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Well, here I am, just a few hours left until I say goodbye to my 30’s. I’m almost 40 years old. When did this even happen? I’m barely willing to acknowledge that I’m a grown-up, let alone a 40-year-old one. I can’t even.
One of the best blog posts I’ve ever read (and you know I’ve read a LOT of them) was written by my friend Andy on the occasion of his 41st birthday. He wrote a letter to his 21-year-old self. It was beautiful, touching, funny…the kind of post I wish I’d written myself. (To add a little bit of fun context to Andy’s post, I was that 21-year-old’s girlfriend. Hee.)
Anyway, it made me wonder what I’d say to my 21-year-old self, if given the opportunity. I think it would go something like this.
Don’t freak out, but it’s me. I mean it’s you. Wait – that doesn’t sound right either. Whatever. Call me/you/us what you want. The point is that I’m your future self, I’m writing to you from 2014, and we’re about to turn 40. (I know, right?)
No need to worry (yeah, we still do that a lot). I’m not here to bring you instructions for stopping an alien invasion or anything. We don’t have aliens on earth (at least not that I know of) in 2014. We still don’t have flying cars either. But you might want to think twice about investing in a new VCR.
You’re healthy and you have a great life and a beautiful family. Bonus – you’re still pretty hot. (And modest! So very modest.)
The path getting here won’t always be smooth. You’ll be thrown some curveballs – granted, most of them you’ll throw at yourself. And as much as I’d love to tell you when and where to duck, I know that going through hard times, loving the wrong people, and making poor decisions – that’s what makes us who we are today – which is a person who, for the most part, you’re going to like.
Don’t let me scare you, by the way. We have lots of good times too. Lots & lots of them. But you don’t really need me for those. You’re going to get through those just fine on your own.
There are a few things I want you to know. First – you are beautiful. I know you don’t always believe that, but I need you to trust me on this one. You’re not always going to have someone in your life who makes you feel beautiful, which is why you absolutely must learn to see it for yourself, the sooner the better.
You will love and be loved, though not always at the same time. You will have ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love. (That’s from a TV show that doesn’t exist yet.) You’ll also have your heart broken more than once. Sometimes more than once by the same person. (Actually, if I have my dates correct, you’ve got a nasty one coming up a few weeks from now. Brace yourself.)
There will be moments when it hurts so badly that you can barely breathe. You’re going to think that you’ll feel that way forever. That you’ll never love or be happy again. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re 100% wrong. Life goes on, and so will you. It might take time. Maybe a lot of time, or maybe less time than you think. But someday, whether it’s sooner or later, you’re going to be okay. So go ahead and cry. Throw away his things. Eat ice cream in bed. But then it’s time to suck it up, Buttercup. There are far better things ahead than any that you’ll leave behind. That’s a guarantee.
The thing is, it’s not always easy for us to see the truth about a person until they’re not in your life anymore. And throughout the next two decades, there will be some people who you let go of too easily and some who you hold on to for far too long. I’m not going to tell you who’s who –that would spoil the fun. But please just make sure you think long and hard before closing a door…or before reopening one that should stay closed.
Speaking of friendships, I thought you’d like to know that your two best friends will still be your very best girlfriends 19 years from now. Together the three of you will see each other through weddings, marriage, pregnancy, motherhood, divorce, dating, remarriage, step-parenting, careers, job loss, and a whole lot of other stuff that I won’t share in public. You all still have fabulous hair (no more bangs!) and great boobs. And also an inexplicable habit of talking about each other’s boobs a bit more than necessary.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of boobs. Wear a bra to bed. Not a push-up bra or anything – just a comfy sports bra. Just do it. I promise you’ll thank me someday.
Also – wear moisturizer and sunscreen every day. Pluck your eyebrows. Wake up and get your butt to class! Drink more water. And you might want to take advantage of the gym on campus every now and then. A little muscle tone wouldn’t hurt, you know. There’s a lot more to life than being skinny.
Don’t wait until your 30’s to find a good hair stylist. Those haircuts will be worth every penny, I swear. Take more naps. Be nicer to your sister. Listen to your parents. Write thank you notes and always send birthday cards on time. Appreciate the time you get to spend with your grandparents. Go out dancing as often as possible. After grad school, you’re going to go dancing exactly 4 times. Three of them will be for bachelorette parties. One of them will be your own.
Please, please travel. Someday you’ll have the opportunity to go to Israel – take it! Don’t let fear stop you. See the world now, because once you grow up and have a family, travel is going to take on a whole different meaning.
I’m not going to tell you to choose a different career path, because you’re going to be introduced to your future husband by a co-worker. But please put some serious thought into what you want to be when you grow up. You’re far too smart to plan your life around a boy, which I know you’re thinking of doing right now. News flash: that boy isn’t the person you marry. Neither is your next boyfriend. So plan your life around YOU – what you love to do, what you’re passionate about, and the kind of person you want to be when you’re 40 years old.
Oh, the stories I could tell you. But you need to live through them all on your own. And you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway. Just promise me that you’ll always try to remember that you don’t have to prove your worth to anyone. You’re already enough just the way you are.
Until we meet again,
You (age 40, almost)
p.s. You might want to think about taking up running. You never know – you might like it.
If you could, what would you tell your younger self? What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?