A few weeks ago, a high school classmate of mine sent me a message. Her mom was an English teacher at my high school and when we were in her class, we wrote letters to our future selves. My classmate wanted my address so she could send me the letter I had written. We wrote the letters a few weeks before high school graduation for ourselves five years in the future.
It is now 20+ years in the future.
I told my classmate when I responded to her that while I was interested to read the letter, wouldn’t it be great if we could reverse the process and write a letter now to our high school selves instead? Oh the mistakes we may be able to avoid!
That got me thinking though. What would I tell my younger self? What lessons have I learned that I could pass on to her, if her stubborn self would listen?
So I decided to do just that. I wrote a letter to my younger self and it is below.
But First, That Letter from High School
Before I get started with the letter to my younger self, you may be wondering what the letter from high school said. It was full of typical teenage angst. I didn’t have a job for the summer yet so I was lamenting about that. I was also understandably nervous about going away to college in the fall and wondering what the future held for me. The thing that struck me the most was how neat my handwriting was back then. There is zero chance I could replicate that now.
A Letter To My Younger Self
Dear Younger Carmen,
Hello from June 2020. What a six months 2020 has been so far! I will spare you the details so you are surprised later on but get ready for a crazy time! Since I have a bit of time right now, I thought I would take some of it and write you a letter with a few pieces of advice for you as you get ready to set out on this crazy journey called life.
Start Traveling Now!
Travel is going to be one of your biggest passions so start planning and heading out as early as you can. Study abroad in college and use all of your paid time off to travel as much as you can afford from the moment you get your first job.
Traveling the world will open your mind and your heart. It will expose you to different cultures, different beliefs, different religions, different people and new ideas. You will be so glad to have these experiences and memories as you go through life.
Get Involved With Politics and Organizing
Trust me when I say politics are important. They matter at all levels – local, state and federal. Get involved! Register and always make sure to vote. Educate yourself! Learn about the candidates and where they stand on issues you care about. Make sure your voice is heard. Also, use that voice to lift up others who may not be as loud.
Get Your Master’s Degree
Definitely get your Master’s degree but be thoughtful about where you want to go in life versus what seems to make the most sense. With an undergrad degree in Accounting, an MBA is obviously the logical choice for a Master’s degree. But what if your passion is community development, helping people and trying to make the world a better place?
A degree in Public Policy may be the less obvious but better choice. You won’t ever regret any education but try to choose a path that better aligns with your vision for the future.
Don’t be Afraid to be Alone
I know you think your life’s journey will include a husband and kids but it may not work out that way. Date a lot when you are in your 20’s and 30’s. If you are still single in your 40’s, know you gave it your best shot and be at peace with a life you didn’t expect. There are lots of advantages. You can spend your money however you want, travel wherever your heart desires and sleep like a starfish every night.
Life Your Life
Be kind. Think before you respond. Help others without expecting anything in return. Recognize your privilege and the advantages it affords you every day. Use that privilege to make the world a more equal and just place for everyone.
Laugh. It really is the best medicine. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Forgive yourself more quickly. Hard work doesn’t always get you the results you want but it will teach you something. Find the lesson, pivot and move on.
Friends come and go. It is an inevitable part of life. Let go when it’s time but cherish the memories.
Mom and Dad are usually right, even if you still don’t want to admit that in your forties.
Since I am writing a letter to my younger self and can tell her whatever I want…
When you buy a place in 2017, make sure it is pandemic proof and has designated outdoor space. Fourteen weeks and counting of being cooped up inside is a LONG time. 🙂
With much love and immense pride for how far you have come so far,