In interviews I have seen Oprah ask famous people--not exactly in these words, but something akin: what would you tell your younger self? Recently my friend Deanna asked me if I could give my younger self two words of wisdom, what would they be?
I have always been confident in my intelligence. I was my parents' daughter, after all. I was smart and curious and a good student. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw my second grade teacher at the wake of a friend who passed tragically and unexpectedly. I had an opportunity to tell one of the most influential people in my life that she was just that, that she had a profound effect on me, as a young girl, a student, a writer, a human being. All these years later, she had changed, but I recognized her; her spirit was still so familiar to me. Just as I moved forward in the line she hugged me, and said she remembered me. "Of course I remember you! You were a genius!" she said. "How could I forget those eyes?" I told her that she was a great teacher, so kind to me when I was a student. She took the time after school to teach me capitalization and punctuation when we hadn't learned it yet because I showed her stories I was writing at home. She could have shut me down, told me "wait till next year," but she didn't. She encouraged me all those years ago. And I embraced her, as I did the opportunity to thank her. That moment was a gift. Second grade with Miss D was a gift.
Along the way I have developed friendships that I have taken as seriously as family. If you are "good people" and truly my friend, then you are family to me. Perhaps because I have always been single, maybe just because I truly appreciate human connection, I don't know where I would be without that collective family.
Yet somehow, despite having all the right foundations, being strong and feeling smart, and knowing that I was unconditionally loved, this crazy, f*cked up, superficial world has made me feel at times that I was "less than," not deserving of romantic love. So I have made bad choices in relationships. I settled for less than I needed. I haven't demanded what I deserved
I'm fast approaching the sixth decade of my life and still I have not.
I'm not preparing for an interview with Oprah (half of this would be edited out anyway), but I will follow through with two words. Not a single two, but pairs of words I stand by, many of which I wish had been told, but appreciate that I needed to learn on my own.
Try hard. No fear. No regrets. Abandon doubts. Health first. Worry less. Drink less. Don't smoke. Ever ever. Have fun. Be yourself. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Happiness follows. Accept love. Feel joy. Reject mediocrity. Be yourself. Honor yourself. You rock.