A Conversation with My Past Self

Sierra is fourteen. Each year as she gets older, I feel like she just gets more and more fun to be around. I love seeing the person she is becoming. She has always been so independent and driven, and it is awesome to see her further develop down her own path.

She still really just hangs with the boys. I don’t have a problem with it; I really like it actually. She’s happy, she’s surrounding herself with people with similar interests, and her crowd of young guys are really, really cool. There’s no drama and there’s lots and lots of laughter. I was the same way. I see a lot of my younger self and my friends in Sierra and her posse.

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I remember ninth grade and rampant puberty hormones. I remember the girls who “befriended” me just to get closer to the boys I hung out with that they were crushing on. I remember the girls who did not befriend me because I was just too much like the boys and was henceforth declared as “weird.”

You know what else I remember? I remember not giving a tinker’s damn.

I hope Sierra is the same. I hope that she develops such confidence and love within her group of friends that she doesn’t fall for the farce that can be pubescent female friendship or get depressed by the lack of acceptance from girls who don’t understand why someone would resist their drama. I think she will be. I think her guy friends will stand by her and they will help keep her strong against the current of female pressure that will begin to build against her. I know mine did.

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All of this reflection on my childhood and adolescence made me wonder…What would I tell my fourteen-year-old self? Also, to make it even better, I wondered what my fourteen-year-old self would tell me now?

I chose this age because it’s still young enough to be spunky and teenagery, but old enough to be developing opinions and thoughts on life. A good reflection point, wouldn’t you agree?

So, what would I tell my fourteen-year-old self? Here goes:

“Don’t listen to the critics. They don’t know you to the depths of your being. They don’t know your passions or your dreams or your strength with even the most basic level of understanding. You do. Listen to yourself. Always. As long as you follow your dreams (and, yes, they can and will change) you will never fail.”

“Continue on your path. It will get rocky. It will get narrow and treacherous and will wind you through darkness so impenetrable it feels like your eyes aren’t even open. It will rain, it will snow, it will hail. You will falter, you will fall, you will trip and you will land on your face. However, as long as you keep getting up, as long as you keep dusting yourself off,  and as long as you keep walking…you will find the sun again. Guaranteed.”

“Being independent doesn’t mean shutting others out. Being self-sufficient doesn’t mean you have to be alone. Being smart doesn’t mean others are not. Your strength in one area is countered by weakness in another, and that is a lifelong certainty. But you must always try to be better.”

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to wear heels. Chuck Taylors look good with everything.” (evidence of this truth below)

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Conversely, what would my fourteen-year-old self tell my current 37-year-old self? Here goes:

“Keep writing. Let your bold heart voice itself onto the pages and write. Send it to a publisher. Send it to another one and another one and another one if you need to. Let’s just see what happens. It might be great.”

“Remember yourself.”

“Wait-Josh?! That guy who was our partner in Business Law class? Are we awesome together? I bet we’re awesome together. We always had a lot of fun with him. Is he our best friend? That’s rad. I can’t wait to see how that happens.”

“There’s a Sierra? …wow… Hey, be sure to show Sierra our silliness. Show her our funny pictures. Tell her our wacky stories. Don’t get too caught up in being Mama and make her miss out on what Laura is like.”

“I’m proud of us.”

I think that is the one that makes me the happiest.

It’s so much easier to look back and give your young self some advice for the future because it has already happened. It is much more humbling to consider what your past self would think of your current self. However, I am confident in my list. My teenage self would want me to pursue becoming a published author. My teenage self would be psyched about Josh (who had dyed blonde hair and facial piercings when we were partners in Business Law class) and Sierra, even if they are part of a future that I never actually envisioned as a part of my life. My teenage self would be proud of my 37-year-old self because I truly feel that my 37-year-old self did a bang up job of being a good person and being true to myself through the years.

How about you? I challenge you all to do some thinking. Are there things you should be doing differently? Are there things that you want to do but are too scared? Are there things that your teenage self would look at and feel proud about?

When I was a teenager, I wrote poems and mini-books all over my bedroom walls, interspersed with random drawings and doodles. My bedroom essentially became my live-in journal. My parents weren’t thrilled, but they let me be. One of the quotes that I wrote just above my bed is a famous quote by Mary Oliver. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and crazy life?”

When I look back, I am also proud of us.

“Way to go Laura.”

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