If you could go back in time and offer your younger self some loving words of wisdom, what would you most want to share?
Sometimes the only way for us to truly acquire the knowledge we need is to allow ourselves the experience of finding our own way. But sometimes it’s comforting to have guidance from someone who’s traveled the road already.
If I could spend a day with my 27-year-old-self, here’s what I’d tell her:
1. Allow yourself to re-imagine what success looks like.
We are sold a story that our accomplishments will always be measurable by money, status, or Instagram-worthy moments. But often it’s the unseen victories taking place on the periphery that offer us the real riches.
If you can let your head meet your pillow each night knowing that you did your best with the capacity you had available to you, then maybe that can be enough. Success doesn’t have to be centered in the spotlight to be meaningful. Look for the tiny triumphs threaded throughout your day. They matter.
2. Sunlight, dogs, and daring to be decadent on an ordinary weekday will not fix all the world’s problems. But it will certainly soothe a lot of them.
Let the warmth of the day find your face. Let the beautiful being of an animal fill your heart. Let the good china and special occasion outfit come out to play. Don’t defer your joy to another day when you imagine you might be more worthy. The time is now.
3. Your heart will break and not every piece of you will survive every experience.
The worst night will come and the hardest day will still have to be faced. When you have nothing left in reserve and even the next breath feels like an impossibility, draw strength from those who came before you. The ones who paved the way and forged forward as best they knew how. The ones whose names you may not know but whose love will always surround you. Let them lift you.
4. Nobody will remember your bad hair day or your mismatched outfit.
They’ll remember how you made them feel, how much you laughed, or how tightly you hugged them. Don’t get so hung up on worrying about the things that don’t matter that you don’t have enough time for the moments that do.
5. Healing seldom, if ever, looks like you might expect.
I know you long for the tidy version that takes place within ten therapy sessions and sees you almost effortlessly healed and whole. Dear one, that’s rarely the journey and usually the lie.
Healing is a messy, awkward uphill path you’ll frequently want to turn away from. But there is no fast track. No accelerated route. Don’t bind yourself to time and expectation. Rest as you need to, rage as you have to, and stay with yourself as often as you can.
6. Pay attention to who you long to turn to in times of both heartache and joy.
Notice who you most want to lean on or celebrate with. Keep those people close and make sure you show up for them in the same ways whenever you can.
7. Duality and complexity are not to be feared.
Nothing is ever simply one thing, and you have the capacity to hold multiple experiences simultaneously. Don’t fear the sometimes-murky space of both/and. There is freedom to be found in embracing our multitudes. Be present to the fullness of life.
8. You will stumble often, and you will sometimes fall.
You’ll continue to make mistakes. You’ll come to realize that the perfect life is an illusion and chasing it does nothing but deplete you.
Though your wisdom may grow, so too will your understanding that for every piece of awareness you possess, there will be so much more you’ll never know. Take comfort in this. It’s a reminder that you do not need to be an expert on everything. Or anything.
9. Balance might be the biggest myth out there.
Much as you want to believe in the idea that all of your days will be harmonious if you just implement the right schedule/buy the perfect planner/organize and compartmentalize each and every unruly hour, it’s not going to play out that way. Certainly not every day.
None of us can achieve perfect balance all of the time. Create structure where you’re able to. Stick with simplicity when you can. But let yourself off the hook for not meeting unrealistic expectations. The pendulum swings back and forth for all of us. Just try to find beauty and joy on the ride.
10. You get to change your life story.
The story that you’ve known and lived so far doesn’t have to be the story that continues. It’s tempting to believe that you’re fated to perpetuate certain cycles, and you might have convinced yourself that you’re “bad” with money or “unlucky” in love. But everything has the ability to change, including you.
What would you add to the above? What are the most important life lessons you’ve learned so far?