I turned thirty-nine this month and laughed at the way I’ve been thinking about this “almost” milestone year. Isn’t it funny how when it gets close to a big birthday, our minds almost put us there already? It feels like forty is a day away now, and I know that’s ridiculous.
In comparing twenty-nine to thirty-nine, I found some likenesses. The beautiful thing is, I mostly found a lot of growth. My discussion with the ten-years-apart- versions-of-myself feels like an adult talking to a kid.
I would highly recommend doing the exercise below, regardless of your age. Putting the words on paper showed me how far I’ve come.
Things I would say to my twenty-nine-year-old self if I could:
1. Enjoy that metabolism. Ten years from now, you will run harder and eat less, and still not be able to get back to the weight you are at now. In a few years, you will struggle to lose seven pounds in a month and then gain it back on a weekend trip to Carmel.
2. It’s OK to change careers. You’re afraid to get out of television news and into teaching because teaching doesn’t seem as exciting. Don’t worry. You will love teaching and won’t, for one second, miss doing live shots in the snow at 11pm on Christmas Eve.
3. Don’t be afraid to write. Your writing doesn’t suck, and people don’t think you’re stupid. In fact, people aren’t thinking about you as much as you think. Writing is going to connect you with others in ways you could have never imagined. (This applies to everyone. Replace “write” and “writing” here with whatever dream or pursuit you are afraid of).
4. Bring awareness and compassion to fear. That worrisome part of you isn’t going anywhere, but you can start to see it as something that drags you down and adds unnecessary stress. You are going to find that feeling the fear and taking action anyway make you stronger and more confident.
5. Your dream to travel the world is not impossible and something made for other people. Start saving money now!
6. You aren’t ready for marriage yet. Sorry. A big chunk of your thirties will be devoted to learning how to get comfortable, all alone. This experience will foster joy and contentment you aren’t used to feeling. You will bring that strength into future relationships.
7. That handful of best girlfriends you love will still be around in ten years. Cultivate those relationships and make room for new ones, because your friendships are some of the best parts of you.
8. Give your mom a break. She is a beautiful person who loves you, even when you are impatient with her.
9. Read more books. Understanding other writers and letting their words sink in will not only enrich you, these people will give you direction in your own writing and life.
10. Let go of your focus on being right. As you learn to talk less and listen more, you will find that empathy and a release of ego deepen relationships.
11. Meditation, even in two-minute spurts, will quiet the speeding voice in your head that tells you to be everything and do everything right now. Sitting quietly sounds like hell on earth, but I promise it will ease the anxiety you carry around like a backpack.
12. Stop saying, “I will be happy when…” These years are going to whiz by in a blink. Be present and enjoy them. You are blessed for everything about to come.
13. Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing great.