Dear Past Me
I, the older version of us, drove home to Mom and Dad’s this past weekend, climbed the familiar, timeworn wooden staircase, and found my way into our old room. Sitting on the same stool in front of our mirrored vanity where we used to adorn clear-coat mascara along with a swipe of super-sticky, overly-sparkled lip gloss to complete the look, (My, how far we’ve come.) it was there I so badly wished that this 31-year-old edition of us could reach through the mirror to the 17-year-old one. I began to wonder if perhaps I still could…maybe this vanity stool could in fact take me back to the days of reading Seventeen Magazine after slipping into a pair of ultra-low-rise jeans. (God help us all. Although, don’t worry too much about this obnoxious trend because one day, you’ll be introduced to a thing called “high-rise leggings” or the “athleisure look”, and your world is going to be rocked in the absolute best way.) So here it is – the letter I hope finds you well, Young Margo. I promise not to give too much away, only a couple tidbits of information for the purpose of reminding and helping you through some lessons the current version of us had to learn the hard way. Below is the list of things I wish you’d take to heart in 2007…
You think you’re “old” now – you’re not. And neither is the current version. Although, lower back and knee pain does come to visit much more than what it used to after a long day. On that note, please do the stretches your physical therapist gave you, as they’re highly undervalued.
You also consider yourself fat, lacking the “perfect” body, believe that you’re simply not good enough, and you’re constantly wishing you looked like the tan, rail-thin girls in the stack of magazines by your bed. I wish I could tell you this mindset is something that fades away to reveal bright and shiny confidence underneath, but this will be something you’ll need to remind yourself of and work at every day. Your body is healthy, beautiful, and you are enough; so please learn to rock the God-given fair and freckled skin you have. It too is just as beautiful and worthy of love. Someday, you will look back at old photos of yourself and realize just how beautiful you truly were (and still are). Don’t wait another decade to come to this understanding. (But, a brief aside: self-tanners do get a heck of a lot better on this side of 30.)
To reiterate, please wear your damn sunscreen. I know you want a deep tan like everyone else. I know you feel insecure about your skin. But you’re going to get several kick-ass burns that will feel like a kick in the ass – paired with a surgery as well as a lifetime of annual skin checks to follow. Embrace the fact that taking care of your skin now means looking younger longer, and of course, being healthy inside and out. And seriously, self-tanners really have gotten a lot better, smell and everything. Just remember to exfoliate before application, and stop cutting the tan off at your ankles…if you’re going to apply it, your feet need lovin' too, my dear.
Stay sweet and kind, small-town girl. As you grow and move throughout life, you’ll experience bitterness and anger from others, but please don’t let it stick, or carry with you its lasting effects. I know you haven’t heard this phrase yet, but I simply cannot stress this enough: Hurt people hurt people. Let it sink in, commit it to memory, and when you question why and how someone could upset you in such a way, please remember this. Maybe it has nothing to do with you at all; most likely their pain is showing itself in the form of toxic words, hostile actions, and vehement reactions. Once you understand this, you’ll rest much, much easier.
Be brave, and have courage, Young Margo. I know you’re a homebody (that so far has yet to change), and unlike the rest of your graduating class, are scared to leave your little corner of the world for college knowing things will never be the same again, and that everything will drastically change. And you’re right – but…
Your world is about to become exponentially bigger too. While in college, you’ll travel across oceans and state lines, meet wonderful souls that you still to this present day call your best friends. You’ll also fall in and out of love a time or two…something wild, painful, and beautiful that you have yet to experience. (More on that later, but not much more. Remember, I told you I’m not going to give it all away; after all, where’s the fun in that?)
A small, weird note, but please don’t worry about the fact that you’re “quiet”. I cannot tell you how many times you’ll hear: “Wow, you don’t talk much do you?” or “Margo’s so quiet.” Also, there will be variances on the phrase such as, “Gosh, Margo. I didn’t know you could talk!” I’m rolling my eyes as I type this letter out to you right now thinking of how often people feel the need to comment on the amount of words that escape your lips. There’s nothing wrong with being quiet – truly, you’ll hear more that way – in the words both spoken and unspoken.
Actually, simply try not to worry so much. It’s another one of those traits handed down from our grandmother, I believe, that will take constant work. Don’t worry, (Hey, see what I did there?) we do get better at this – understanding what’s in our control, what we can change, and what we cannot. Worrying steals away any sensation of happiness in your day, and unless you can alter something to stop the worry, is an absolute waste. Go grab a cup of coffee (Yes, we pick up the habit in college, leading to a life of caffeine-dependence.) and paint your nails or something.
This one, I’ll keep simple: Please know that not everyone we meet down the road will be someone who stays in our life forever, no matter how badly we want them to.
While in college, I want you to really think about your passions, and even more so, could you combine them into a degree that you’d absolutely love? Do you get excited about exercise science? Design? Journalism? Business? Now, I don’t want this portion of my letter to cause mass anxiety on your end, so you should know that things really do turn out fine, you'll get the job, you’ll find success, and you’ll be happy. It’s just now at 31, I’m looking back thinking that perhaps I’d do things slightly different if given the chance. So, please - I know you know this but, don’t pick a major only because of the money you’d make, or simply barrel through the 4 years because you’re ready to be out in the “real-world”. Be patient, and discover your passions regardless of how silly they may seem, or how much time it may take to uncover them.
While it may sound ludicrous to some, our parents become two of our best friends later in life. Their strength, humility, humor, kindness, and a level of generosity that you’ve never been quite able to put your finger on due to its vast, dense expanse in your life, only draws you closer to them. Be kind and patient with Mom and Dad. You don’t know everything, and they’re always going to know more about life because they’ve lived more of it. In the same vein, go see our grandparent’s. I know when you’re 17 it sounds so dull compared to going out with friends or sitting on the couch watching the first season of The Real Housewives of Orange County, but trust me, Bravo comes out with a gazillion more seasons, and you’ll be able to watch all of the re-runs ten times over. Our grandparents however don’t have nearly as many upcoming seasons for you to witness. Perhaps it’s dark, but you need to hear it. Go sit with them, soak up their stories as you sit in their kitchen’s breakfast nook, learn from them, and know that they treasure their time with you as much as you will someday when they’re gone.
This one may sound weird to you right now too, but I promise it’ll make sense someday: always, always, always, choose happiness over comfort. Decide on finding pure joy and living your life to the fullest over the tepid safety of your comfort zone, regardless of what that may mean you must do. There are things that are going to happen in our life where we wished we would’ve paid more attention to this simple, yet complex concept. That’s all I’ll say on the subject here, because learning it quote-on-quote “the hard way” is a better teacher than this letter ever could be. Regardless, you’ll be okay. It won’t break you, but instead will open your eyes to the way every human should aim to live their life. All in all, not such a bad thing. Also, I love you.
Lastly, never for a single second believe, or let someone tell you that you’re behind in life. That as a woman in her mid-to-late-twenties, you should be married by now, have kids by now, have a home by now. You are a living, breathing human being, not a specimen whose value is tied to a chronological list of all the things she should have “by now”, or at any point in her life. When life presents you with these “by now” people, simply tell them “Bye, now.” and walk away. Building the life of your dreams, finding joy and happiness in your existence, is far more important than the prefix before your name, or the address on any envelope.
As much as I would love to continue on, it’s time for me to wrap this up now, as I believe I’ve said more than I originally thought I would. I’ll be seeing you in mirrors, window glass as you walk down the street, and in water reflections here soon enough. Emphasis on the "soon" part. I know the days seem to drag on as you sit in chemistry class or while you count down the hours at work, but the years really do fly. Please remember that.
Your older reflection, the 31-year-old Margo
P.S. Always remember: You are beautiful, you are loved.