“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.
Hall B, Room 15.
You memorized the middle school counselor’s office before you could remember your class schedule. Tears are familiar on the cheeks of your best friends and stained on the sleeve of your white uniform polo. Their tears, during the day. Yours, at night.
The weight of the people you love felt like too much for a 13-year-old to handle. You aren’t meant to carry it on your own.
“Is the world ending again?” your science teacher would ask when you walk into class with bloodshot eyes and your arm, a shield against the world, wrapped around your best friend.
You’ll muster up a laugh and shrug off the stinging sarcasm, but your world does feel like it’s ending. Navigating friendships, boys and a seven-class schedule are given challenges in middle school. Did he really think that was all it was? How ignorant, you think, having just left the counselor’s office with a friend battling severe depression.
You feel more mature than a seventh grader ought to. You think you have the world figured out, but I urge you to let humility forge a path.
The summer after 7th grade feels like a long awaited exhale and brings hopes of lightheartedness of youth that has been stomped out. When your parents ask you to skip cheer camp for a trip abroad, you will protest.
I already know the world, you think, but you have not yet seen its beauty. Do not become jaded by life’s harsh realities. There is so much richness you have yet to discover.
Do not become jaded by life’s harsh realities. There is so much richness you have yet to discover.
Your parents are ushering you toward the beauty, taking you by the shoulders and spinning you 180 degrees and begging you not to shut your eyes to the possibility of more. Cheer camp and pool parties are not the best the world has to offer you.
This trip to Israel will unlock something in you. As you walk across cobblestone roads that the heroes of your faith did, something deep in your soul stirs. The same feeling greets you early one morning as the sun rises over the Sea of Galilee. You find it again in the dinner conversation with a local over falafel and in Jerusalem, as religion and culture claim their spots at every corner.
You are enamored by the swirl of languages being spoken around you and the swarming market streets. You are taken aback by life on the other side of the globe, humbled by how little you know.
When you are wrong, learn to admit it. You only knew the smallness of your own life, but you had yet to unravel what travel had to offer. You do not know the world. Fall in love with this reality. Take the posture of a student and remain in it always.
You do not know the world. Fall in love with this reality. Take the posture of a student and remain in it always.
Soon you will learn the way of peace from hostel owners in a Costa Rican surf town and hospitality from a mother in a rural Romanian region. A jeweler in Greece will teach you the importance of slow rhythms and a professor in Hungary will present a worldview of practicality and realism.
Slow down long enough to be in awe of rich culture and new faces. Ask thoughtful questions. Then, listen well. Assume everyone can teach you something.
When life begins to feel heavy or monotony sneaks in, recall Life Magazine’s motto in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:” “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind the walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”
Press in. Stay curious. There is still so much to see. May life be your eternal teacher.
What advice would you give to your younger self knowing what you know now? What is one thing you are grateful for that comes with time?
Image via Judith Sayrach