I recently heard from my 20 something self and what she had to say was quite interesting… When I was in my 20’s, I taught high school at a wonderful Catholic school. Marist changed my life, and perhaps on another day I will go into all the details of exactly what I mean by that statement. But to put it succinctly, I loved my time at Marist… I loved teaching there, I loved the students, and I loved the community. One of the wonderful things about the Marist experience is that students have the opportunity to go on spiritual retreats each year of high school. Juniors and Seniors go on a particularly moving retreat that is led by students and one of the school’s priests. The retreat is filled with opportunities for spiritual growth and reflection and some endearing traditions. One of those traditions is that the student leaders ask teachers to write letters that are then read to the group over the course of the weekend. Ten years ago I was asked to write one of those letters. It was this letter that I discovered a few weeks ago.
I forgot I had even written the letter. The letter was comprised of a list of 15 things I had learned up to that point in my life that I thought would be beneficial to share with this group of individuals who were only a short time away from leaving the nest and entering into the next chapter of their lives. Re-reading the list was both interesting and amusing. It’s interesting to recall what your 20-something-self thought was important or humorous or worth passing on. Here’s the list:
- On the first really beautiful day of spring, go eat somewhere with a porch. My suggestion would be a Mexican restaurant with a porch.
- At least once in your life, go on a completely random and pointless road trip. Don’t plan it - just get some friends and go.
- Develop a weird, yet interesting, talent. Mine: gargling the theme to Jeopardy.
- The people you meet within the first three weeks of college will most likely be your closest friends for the remainder of your four years. Example: I met three of my bridesmaids during my first four days at college.
- This one is for the ladies: Treat yourself and buy at least one bottle of Chanel nail polish. You will feel so special when you wear it!
- Although TV is apparently corrupting society, I have found that watching Friends usually makes me feel better and, contrary to popular belief, Beverly Hills 90210 can answer some of life’s most puzzling questions. If you are unfamiliar with Beverly Hills 90210 you can catch reruns on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 AM on FX.
- Stay up all night with your friends the first time it snows when you're in college. It sounds cheesy, but in a cheesy way it is truly magical. If you don’t go to a college in which there is snow, this life lesson will be hard to follow.
- It is more important to have a few CLOSE friends than many acquaintances.
- Life is not fun. It will kick you in the gut and when you fall it may continue to kick you, but you WILL make it through. YOU WILL. It is those gut-kicking moments that make and mold you.
- Don’t date someone because you think you can change or help him or her. Chances are you won’t be able to permanently help them, and you may do real damage to yourself in the process.
- Always bring extra money to the Waffle House for the jukebox. Their jukeboxes are the best!
- Memorize your social security number. It is the only piece of information you will need to know for the rest of your life.
- No matter how much you change once you leave Marist, stay in touch with at least one person from Marist. It will help you remember where you came from.
- Memorize a quote or scripture verse or song that you can recite in your mind that will give you strength and encouragement when you are down.
- Nothing you can ever do will separate you from God’s love. You may not feel His presence, you may fail at everything you do, and you may consider yourself a complete disappointment, but God will NEVER give up on you. All you have to do is reach out to Him.
Yes, it is fascinating to hear from your younger self. It is fascinating to notice the things that have stayed the same and the things that are different. For instance, I’d completely forgotten I could gargle the theme song to Jeopardy. I don’t know how one forgets such a factoid, but I guess that little talent has gotten buried over the years. I can’t remember the last time I splurged on a bottle of Chanel nail polish, and I haven’t been to a Waffle House in ages. (That being said, those two points are still true- you really do feel fancy wearing Chanel and the Waffle House does have an awesome juke box. Some things never change.)
The item that really stumped me was #2- go on a pointless and random road trip. I stared at that sentence for a while racking my brain trying to remember why I would put something on there which seemed totally out of character for me. And then I remembered… oh I was young then! I did spontaneous, non-purposed filled things! Alas, my current self is anything but spontaneous. The most spontaneous thing I have done recently is deciding to go to Target by myself for two hours last Friday night. Oh dear, we are a far cry away from road trips these days.
Nowadays, my list would probably include such practical items as it’s okay to leave a job and it’s more than okay to change careers. Deciding that you want to do something else or making a change because something is not a good fit is a sign of courage, not failure. Don’t give into the pressure of “timeline living.” Meaning, if your adult life does not unfold according to the socially acceptable timeline, it’s okay. You are not behind.
There were certain items, though, I was pleasantly pleased to see are as much a part of my life as they were a decade ago.
Episodes of FRIENDS really do make you feel better.
Yes, a few close friends are better than many acquaintances. They know you better. This can be both a comforting and scary reality.
Life is NOT always fun and sometimes you may be shocked at how low it can spiral before it starts looking up. The trick is letting life mold and make you, not damage and defeat you.
Scriptures, quotes, songs, mantras- these are the walking sticks that help you keep climbing the mountain. They are the tools we lean on when we feel like falling to the ground. Your attitude and motivation are determined by what you tell yourself. Since that is the case, you better make it good.
And lastly, I believe more than ever we are not alone and nothing can separate us from God’s love. You are never beyond the reach of God’s redeeming love and grace.
Have you ever had the experience of “hearing” from your younger self? What did she have to say? Did it surprise you? We collect life lessons and little nuggets of advice along every step of the way. It is interesting to see the ones that stick and the ones that fall by the way side.
If you created a list of the things you have learned to this point in life, what would be on it? How would today’s list be different from a list penned ten, twenty years ago? Are there elements of your younger self that you might benefit from bringing into the present? (A little true spontaneity never hurt anyone, right? J ) What beliefs have remained and grown throughout the ups and downs of adulthood? I would love to hear your words of wisdom!