My birthday is quickly approaching. Before I know it, it will have come and gone, and another year of my life will begin. Holidays and seasons, as I’ve mentioned, are markers for the passing of time in general, whereas birthdays are often a marker for personal growth and accomplishment. Birthdays are also a celebration of life. A celebration of surviving so many days, weeks, months, and years on this planet. In the past ten years, I have grown from a timid, quiet teenager to an adventurous and unapologetic twenty-something.
I do not know, nor claim to know, everything about life, love, success, or making the right choices. In fact, I still feel like I know hardly anything. Compared to a year or five years or ten years ago, I do know more. I am better equipped to deal with life and its ever-changing winds. But if I could give a younger me some advice, what would I say? What would I tell her?
Dear 13-Year-Old Me,
There are many things I can tell you about the next ten years. How you will succeed and fail. How you will love and lose. How much will change in your life and in the world. If I told you all of this in great detail, you would never learn. But I want you to know that you are not alone–not now and not ever–and I want to remind you of a few things you will undoubtedly need as you continue on your journey.
You know by now that things often do not go as planned. Nothing about that will change. Take each day one step at a time and you will find a way to handle anything that comes your way.
While everything you experience and feel is valid, realize that what you are feeling is not the end of the world. Spend less time being sad and feeling sorry for yourself and more time celebrating everything good.
Do not let anyone undermine your value or worth. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. Do not let anyone stop you from being or believing in your best self. Not even you.
Learn to accept yourself for who you are. Everyone has good and evil inside of them, beauty and ugliness. Each one of us uses those traits differently. Do the best that you can with what you have and celebrate each difference, for it makes the world interesting.
Use your energy only on people and things that truly matter. Do not waste it on anything that tears you down or makes you less whole.
Fill your life with passionate and wild people. Fill it with as much knowledge, strength, and love as you can manage. With adventure and dreams and wonder. A full life is the best kind.
You will learn how to stand on your own two feet, how to lean on others, and how to hold them up as well. You will learn that it is important that each person knows they are not alone, that there is always one person, somewhere. Let no one forget that.
Stay humble and noble. Every choice you make and every action you carry out has consequences. No matter what you believe, you will not leave this earth unmarked, so treat it and all of its beings with kindness and respect.
You will hear a song in within the next year that will help you through the difficult things that will soon come. You will know immediately that this is an important song and you will listen to it for weeks. And it will help. You will often hear this song around your birthday each year and remember what truly matters. Any time you hear this song, you will know that things are okay–that things will be okay. That better days exist and they will come. As long as you hold onto this hope, you will be okay.
All my love,
(Almost) 23-Year-Old Me
What would you say to your younger self? Would you warn her of the trouble that will surely come or give her the courage to handle it on her own? Take those lessons or words of advice and share them with the world, people old and new, and it will become a far better place–full of better days.