Long before the hash tag, long before the meme, and long before I was old enough to have much to look back on, I wondered what I might say if I could either talk to, or write a letter to my younger self. Oddly—or maybe not so oddly—my message has moved away from telling myself those things young people want so badly to believe about themselves—that I’m special or limitless or a magical soul. These days, my message is about seizing opportunities, and not blowing them just as they begin to come to fruition.
The self-destructive personality is cursed by past battles waged upon it by childhood abuse and teenage traumas.
In late September I will turn 64. Ah, that magical age immortalized by Paul McCartney!
When I get older, losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine,
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three,
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me?
Will you still feed me when I’m 64?
It seemed so far away back in 1967. We had our whole lives ahead of us; many of us weren’t even out of our parents’ house. It was easy to giggle and find the age of 64 so endearing. I mean, Paul made it seem so damned cute, something to really look forward to. I don’t know about you, but when I was 16 and tried to peer 48 years into my future, I saw an entirely different person, someone whom I couldn’t recognize as myself. Certainly, when we get old we must become someone else. How little I knew. I didn’t know that the person we are inside stops aging at a certain point regardless of what the body’s up to. When I’m feeling good, I’m still about 30. It’s only when I look into a mirror, or absently catch my reflection in a storefront window that I gasp. Who is that old woman? Is that my mother? Worse, is that my grandmother?
It’s not that I mind aging; it’s actually great in a lot of ways. Where I once was obsessed with people’s opinions of me, I no longer give a rat’s ass. Did I burn you in the past? Get over it! Life’s too short to carry that crap sack around. Do you think I’m a failure because all of my dreams didn’t come true? Screw you! You don’t know me and all I’ve surmounted in this life. You don’t like my Crocs? Bite me! I don’t remember asking your opinion in the first place.
So what would I tell my younger self? Just this:
“Don’t take your youth, energy and passion for granted.
Create opportunities and then tackle them to the ground.
Forgive your friends, but don’t suffer fools.
Don’t rush into the job/marriage/kids trap until you’ve traveled a bit,
seen some of this planet,
and have met a lot—a lot—of romantic candidates.
Always, always trust your instincts,
follow your heart,
and run like hell from people who try to
tell you this inner GPS isn’t to be trusted.
Meantime, gobble life.
Savor every bite and let the juice run down your chin.”
I actually followed most of this advice and I’ll never regret it. I should have paid more attention to the opportunities bit, but there’s always next time.