I was on Pinterest this morning and came across a pin for “journal prompts”. One was- write a letter to your high school self. Wow. As I thought about that, and thought about how far I had come, I knew I needed to do this. My high school self. She was scared. She was lonely. She was afraid of the future and not terribly confident in herself. Here’s what I would write to her......
Use your voice. YOU are powerful beyond your beliefs. You are smart and kind and funny and it does not matter that you are poor. It doesn’t matter that your mom is mentally ill and struggles with life so much; it's silly to be embarrassed by this. Everyone is embarrassed by their parents at some point. Do what you can to love her and others just right where they are in this moment.
You don’t need to put on a show. You don’t need to be anything other than what you are. Live in your strength. (Lao Tzu). I wish I had known about the Tao then. I wish I had been more well read and more enlightened. But this is all a part of your path. The hard work you are learning to do now will pay off in so many ways. You will find that this work ethic you are developing will take you far and wide. Get out! Get out of this small town, out of this state, yet appreciate the grounding it has given you. Appreciate your wonderful family - the aunts and uncles and cousins, and even your crazy yet lovable mom. She has given much for you.
As you look around at your friends or acquaintances, don’t compare yourself to them. You are walking your own path, they are walking theirs; neither is better or worse or easier or more difficult. We are all fighting hard battles. Love everyone in your path. Accept the differences; no, not accept - WELCOME the differences. Embrace it all. You will learn from your mistakes. You will learn from the differences. You will encounter situations you can’t even believe. You will be asked to make decisions with little information, but if you believe in yourself, it will be the right decision. Even if it hurts. Even if it feels wrong in the moment; it’s your path, it can’t be wrong.
Let go of the boyfriend - he is a crutch. Meet new people, expand your horizons, don’t be afraid. I see so many of the decisions you made during that time were fear based - jump hard off that cliff; let the fear surround you and then disappear as you face it head on.
Don’t be afraid to say what you think and to form your own opinions. Use YOUR voice, not the voice of others, and don’t take on other’s beliefs as your own. At the same time, know that other people will believe differently than you. Accept it. It’s what makes the world go round. It’s what makes life interesting.
OH - and life will be soooooo damn interesting. Take the chance. TRAVEL. Travel big. Travel a lot. Travel to the point that people say - wow, how do you travel so much? Are you ever home? And on these travels (some solo - some with friends)….meet people. Ask questions. Dig deep into what makes other people tick and discover what they feel. Through understanding and acceptance comes love. On your travels, take photos, but enjoy the moments. don’t be so wrapped up in capturing the moment that you miss the moment. Know that all of these experiences are fleeting yet are building the foundation for who you are.
Work hard in school. Learn everything that you can. Listen in class. Take good notes. Absorb. Try to always look at the big picture…how what you are learning fits into your reality. Take your grades seriously and reach for the stars. Don’t settle for what is easy; reach for what is hard.
Ask for help. All of the time, ask for help. Don’t be afraid to look dumb. Don’t think you need to know everything; you should know very little right now, yet be open to learning from those with more experience and wisdom. Roll ideas around on your tongue and in your brain. Keep what you like, throw away the rest.
You are going to grow and change and you will not be the same person next year. Or the year after. Or in a decade. Thank goodness. So know that whatever you see as truth in this moment WILL change.
You will love so many people! But none will be real unless you love YOU first. You must accept your light and your dark and know that you are fallible and wonderful and kind and mean and beautiful and ugly and just plain human. You are better than no one, you are worse than no one. Don’t judge. Accept. Mostly accept yourself.
Make sure when you love, that they are worthy of your love. Don’t love to just say you’ve been in love. Love because it’s real. Love because you see in the other person things that make you feel strong and good. Love because you’re better when you’re loving. Love should never make you feel insecure or question your own mind and heart. It shouldn’t feel angry or jealous. It shouldn’t be scary or painful. It should feel like calm excitement. It should feel like you can be YOU. It should feel like you can shine as bright as you are. You can show it all. And when it ends, as it will, you will still be you. You will still love you. You won’t be defined by the love or the loss of that love. But it will have imprinted your soul. It will be with you always. It will guide you in the future. It will set a benchmark of what you want and don’t want, need and don’t need.
Be YOU. Don’t be what other people want you to be or tell you to be. Embrace that powerful, wonderful you that is. Listen to your heart; it will never steer you in the wrong direction. Your mind, on the other hand, often will steer you wrong. Overthinking is a killer of the heart.
Aim big…always. Do not make yourself small. Do not be afraid to say what you think. Do not be afraid of your own spirit.
Keep your mind and your heart OPEN. Open to every new experience that comes your way.
Whatever you think you know NOW…will change. Know that bad feelings are fleeting - don’t be afraid that a sad or bad moment will last forever. Without these bad moments, you cannot appreciate the love and the good moments. Ying and Yang. Many a bad decision based upon a feeling in the moment could be avoided by knowing that the feeling will pass. But it’s ok - the bad decisions, the good decisions, all of it. They make up YOU. They will make up your life experience and make you whole. Hug yourself every morning. Tell everyone around you that you love them if you do. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Don’t protect your heart; the protection will hurt it far more than FEELING anything will. After pain comes healing.
It will all be ok. No matter what. That’s the best advice to my high school self and my current day self. You will have a life of love and pain and love and friendship and love ahead of you. People will come and go from your life and have a profound impact upon you. Every last one of them. Every person that comes and goes from your life will change you. Notice them. The people. All of them. Know that even the ones that cause you pain are there to teach you a lesson. About yourself. About life. About love. About how to live better. How to love more. It’s what it’s all about.