Last week Sarah Von Bargen launched the Post-College Survival Kit and as part of the promotion she had a bunch of lovely wise ladies write letters to their 22-year old selves, sharing lessons, wisdom and encouragement. I thought I'd write one too. This is it.
Dear 22 year old me,
I'm 11 years older than you are right now - that's right, half as many years as you've currently been on the planet right now...that's scary...and wow, how much you will live through and witness and experience and lose and gain in those 11 years. I can't wait for you to get started.
To be honest, it's taken me a very long time to go easy on you, 22 year old me. For a long time I just wanted to shake you, knock some sense into you. "What were you thinking?" "Oh God, why didn't you know any better?" Well, the reason you did the things your future self paid for and tore her hair out over was because you actually didn't know any better. You did your best with what you knew.
You're currently in the most unfulfilling period of your life and I wish you knew that it didn't need to be that way. And as powerless as you think you are, the life you're living is actually the result of choices you have made. Poor choices, admittedly, but choices all the same.
You have nothing but good intentions, 22 year old me, and yet you can't figure out why you're so unhappy. But you will. And once you do, your life will change forever.
I can't tell you much more, because it would ruin all the surprises, but the things I most want to tell you are.....
It will get worse before it gets better, but it gets SO much better. Hang in there.
Make the most of being in Australia and being able to see your friends, your sisters, your parents and your nephews whenever you like because one day you'll live on the other side of the world and you'll miss them all like crazy.
Stop settling. You don't have to put up with crap jobs, crap friends or a crap relationship just because they came along. Until you have some higher standards you'll keep attracting the same kinds of things.
Stop drifting. Life doesn't just "happen", you have to make it happen. You have to have a plan and some goals. All those people you're so envious of, they've worked hard to get where they are and what they have. Stop being so defeatist and expecting it all to be easy.
Stop letting people walk all over you and treat you badly. You're allowed to stand up for yourself. (In all fairness, it will take you until you're nearly 30 to start doing this!)
Get out of your comfort zone. Trust yourself a bit more.
Stop waiting for permission and stop waiting for someone to knock on your door and rescue you from this mess. Only you can rescue yourself. The world won't come to you on a silver platter, but the world is waiting for you.
The most important thing you will ever do is learn to love yourself. It takes a long, long time. But it transforms everything.
I know you're very unhappy right now, but actually this time in your life is laying the foundations for everything that is to come. It will make you stronger, more capable, more determined and so, so grateful for all the good things in your life in years to come. Everything that happens does so for a reason. Even the big mistakes. Well, especially them.
If you had any idea what you're truly capable of, or what lies ahead of you, you wouldn't be waiting another minute.
But, much as I hate to admit it, where you are right now is exactly where you need to be. I'm not sure you would have learned what you needed to learn any other way. If anything had been different, perhaps you wouldn't be where you are now....and that's something I wouldn't change for the world.
I gave up long ago any hope that the past could have been any different. Everything will work out.
And don't ever, ever think - not for one minute - that the mistakes you've made mean you don't deserve to be happy in the future. Your mistakes and errors in judgment will only scar you for life if you let them. Don't listen to the naysayers. People will talk, so let them. True friends only care about your happiness and won't judge you for how you got there.
The life I'm living now is the one you constantly dream of and hope for, so don't give up. You will get there. I'm proud I (and you!) made it happen and I'm grateful for it every single day. I'm sorry for the dark times you had, but I'm so glad you started running towards the light.
What would you say to your 22 year old self?