Sitting on the deck with my daughters and listening to their teenage conversation, I can’t help but recall my mindset when I was their age. Old enough to make most of their own decisions, young enough to bear little responsibility for the consequences.
I laugh along with them, appreciating where they are in their young, potential-filled lives. They’re so much smarter and freer than I was as a teenager. So as we sit in the warm sun, talking and awaiting burgers from the grill, I quietly compose a letter to my younger self.
Hey Little Sis,
I’m writing to you from your future, with messages that I hope will give you insight and comfort knowing that you’ll do just fine in life.
This is partly because your parents instilled solid work ethics. You’re going to have a career that’s very fulfilling. When you first graduate from college you won’t be sure what you want to do with your psychology degree. (You may even get a job at the mall, much to the chagrin of your parents.) But within a couple of years you figure it out and you start heading down the road toward the corner office as a marketing executive. You will be very good at it but more importantly, you will love it. And that love of career (plus some hard work and growing up) will fuel your career.
Along the way you’ll find that you don’t need a million friends, just a few very good ones. You will develop bonds with women over the years and they will become your sisters. You’ll share your lives either in person or across the miles. These women will become unforgettable and have an influence in your life that right now is impossible for you to imagine. Just know that when you first meet them it will be impossible to know how long they will be in your life, how often you will lean on one another, or how much you will love them.
You will always be close with your parents but when they are no longer here you won’t be prepared. Take every moment to sit with them and talk with them and learn about their journeys. They had lives before you and until you understand that you will never truly know who they were. Both born in the south in the early 20th century, they navigated through an America that wasn’t always kind to Black people. And college degrees and a life in the suburbs didn’t make them immune from the negative racial experiences seen all too often in our society. Still, they were amazing in so many ways and you are so fortunate to have gotten much of their spirit, they’re good humor and their intelligence. You will grow up to have your mother’s patience and a little bit of your dad’s attitude. And you’ll add to those characteristics as you become the person you were meant to be.
When you least expect it, when you’re not even looking for it, you will meet a man and fall in love. You will know that he will be part of your future. He will be kind, funny and he will soon become the other half of you. He will be the father of your daughters and he will be your best friend. Your life with him will be wonderful, though not always easy. And it is through those trying times when you will realize that you truly belong with this person.
Through him, you will meet two people who will forever change who you are. These will be your daughters. The day before your first born arrives, you are a completely different person than the day after. These girls will try you in ways you cannot imagine and you will love them with a depth that currently is beyond your capacity. You will stay up late worrying about them and their futures. You will celebrate big and small milestones with them, and ultimately you will be incredibly proud of the young women they become. They will open your eyes and challenge your viewpoint, as every good teenager should. They will frustrate you and make you crazy. They will come to you in tears and your heart will break with theirs, as you do everything possible to comfort them. They will be part of the next generation that will improve our country and our world. They will be the most important things in your life.
You’re not going to believe this right now, but high school doesn’t last forever. Sure, it’s fun, but you spend many more years as an adult that you do as a child or teenager. So don’t take things too seriously. Work hard but make sure you have time for fun. Ignore those who are mean to you or others; you won’t care about them in 5 years. Don’t let anyone steal your job. Be in the moment when you can, because moments don’t last forever.
Most importantly, remember to believe in yourself and your own path. You are a smart girl with a great heart and a bright future. However, like many young women in our society, you will spend too much time in your twenties worrying about what others think. Soon enough you will learn to trust yourself and your own instincts as they help drive you toward the future that is already yours. When you stumble or face adversity, know that experiences along the way are just preparing you for the next thing. Learn from those experiences and take them with you as tools for the future.
I should sign off now before I say too much. I don’t want to ruin the many surprises that you’ll have in years to come. Just remember to think about me as you make decisions, since some may have unforeseen impact on us. And one day, when you get here, you’ll look back fondly on who you were and who you’ve become.
Until then, I am sending hugs and a deep supportive love to you across this temporal plane. I know you will feel it and I hope you use it when you need it most. See you soon.
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