There is something to be said for gray hair (even when it’s been dyed blonde!) Perspective from years of living is a gift, but only if that gift is shared. The singing group, Mercy Me, has a beautiful, insightful song called “Dear Younger Me.” The title and the words of the song inspired me to write this letter to my younger self. Oh, what I would give to be able to go back and hear these words for myself, from the one who knows me best, decades earlier. Wouldn’t you? So here’s what I would like to say to my younger self, and I encourage you think about writing your younger self a similar letter – whether for your own benefit or to possibly share with others in the future.
I hope you will share this with your Teen…
Dear Younger Me,
There is so much I wish you knew during these teen years about what the rest of your life was going to be like. If you knew how much you were going to grow and change, I don’t think you would have been nearly as afraid of everything and everyone as you were. And your choices and decisions may have been different.
I remember how insecure and unnoticed you felt. Your whole world was wrapped up in yourself—wanting to blend in yet stand out; wanting to be noticed but deathly afraid of being put on the spot; wanting to be like everyone else, but wanting to be yourself as well. Your day could be euphoric by a boy talking to you, and then ruined when you saw him flirting with another. You would push aside the principles you were raised with in order to be included in what “everyone else” was doing. I would tell you to trust yourself and stand up for yourself, and not to let anyone take advantage of you or talk you into doing things you really didn’t want to do. I would tell you that the false bravery you felt from alcohol was exactly that, false! It didn’t change who you were or take away your fears and longings, it was simply a mask to the pain. I would tell you to talk to your parents about those fears and pain, because they knew and understood so much more than you thought they did. And if your parents are not accessible either physically or emotionally, look for another adult figure that you respect and admire their lives. I promise you, they will be thrilled that you are confiding in them.
I want you to know those long, agonizing years of high school are actually very short in comparison to the life ahead of you. Hours you spent pining over if someone liked you, or was mad at you, or if you were going to be included or left out, could have been so much more productive elsewhere. I want you to see yourself as God sees you since He created you. You were quiet, shy, introverted, and a book worm. Instead of fighting that, I wish you would have embraced all the positives – your quiet, calm makes you a good friend; your ability to listen vs. talking allows others to feel valued; your love of reading is going to lead to a life of never-ending learning, personal growth, and pleasure. People will be drawn to your kindness and thoughtfulness.
On the flip side, your fears that kept you from trying new things will handicap you throughout your adult life until you force yourself to not worry about being embarrassed and just try it. Yes, there are many things you will not enjoy but there are a lot that will surprise you. Join in on more activities that are outside your comfort zone. Don’t let fear keep you from going to camps and on mission trips and being open to adventure – so many of these events will help you to see the bigger world out there and keep from only focusing only on yourself. Don’t miss out on new experiences--you are going to go on and do things you never thought possible!
I would tell you to relax and enjoy these years. Look forward to each day and enjoy it as you will never have this little responsibility and free time again. I would tell you to appreciate your parents and all the hard work they do to provide a secure life for you. I would tell you to engage with your family more instead of hiding in your room; to talk to, listen, and be silly with your dad because he will be gone too soon; to join your mom in the kitchen and garden and in the household chores because it will be much more challenging to learn how to do these things when you’re out on your own. I would tell you to invite your sisters into your life instead of being annoyed by them and pushing them away—they want to be with you because they look up to you, and some day they will be your best friends when other friendships have faded away.
I would tell you to be aware of your habits; many of the negative habits you begin now will take a lot of work to change as an adult.
And finally, I would remind you to love and accept yourself. It is impossible to love others until you can love and accept yourself. Know that you have a long way to go but you are stronger than you know. Know that there are going to be some amazingly wonderful times ahead in your life. There will also be pain ahead – but don’t let it frighten you. It is what is going to help you grow into an amazing, Godly woman who will share her life with others to help them along the path as well. See yourself as the gift you are, and enjoy the ride!