Last week on Twitter Joanna at Raising Madison mentioned her plan to write a letter to her younger self and invited other bloggers to join in. I’ve been feeling rather introspective lately and jumped at the opportunity. I decided to focus specifically on my 25 year old self because I recall that being a time in my life that I felt the most unsure of myself and the direction my life was going. When I left the University of Missouri at the age of 22 with a Bachelors of Journalism and a dream to become the next Katie Couric, I never dreamed that I *wouldn’t* be a television news reporter by the time I turned 25. Hell, in my mind I would be an anchor in a medium sized market by then. From the time I can remember, I’ve always been the kind of person who sets big goals and accomplishes every one of them. This, to me, was no exception. So why, then, could I NOT achieve this? Why was I such a failure? Looking back, I’m thrilled with the path my life took, happier today (at 29) than I can ever remember being.
Dear 25 year old Jill,
First, let’s get this straight. Those capri pants? The ones with the enormous pink and yellow paisley print all over them? Take them off right now. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest dumpster. Don’t even donate them. No homeless person deserves to be subjected to that atrocity. Listen to your husband when he says they are the ugliest pants he’s ever seen. LET HIM BURN THEM. I don’t care if they are from the latest line at NY & Co. I don’t care if they perfectly match your hot pink Banana Republic trench coat. And for the love of Sephora, stop letting people photograph you in them!
That marathon you just finished? It opened a new chapter in your life. Believe it or not, 3 years from now you WILL run another. Yes, on your own free will. No, not at gun point. But don’t even get me started on all the things that are going to happen in the next 4 years that you won’t even consider right now…
You’re wedding? Relax. It will be perfect. Okay, so maybe it won’t *actually* be perfect, but it’s totally possible to erase the memories of the not so perfect parts, leading your 29 year old self to believe that it went off without a hitch. And speaking of your wedding, you don’t even know how lucky you are to be marrying Scott. You haven’t even seen him at his best yet. Just you wait until he becomes a father. I know, I know! 5 more years, right? Riiiiiiight ; )
25 year old Jill, please believe me when I tell you that you *are* making the right decisions. You are not a failure. Repeat after me. “I AM NOT A FAILURE.” You have a successful career. No, it may not be the career you dreamed of since you were 17, it’s more than you could have dreamed of. You are helping people. You are learning that’s a part of you that really comes alive. You are finding out how good it feels to raise money to help people who truly need the support. It’s a part of you that will only continue to grow, and you may have never been able to discover it if you didn’t have to “settle” for this full time fundraising/event planning gig.
And beyond that? I can’t even tell you how valuable those cocktail mixer networking skills can be, and you really don’t know how great it is to get paid to drink beer with firefighters. I promise, there will be days when you miss this job… parts of it… not the part where you’re sitting in a dusty old restaurant in a small Virginia town asking “jailbirds” to make calls to raise their “parole.” No, you will never miss that part, and I’m sorry you have another one to deal with next week.
Your confidence is shaky these days. You worry if you’re living up to what others expect of you. You wonder if you’ll ever “be” somebody. What I’m about to tell you is going to blow your freaking mind. When you become a mother soon (yes,soon), that tiny little person will do more for you than a 4 year college degree ever did. He will help you find yourself. Your confidence will grow, not because you will be a perfect mother (you really won’t even be able to figure out how to pee without putting him down the first month), but because you will be amazed at your own strength. Your priorities will fall in line, and you’ll know that happiness isn’t about becoming who you wanted to be when you were 17, but about allowing yourself to give up a little control and seeing where life takes you.
You’re going to learn to truly appreciate the moment you’re in, instead of constantly yearning for the next big thing. It will continually be a battle to live in the moment, but you’ll work harder to stay there. Success won’t be measured by the size of your paycheck or the make and model of your car, but by the number of nights you get your infant to sleep longer than 5 hours and by the joy that fills your heart the first time he belly laughs at you. Sure, that may sound like a drag now, but I promise it’s a ton of fun… most of the time. (For now, ENJOY YOUR SLEEP AND YOUR CLEAN CARS!)
I can’t promise that at 29 you’ll have all the answers or that you’ll feel 100% confident in the direction you’re headed. You’ll wonder often if you’ve made the right choice to stay home, if life would be easier on all of you if you went back to work. You’ll question if you’re cut out for this stay at home mom bit or if your son would be better off spending his days with people who actually *enjoy* painting and rolling Playdoh with toddlers. There will be some days when it hits you like a ton of bricks that now, more than ever, you are miles away from your what you paid tens of thousands of dollars on a 4 year degree to become. But what you will have learned by now, Jill, is that the best gift only you can ever give yourself is permission to change- to change your mind, to change your views, to change your opinions, to change your goals.
Oh, and there’s this thing that you’re going to do on the internet. It’s called a blog. You’re going to become a complete geek who knows way too much about HTML and feeds and Facebook (yup, you’re GOING to join Facebook… seriously, just leave MySpace now… it will make you feel dirty looking back) and this odd thing called Twitter. You’re going to tell entirely too many internet strangers and your whole family way too much about your vagina and your breasts and crazy visions you have of your baby falling off the indoor balcony at the Embassy Suites and this one time you ate 50 Tums at once and had to call poison control. Simply put, it will change your life in a really cool way.
You’re on the right path, Jill. Enjoy happy hour while you can, and purchase clothes that are quality enough and classic enough to still look good in 4 years because you will STILL be wearing them. Now, I want you to put on your best bra and low cut shirt and go out and celebrate the glory that is your breasts before pregnancy. Please, do this for me. Tell them I miss them.
29 year old Jill
(mother to a 2 year old and 15 weeks pregnant with her second – CRAZY, right?!)
What would you say to your 25 year old self?