By Melissa Martin – Contributing Columnist
If you could send a letter back through time to your younger self, what would the letter say?
That’s the question author Ellyn Spragin asked in her 2003 book, What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self. Forty-one famous women write letters to their younger self and share what they wished they knew when they were younger.
Maya Angelou writes, “You’re itching to be on your own. You don’t want anybody telling you what time you have to be in at night or how to raise your baby. You’re going to leave your mother’s big comfortable house and she won’t stop you, because she knows you too well. But listen to what she says: ‘When you walk out of my door, don’t let anybody raise you—you’ve been raised. You know right from wrong.’ ”
In her letter, Lee Ann Womack encourages her younger self to enjoy the journey not just the destination, while recording her first country music album.
Lisa Scottoline proclaims, “Your hair matters far, far less than you think.”
Ann Curry asserts, “It is time to be bold about who you really are.”
The following is one of my letters to my younger self.
Dear younger me:
Life is mysterious. Every breath means you are alive. Every breath is a moment by moment happening. You cannot hold your breath and save it for later. Life is made up of moments of breathing. The meaning of life is poured into your coffee cup every morning as you begin each day. Boil down life and one word is left – relationships with people. Meaning resides in each moment and in each encounter with each individual. Life is about experiencing self and experiencing others. Life is relationships. People are the most valuable resource. Empathy and compassion never go out of style. Words can be gracious gifts or poisonous arrows. Humor is a lifesaver. Popularity is so overrated. Contentment is found in my own backyard.Well, I believe Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ said that before me. Learning how to be in relationship with God, yourself, and others is a lifelong education. Accept God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness as gifts. Your spirituality lives on the inside and leaks out into the environment through your words and actions. God’s meaning of success is different from the worlds’ definition. Seek wisdom and choose wisely. Practice kindness. Hurry, scurry, and worry are distressing ways to live. Life is not a sprint, but a marathon. Work is therapeutic but so is recreation and relaxation. Too much stress produces a mess. Too much sunshine produces a desert and too much water produces a flood. Balance is the key that unlocks the door of health and wellness. Sound mental health is more precious then gold and silver. Your physical body is a container for your inner essence. A mirror of comparison produces a faulty reflection. There is enough for everyone on this planet, but too many people take more than their share. Life is full of second chances. Meaning-making does not have a destination. It is a continuous journey with joy and tragedy mixed together. Life is fragile. Life is resilient.Death is as mysterious as life.
While time travel is not possible, reflecting on the past is a way to learn in the present in order to avoid mistakes in the future.
What advice would you give your younger self? What wisdom would you share? What would your letter say?
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.