Monday, April 29, 2013

Letter to the Me of 1993

My 20 year high school reunion is coming up this year; and predictably, it has me thinking about what I've learned in the last two decades, and wondering how my life might have been different if I'd known then what I know now. (Equally interesting would be if I knew now what I've forgotten since then, but that's another blog). 

So, just in case someone invents an actual internet time machine, and said machine can make text-only email deliveries to the computer lab in Russell Hall at UGA... 

Dear 1993 Self,

Congratulations on your graduation from high school and acceptance at the University of Georgia. I know all you can think about right now is how annoyed you are that Dad is taking your picture in the driveway when you just want to get the show on the road to Athens, and wondering when you'll be able to come home to see your boyfriend. The whole wide world is waiting for you out there, and besides, you hate having your picture taken.

Well, sweetheart, I hate to break it to you, but you'd better smile for that picture, because you will never be this young or thin again. And that boyfriend you're planning to sacrifice all your weekends during freshman year to see? Don't bother. Your friends and family are right, he's not worthy of you, and in a few months he and some girl named Debbie are going to hand you your first real heartbreak. It won't be pretty, but it will help you start your own life.

The good news is, despite the jerk boyfriend and the freshman fifteen (plus another ten for sophomore year), you're about to start becoming a far more beautiful person on the inside. I won't spoil the surprise on everything, but here are some suggestions:

  • When someone new invites you to do something, go. Your comfort zone leaves a lot to be desired, and there will be plenty of time to stay in later.
  • Be patient with your roommates. You're not all that easy to live with yourself, and most of these people will be lifelong friends if you'll let them.
  • The summer at Oxford is an excellent idea. Don't hesitate.
  • Do yoga. Go jogging. Hike more. One day those activities will be considered luxuries with your time, and you'll have random pains that make each one a little harder to do. Do them now and establish good habits. You don't look fat in those running shorts. And if you do, so what?
  • Floss. One day your good luck with dentistry will wear off. And that ain't cheap or fun.
  • When you see the guy giving away free t-shirts if you apply for a credit card outside the dorm, keep walking. That free t-shirt will be the most expensive piece of clothing you ever own.
  • Don't sell your writing abilities short. Listen to this man's advice with an open heart and allow him to lift your creative spirit. It may not feel like a "safe" way to make a living, but you will rely on your writing in every job you have from here forward (not to mention several key relationships).
  • Allow yourself to get swept up in emotion, and to admit freely when you are wrong. People will love you better when you are not pretending to be perfect and strong all the time.
  • Hug your parents. They aren't perfect either, but they love you, and they will be gone sooner than you can fathom. In less than 20 years you will long for the days when Mom called you too often and Dad always had a camera in your face.
  • Speaking of cameras, don't hide from them. Smile big. Hug your friends. Ham it up. Use those images to spark wonderful memories, not to critique your body or focus on how much you hate your face in profile. Imperfections don't matter. Moments matter.
  • Take out 50% of what you think you need as a student loan, and get a job to pay for the rest. Trust me, it's far less painful to earn at 20 than it is to pay back at 30 or 35.
  • When you get ready to backpack around Europe for six months, take more money -- and fewer shoes -- than you think you'll need. Do NOT brush your teeth on the train from Prague to Vienna.
  • It's hard to say that your first marriage will be a mistake. It has some great moments and you will certainly learn and grow from it. So, go ahead and invest your whole heart. Move to Portland, move to Austin. Even unhappy endings can still leave you with happy memories, and some incredible experiences along the way.
  • Don't miss out on anything because you're either embarrassed or don't think you're good enough. You can do whatever you want; and you're not above anything.
  • April 9, 2005: Avoid the chicken salad. Trust me.
  • Know when it's time to let go. Your life will have many heartbreaks, but they will make you stronger and lead to a joy beyond imagining. Hang in there.
  • When the time comes, say "yes" to the guy with the good heart and incredible smile. You won't regret it for a second.
  • Take notes. Keep a journal. Someday you will strain to recall all those moments you thought you could never forget.
  • Write, Write, Write. Make the time. Find the courage. Do it.
Finally: In a couple of years, Baz Luhrmann will release a popular song advising you and your generation to wear sunscreen, among other things. You will think this adaptation of a newspaper column a little cheesy and overrated. Baz, however, will redeem his credibility with you in 2001 when you see the movie Moulin Rouge, and then again in 2012 when you have a precancerous lesion removed from your forehead. Just shut up and put on the damn sunscreen already.

Your 2013 Self

1 comment:

Ross Newberry said...

Yeah, you did OK.
And the sunscreen is very important when you're the type who can get a third-degree sunburn.