“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.
Dear 9-Year-Old Me,
Three decades have passed since I stood in your L.A. Gear high tops, but it feels like just a breath ago. In fact, not a day goes by that you don’t lurk somewhere on the fringe of my awareness.
So far, you’ve enjoyed the sweet, unhampered confidence of childhood. A BMX bike and a cul-de-sac, a cassette and a boom box, a book and a quiet afternoon. These are all the gifts you’ve ever wanted or needed.
But you already sense that’s changing, don’t you? At school, girls talk about what to wear and how to behave. They no longer play freely with boys like they used to. Right now, genders align in their own awkward hierarchies, each person measured on an opaque scale of worthiness. You’ve begun to wonder how you size up.
Soon, you’ll have to endure sex ed. The word “maturation” will come up a lot. Right now, using a tampon, shaving your armpits and french kissing feel as probable as flying a rocket to Mars, but you will, indeed, do all of those things.
A little later, you will face temptation to treat your body as currency. You will ponder whether it is your greatest asset or your greatest liability. You will catch your reflection in a shop window and question absolutely everything.
You will face temptation to treat your body as currency. You will ponder whether it is your greatest asset or your greatest liability.
I want to grab you by the shoulders at this very moment, when you stand at the intersection of innocence and experience. Because here’s the thing, younger self. Your body is powerful, wise and worthy of your care, but it will only ever be a counterfeit for the real you.
Your body is powerful, wise and worthy of your care.
The real you cannot be contained inside skin. Skin fades. It inevitably becomes puckered and crinkly and loose (as does the rest of your body, spoiler alert), but the real you will never pale or go slack unless you allow it.
In this life, when you find yourself wrapped inside the obsession of appearances, remember that bicycles, boom boxes and books will always bring you back to your senses. Call up the hours you once spent looking at sand and leaves through the lens of a microscope in your bedroom. Revisit petting a puppy in the shade of a wide-open afternoon, placing your cheek against her velveteen ears. Remember the scent of bread toasting or the sound of fireworks fizzling overhead. Recall linking arms with a friend? Particularly one from very different circumstances than yours. Return to these kernels not because they are nice ideas, but because they are necessary to your very survival.
Adolescence and adulthood are coming like a hurricane. They will tell you you’re only as good as your last dress size, relationship, opinion, purchase or accomplishment. But here, right now, you know better than that. Attend to your essence, and the rest will fall into place.
How have you dealt with the transition of growing up? What advice do you have for your younger self?
Images via Koury Angelo, Model Lauren Scruggs, Darling Issue3