May 12, 2021–I was asked to write a letter to my granddaughter that she will open 12 years from now.
This stumped me. Me, who calls himself a writer.
I’ve said before how intimidating it is when you realize you are in a place where people actually listen to or read your words. We spend so much of our lives yearning to be heard, and yet when that happens, like having your own column, it can be intimidating.
So here I am being asked to write a letter to someone very dear to me, who will read and read into every word I write 12 years from now, when I might not even be around to read her reaction. What do you say?
To gain perspective, I cheated. I challenged followers on social media to share what they would say to their younger selves on their high school graduation night. I hoped it would provide insight for my task.
I was not disappointed.
Well, maybe a little. There were lots of aphorisms and mall store poster sentiments. The trouble with doling out advice is a lot of it reads like a Hallmark greeting card from the aunt that still uses a propane company calendar to keep track of birthdays.
Still, several themes emerged.
One was to bolster self-confidence: be true to yourself, don’t be a people pleaser, stop caring what others think.
Some mentioned body image.
Karla said, “Love your imperfect self.”
Another poster added, “You’re not fat.”
Good things to hear, anytime.
A surprising number of the women responding said to be wary of teenage love, something none of the men mentioned. Draw your own conclusions there.
Some responders said to be in less of a hurry, and take time to have experiences while you can.
Lisa would tell her younger self to “Read How To Win Friends and Influence People.” This hit home because I used to do that with my own kids. I still go back and re-read it just to remind myself how we are all connected. Something especially needed these days.
Karen said, “You can have it all, just not at the same time.”
I liked this one, because it restates a cliche in a fresh way. And that is important. Because, while I was moved by the depth of feeling people were willing to share, I also questioned whether any of this advice would be followed by your 18-year-old self. Chances are we heard all these messages on graduation day, but, like the Food Pyramid and laundry detergent instructions, we ignored them.
In the end, my favorite comment was also the shortest–one word.
This is something we forget to do. It is profound. I once asked a hypnotist who had worked in a trauma ward what was the top advice she could give to people under stress. She said to remember to breathe. It is the first thing we stop doing when in stressful situations, yet the one thing we need to do. That simple act can calm our nerves, slow our pulse, and feed our brain.
While none of this really helped me write “my letter,” it was a thoughtful exercise. I mainly learned how so many of us still nurse tinctures of regret and have struggled with a negative self image.
Thank you, everyone. To find out what I wrote to my granddaughter, you’ll have to ask her on May 27, 2033.