you will spend with your dying mother will count among the richest experiences of your life. The deep pain that comes from losing those you love will mysteriously cause you to tap into something profound in your soul — if you let it.
And most importantly, next time Grandma Tody comes over, climb up in her lap and give her a great big hug from me!
Love from the future,
Mia aka Miya