Today, I turn 30. So it felt only right that I take a moment to reflect on the past 10 years and offer some words of advice to my younger self. Here – an open, honest and heartfelt letter to my 20 year old self. To note: it’s a long one, and one that felt scary to hit publish on, so if you stay with me through this full letter – thanks. And also thanks in general because this space and all of you reading has been a true highlight of my twenties.
That life you picture having in 10 years? With the big city and the big career and the marriage and the kids? Some of it you’ll get. And some of it you won’t. You’ll be lucky that way.
On New York:
You’ll move to New York just like you always wanted to and spend the better part of a decade falling even more in love with it. Sometimes it will momentarily knock you to your knees but this city will teach you how to quickly get back up and dust yourself off. You can be anyone you want to here, but keep being yourself. And don’t take a second of your life here for granted.
On Friends & Family:
Those girls you count as your best friends? Claire, Val, Jo… they’ll be the same best friends you have 10 years from now. Some of them will move away or get married, but they’ll still be the ones you can call on when you need them.
You’ll begin to realize on a much deeper level how lucky you are to have the family you do. The sister that has always been your biggest cheerleader. The Mom that taught you what it means to love unconditionally. The Dad that understands you in a way no one else does. They’ll be there through every high and low for the next decade.
But then – you’ll have to say goodbye to your Nanny. Even years later you’ll find yourself missing her voice, her hands, her distinct mixture of strength and softness. Try to be the kind of woman that lives on long after you go.. and remember to visit your other 3 incredible grandparents any chance you get.
That unpaid internship you kill yourself commuting to New York for right now? That company will go out of business by the time you graduate. But despite a terrible recession and a degree in Fashion Design that some called ‘frivolous’ you’ll never once be out of a job. You’re parents taught you to work hard and you picked a career path you loved. A decade later you’ll be an Art Director with an intern just like yourself. Eagerly dreaming of the big city and the big career.
Don’t let yourself get comfortable. Don’t let fear dictate your career path. Take big risks, put in the work and see where it takes you.
On Body Image:
That figure you live with now and quietly find fault in? Those ribs you think stick out too far, hips you think are too curvy and calves you think are too big? Stop wasting your time. It will take you years but you’ll stop wanting to look skinny and your only desire will be to feel strong. Right now you can barely run one mile but you’ll learn to love running with a devotion usually reserved for religion. It will save you. You’ll run a half marathon.. and then three more. You’ll learn balance and that you feel best when you’re working out nearly every day of the week. Don’t worry – you’ll still love pizza. 10 years from now you’ll be way more at ease with your body and looks than you are now.
That boy you’re with right now? He’s cheating on you with a girl that pretends to be nice to you. I wish it wasn’t going to take you another 2 years to find that out. I wish I could whisper the word ‘run’ to you right now but I can’t. Sometimes life is a slow burn before it finally ignites into a wildfire.
When that day comes it’s going to feel like you can’t possibly sustain the heat of that heartbreak. He’ll spend a year calling you in the middle of the night crying and begging for you back. But he underestimated you and he’ll be pleading with a girl that’s already long gone. Finally, one day he’ll stop calling. He’ll find someone else to hang the weight of his insecurities on. Someone who would carry them better or could love him better or… really it doesn’t matter. He’ll marry her.
But you? Baby, you’ll learn to run. You’ll learn to be the kind of woman that takes what she needs and doesn’t apologize for it. You’ll keep running until one day someone stops you dead in your tracks. Looking into his eyes will feel like home. But they’ll warn you that he’s too young, too careless. And they’ll warn him that you’ve got dreams too big for him. Don’t listen. He’s going to challenge you in ways that you never imagined. You’ll be better for it. Years later you’ll still wake up every morning just happy at the sight of him next to you. Keep doing that.
On the things you don’t have.. and the things you have instead:
You won’t walk down the aisle or spend sleepless nights rocking a baby to sleep. Instead you’ll walk through ancient tea gardens in Shanghai, stroll the alleys of Paris at midnight, dance through the empty Californian desert. You’ll spend late nights among the winding canals of Amsterdam and the neon-lit streets of Nashville. You’ll watch the sun rise over the Manhattan skyline after blurry nights that now feel crystal clear. You’ll drive cross country twice. You’ll run across finish lines. You’ll stack your fingers with rings you got for yourself. And you won’t find yourself wishing there was a diamond there instead.
10 years from now – you’ll be enough for yourself. You’ll be proud of what you’ve got but still hungry for more. Trust me, it’s going to be a good ride.