Dear 17-Year-Old Self
I am 34 years old. Looking back, I’ve done a lot of dumb stuff.
Made mistakes. Collected regrets.
Live and learn.
But if I could, what would I tell my 17-year-old self, now that I am twice that age?
Dear 17-Year-Old Self,
Stop worrying about how you look. You look great. You will come to accept your nose (most days) and you will learn to love your body (most days), even after you’ve used it to grow two babies. Even though it might not look as good as “before” kids, just knowing what it’s been through, especially when you look at your children, will make you love it even more. Eventually looks will become less important, and it’s liberating when that starts to happen. How you look is not nearly as important as how you act, treat others, and treat yourself.
Don’t freak out over not knowing what you want to be when you grow up. Everything will fall into place, even though you will become very impatient. Just keep persevering and try to have a positive attitude, even though that doesn’t come naturally to you. Don’t compare yourself to others. You’ll get there.
Don’t get a credit card. Ever.
Even though you are completely turned off by the idea of marriage and children, somewhere down the road the idea of both will appeal to you. Try not to become too jaded before this happens. Keep an open mind when it comes to these things. That way, when the opportunity presents itself, you won’t run for the hills. You will hang around to see what happens. When you find your gut telling you, ‘This is the one!’ don’t talk yourself out of it or convince yourself this can’t possibly be the right man for you because marriage isn’t for you. Don’t push him away or break his heart. He is the one. Let him love you.
Don’t use a tanning bed. Ever.
Don’t beat yourself up too badly after every night of blacked-out binge drinking. At the time, it will always feel like the end of the world. And sometimes you’ll think it really is. But trust me, this will all happen for a reason. If you don’t go through all this and finally hit rock bottom, you won’t end up with a story to tell. And a book deal. And in the end, you will have both.
Don’t smoke. Ever.
Stop being so afraid to face what you know deep down is true. You know something’s not quite “right” with you. You know you get unusually depressed for no apparent reason, and you know you become too happy sometimes. And it doesn’t make sense. You’ve felt this way for as long as you can remember, and you think maybe it’s just your personality. Except it gets worse and worse…more and more intense…more obvious. You’re just not ready to face it. You’re not comfortable or confident enough in yourself yet to admit this. Going to a psychiatrist at this age seems unfathomable. You think everyone will think you’re crazy. Forget about what they think. Help yourself as soon as you can. Because you definitely won’t care what they think in a few years anyway.
Break up with that douchebag you date in college long before 3 ½ years of your life go by.
Use protection. Except for the time when you get pregnant with Adele, because she will turn out to be the best thing to happen to you in life up until that point. So go ahead and play with fire there. But otherwise, use protection.
You’ve always wanted to live in a big city – New York, to be exact – but don’t get too bummed out if this dream never manifests. In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” You might end up worlds away from NYC, but you might also end up happier than you could ever possibly imagine. You will surprise yourself. Right now you can’t picture finding any solace being surrounded by cornfields…
Life has a funny way of working out.
Break it off with that other douchebag who strings you along for far too long. It hurts; it really hurts, but he doesn’t care about you. Another 3 ½ years of your life you’ll never get back.
When it comes to friends, you are a very trusting person. You trust people until they give you a reason not to. It sucks, but don’t be so trusting. Be a little guarded. You don’t need to throw everything out there to everyone. There will always be people who use it against you. People who you thought were friends. You’ll go through a lot of pretty horrible situations. But you will come out stronger on the other side. And you’ll learn something.
In general, don’t stress out. Try to relax. Let go. Enjoy life. Appreciate the moment. Dance more. Sing in the shower more. Be crazy. Don’t care about what they think. Have more confidence. Be open to love.