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February 13, 2013

A Love Letter to My Younger Self

One of the biggest advantages to having some years behind you is knowing how things will turn out when you are past middle school, high school, college and everything that follows. During this season of valentines, I'm penning a love letter to my younger self, reassuring her about life's major milestones and telling her what I now know: It will all turn out just fine.

Dear Jody,

Here, let me give you a hug. Middle school is tough and changing schools is especially hard. After years of coddling and feeling like the star in elementary school, you suddenly feel invisible and insignificant. Everyone expects you to be self-sufficient. Your teachers drop difficult concepts into your lap and expect you to sink or swim. That said, you're really knocking that academic stuff out of the park! I know you're afraid to "mess up," but you are smarter than you give yourself credit for. Work on becoming more confident. And while that first secret crush is especially painful, there is nothing to be ashamed of. In a couple of years, you'll go from "gawky" to "elegant" and you'll have no trouble finding boys to date. Oh, and that "weird" kid in your third period science class -- be nice to him. Someday he may be your husband's boss.

Ah, high school is such a tempest. Mean girls, trash-talking boys and teachers who would rather be doing something else. Don't believe that the slightest misstep in your junior year will ruin your chances with a good college, which will ruin your chances at a job and important friends, which will ruin your chances at life. So much of all our futures depend on luck and happenstance, and you end up doing what you were willing to reach for. Falling in love for real is a whirlwind and you will fall hard. Weekends spent crying on the couch because your boyfriend is MIA seem like it is the end of your world. But it isn't. Enjoy your friends (the good ones, like your friend Beth who will still be in your life 35 years later!). Ignore the cool guys who converse with your chest. At your high school reunion 20 years later, they all have pot bellies and receding hair lines.

And stop catastrophizing. Getting a B- on your chemistry final and losing your term paper for honors English (in the old days when there were only typewriters) seem like calamities at the time. But the drama, anguish, gut-wrenching ups and downs of high school and college will help you to be a better and more understanding mother.

Oh and appreciate your own parents once in a while. While they might drive you crazy now, you will cherish their love and guidance once you have your own kids. The memories of long late night talks with Mom and watching Walter Cronkite with Dad seem so precious later in life.

To read more of this post from Jody Gastfriend, LICSW, read her blog at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jody-gastfriend/letter-to-my-younger-self_b_2672365.html


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