This weekend I celebrated my 32nd birthday and I have to say, it was my best birthday yet. In addition to my kids and husband, family from Boston, Chicago and Indiana were here too. I looked around more than a few times, surrounded by family and friends, and had to pinch myself. I was overwhelmed with thankfulness. The past me would’ve never thought I would have this much to be happy for.
I write a weekly interview series for Florida Today on a local mom who “does it all” and I ask similar questions every week. One of my favorite responses to read is the answer to this question:
What is one thing you would tell the “you” from 10 years ago?
The answers include everything from parenting lessons, to health warnings, to basic affirmations to enjoy every moment of life. As I looked around at my family, friends and neighbors this weekend I began to ask myself my own question: what would I tell the “past me” from 10 years ago?
I came up with some answers that surprised even myself.
But first, some background on the “past me” from 10 years ago. I was turning 22 and entering my fifth year as a student at Ball State University. Many of my best college friends were graduating and I was feeling a little left behind. The past me had a serious boyfriend who I had been with for over a year. I was pretty sure after we both graduated the following summer, we would be engaged. I had no idea what sort of job I’d look for after graduation or where I’d live. I had a lot of anxiety.
Fast forward to today and wow, what a difference a decade makes. If I could knock on the apartment door of the 22-year-old me and give her some advice about living her life in the next 10 years, I’d include these points:
What’d I’d Tell The Past Me
Don’t try so hard. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone but yourself. Stop trying to be everything to everyone and focus more on your life and your goals. Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to step on toes. Be yourself. Stop bleaching your hair and whitening your teeth. You are inherently beautiful — let it shine through.
But try harder at some things. Worry less about how you will pay your next electric bill and more on who you are as a person and professional. Write every day — even on the days when you don’t feel like you have it in you. Your ideas aren’t silly or stupid. You have a unique voice. Hone your craft.
Write every day. Am I repeating myself? You still won’t have that first novel published in a decade but you’ll be well on your way. Don’t look for inspiration from afar; write about your own life — the mundane, the terrifying, and the incredible. Don’t hide from the truths about you that aren’t flattering. Share them with the world. Someone out there reading it will find it inspiring, and that, young lady, is the mark of an authentic writer.
Stop tanning. Wear sunscreen. Don’t lay out. Stay. Away. From. Tanning. Beds. !!!
Pay attention to your gut. When an authority figure, like a boss, asks you to work more hours than you are paid to work or you aren’t sure if you should start a cross-country trek alone in your car during a torrential downpour, listen to that little voice that says: stop being stupid. Your intuition is a powerful possession. Use it.
Stop forcing your “happily ever after.” Stop focusing on what the man of your dreams will look like and more on how he will make you feel. If you feel like finding harmony in your romantic relationship is an uphill battle, every single day, it’s time to move on and free yourself to find your perfect match. **P.S. – The man of your dreams WILL come and not because of anything you change about yourself, or compromises you make.**
Call your parents more often. They love you. They are getting older (so are you). After many years of wandering the map, you will finally discover that the people who love and support you unconditionally still live in that Indiana town you were quick to flee. Don’t assume you can catch up later on. Call them now, today, this minute — and never shut them out.
Be confident. Fake it until you make it. So what if you don’t have a Ph.D. in everything? You have inherent talents that simply cannot be taught. Reach higher than you should. Knock on 100 doors until one cracks open just wide enough that you can jam your foot in it. Stop apologizing.
Get ready, mama. Hey, you from 10 years ago, are you sitting down? Pull up a chair. What if I told you that within the next decade you will become a mother to four — with one more on the way? Your mind is probably blown, right? If it helps, you will only have to go through pregnancy three times to get to that number. The other two will come to you ready-made and sleeping through the night. What’s that? Oh no, you won’t marry the father of your oldest daughter (she’s a sweetie, by the way). Oh yes, you will marry a divorcee. It all sounds preposterous right now, especially since you are hell-bent on marrying your current boyfriend. But as crazy as it may seem to you now, it will be so beautiful, so comfortable, so perfect to you once it all comes into play. Get ready, mama, for the adventure of a lifetime.
You will be a great mother. Your college cooking skills of boiling pasta and opening a jar of sauce won’t really improve, and your closet will still look like a tornado hit it every day — but despite this, you will be a dynamite mom, and stepmom. Despite your frustrations with your little ones, and with yourself, a stranger will stop you on the street one day (with all those kids in tow) and tell you that she sees you walk past her house every day and that she is always impressed with your control, patience and love for your little ones. You will resolve that moment to never doubt your skills as a parent and take solace knowing that on the really tough days, love really is enough.
These are just some things I’d tell the past me. What would you tell yourself from 10 years ago if you could?
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