I’m not sure where this picture came from, but it’s circled the Internet and when it popped up I identified with it. If only we could whisper into our own ears and let our younger selves know some things. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.
Older me would have whispered quite a lot to my middle school self. I would have let that insecure girl know that she had a voice and shouldn’t be afraid to use it. I’m not a shy person, but I do get a bit nervous when I have to talk in front of people. It wasn’t always that way though. As a little girl I performed for family and friends, put on little skits and dances, and talked a lot. I knew when to be quiet – in school or church – and when it was okay to let loose. But then I had to give a short speech in 8th grade and the substitute teacher gave me what I felt was an unfair grade because she said “your voice was shaky.” From that day on I avoided speaking if possible. I grew quieter. But older me would go back and tell that girl that shaky voices don’t matter and, quite frankly, grades don’t matter. Trying matters. Going out on a limb matters. Even failing matters… sometimes much more than success.
Older me would have whispered to my high school self to have more fun and not be so serious. I would have told that teenager to get out more and not take the extra classes. I would have told her to enjoy school and study hard, of course. I would also have told her to keep playing music and never let her love of creating art die. Somewhere along the way I decided those two things were no longer important. Now I can no longer read music and while I’m still creative, I sometimes wonder what “masterpieces” never happened.
Older me would have whispered to my 20-something self as well. I would have told her that it is okay to be a young mom and not know what the heck you’re doing. I would have assured that frazzled homemaker that every mom feels that way, whether she’s 20 or 50. I would have told her that you do the best with what you have. Brian always wanted to be a better parent than his parents and that is not to say his were bad in any way! He just felt we should all try to take what we have learned and do more if we can, strive to be the best that we can be. Of course, he and I fumbled many times as parents and always said our kids turned out the way they did in spite of us, not because of us. But older me would tell that 20-something mom that it’s also okay to take credit for the good stuff. I did do things that shaped my children and made them into the great young men they are today. It’s okay to be proud of that.
Older me would tell my 20-something self to be humble and look around for opportunities to learn. While I lacked some confidence in my parenting skills, I sometimes felt I knew more than I really did in other areas, that I had answers and that I was better than other people my age. We all have those feelings at times, of course, where we roll our eyes and feel a little smug about how smart we are. I was a little more judgmental back then and saw the world as black and white. Now, I know that the older I get the more I have to learn. The more I know, the more I realize how little I know!
Older me would tell the younger me entering her 30s that life is very short and we don’t have time to take things for granted. I would tell myself to live every moment fully and appreciate everything and everyone around me. I would have told myself to pick my battles carefully and let a lot of nonsense go. I would have told myself to love more fiercely, feel more deeply, watch more closely, speak more kindly, give more freely.
Like the picture above says, I would whisper to my younger self that I’m not alone. I know that people identify with me and feel the same things I do. I know that we all struggle. It happens in different ways, but it’s struggle nonetheless. I’d whisper that it does indeed get better. Even with ups and downs, loss and heartache, it gets better. If we pay attention to the lessons of life we can find joy and happiness in the darkest of times and we can make those foggy days clearer.
There’s an older me waiting down the road, who wishes to whisper to the me I am right now, at 38. I know she has things she wishes she could speak right now that would make this path a little easier. I kind of wish I could hear those words of advice. Since I can’t, I will just remember that she’s waiting for me somewhere out there in the future and she does hope I’ll take care. So I will. I will take care of myself by paying attention to the little things that happen each day, by giving myself permission to wade through the bad in whatever way is necessary, and by being mindful and enjoying the good. And I’ll thank older me now, in advance, for doing her best and living well.
Whispers from Older Me = Joy