So this post was the hardest for me to write yet. Why? Because it's personal. I wrote it for myself, not for anyone else. Reading it made me squirm because it's silly and kind of weird, which is the way I like it, honestly. Some of the learnings sound cliche as I write them but why? Because they're not rocket science, people. They are repeated by influencers and "gurus" and motivational speakers. And I've consumed myself with those teachings for the past 3 years. Which uncoincidentally is the time period in which I've changed my entire life. So, yeah, I almost hit delete. I almost let that little voice called Fear have her way with my words. But once again, I'll persevere past all that doubt and let my words roam free. It's not groundbreaking, but they're my truths packaged in an odd-shaped little nutshell. I'm living my best story now, influenced first by my faith and second by a hell of a lot of learning, growing, and failing. So breathe, little monster post, and be proud. I'll love you no matter what they say.
An Inner Dialogue
20-year-old-me and 30-year-old-me walk into a bar together. Our birthday is coming up and we never miss a chance to celebrate pretty much anything. 20-year-old-me orders a Captain and Dr. Pepper as 30-year-old-me smirks and orders up a cold amber ale. "How predictable, Leesh."
We have a lot to catch up on, the two of us.
"I’m glad you picked this old bar, Younger Me. Our taste for grimy dives sure hasn't changed. Listen, I want to tell you some stuff about your future."
Younger Me is clearly annoyed. I tend to push too hard and I can already see how this is gonna go. I look at you and want to shake you sometimes. What are you doing with your life right now? Why are you wasting so much time?? I try to plant seeds of advice into our conversation, thinking maybe I can steer you better, earlier. Then maybe you won’t spend so much time trying to figure yourself out. I do perceive myself to be 'wiser' than you at this older age, but who do I think I am?
Ultimately, I can’t bring myself to change you; you are the foundation of who I am. I am no better than you, I am you. Just with a little more time, drive and experience. So silently, I'll listen as you ramble on about remedial college math and how dare so-and-so for taking you off their Myspace top 8. Then you order up a round of water moccasins and proclaim a birthday toast, giving me that wild eye. Yes, I know that look, crazy girl. You can't scare me off with whiskey shots. You forget I taught you that.
"People will try to change you in life, Younger Me. You won’t listen to what they tell you. You’ll do it your own way, you always have. You’ll make your own timing, you’ll follow a beaten path for a while, but you'll want more. Eventually, you’ll venture off into the great unknown where you'll make your own rules. And learn what it means to love yourself in order to find love. And how to create your own happiness."
As we toast to another year of life, I know I've said too much. "I must be going now, Younger Me. I know you have places to be. Probably a party in the woods or out on the lake. I just brought you here to tell you Happy Birthday and give you this [ hands Younger Me a sealed envelope ]. If you know any better, you won’t read it. It’s the wisdom you’ll need if you want to skip all the messy parts. If you want to avoid mistakes and heartache and become a depthless soul that never felt the sting of hurt or loss or defeat."
I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t try to help you, but then I couldn’t live with myself if I stole your opportunity to live on your terms. That letter was important to Me. It held so much of what I’ve learned over the past years. But you'll just add it to that stack of unopened letters you've been accumulating and maybe one day... you'll write a book. And you can take all the credit, Younger Me, the letters will be our little secret.
"Anyhow, Happy Birthday, Younger Me. 40-year-old-us just called, so I gotta run. She wants to meet up in Tahiti for our birthday, says she has something to tell me. Something about a letter? She's such a know-it-all, sometimes. I love you, Younger Me. And thank you."
The Letter To Younger Me
Dear Younger Me,
For what it's worth, here's a thing or two I learned in the last three decades.
- Put it all in God's hands. Everything. Worries, fears, doubts, victories, decisions. There are no difficult decisions when you pray first. That peace you feel inside? Therein lies your answer. Just wait til you see the great things He will do in your life if you just let Him lead.
- Do the things that scare you. This is where the magic happens, outside your comfort zone. Lead a webinar, ask for a raise, start a business, learn to dive, fall in love. The greatest rewards lie on the other side of "I Can't" in the land of "I'll Try."
- Don't give weight to the opinions of others. This paralyzes you and gives others the power to direct your ways. Take action anyway. Put yourself out there repeatedly without regard for validation.
- Use your time wisely. It's the most valuable commodity you have and you can't get it back. Cancel your cable TV, show up to your life and create something meaningful. Do not exist as merely a spectator.
- Forward momentum always. It's those little, unglamorous things you do behind the scenes that will add up to PROGRESS, CHANGE and SUCCESS. Late nights, weekends, typing, second-guessing, over-caffeinating, researching, learning, crying, conquering. Take the tiny steps every day.
- Social media is a necessary evil. Use it with intention, but don't let it use you. It's power and purpose will grow, but it's also a bottomless pit that will consume you and breed a fuzzy fog of nothingness in your mind. Tread carefully.
- Embrace stillness. We start losing ourselves in the need for constant amusement and sensory distractions. We forget how to be still, sit quietly, listen to our thoughts, watch a sunset without photographing it. Do this more. It creates substance and a space for discovery.
- Get to know yourself. Start journaling. Ask yourself questions and let the answers flow freely from your fingertips. Some call it self discovery, but I call it 'getting out of your own way.' When you know what you want out of life, only then can you make it happen.
- Communication is key. In personal and professional relationships. People aren't mindreaders and they can't give you what you need if you aren't straightforward.
- Set goals. Daily, weekly, monthly. Five year goals. Anything. Write it down. Just don't choose to float through life aimlessly like a dead fish in a raging river.
- Have real conversations. Like a two way street where you ask each other questions and actually listen to the other person's answers. Face to face preferably, texting is so overrated.
- Make time for those who matter. Period.
- Fake it til you make it. A controversial saying, maybe, but to me it's a combination of saying YES to opportunities even if you don't know what you're doing and TRYING your damndest at it, without letting them see you sweat.
- Screw the roadmap, but follow the bread crumbs. We feel like we need to have the 'HOW' all figured out. We over-research, over-think and plan every step to avoid mistakes and the possibility of looking "stupid" or "inexperienced." Then what happens? Nothing. Because it's an overwhelming, confusing rabbit hole mess. Success leaves clues, follow what you can and figure out the rest as you go.
- Put the phone down. Especially at the dinner table and while having a conversation with another person. Don't reach for it first thing in the morning. Allow yourself to step into the day clear-headed and focused.
- Pray more. It's easier to be fueled by emotions which are typically impulsive and can throw your world into shambles. You'll learn that the trying times are when you witness God's work most clearly. When you're praying for help and it appears. Or praying for your relationship and they walk up and hug you. "It's a God thing" and those are the absolute best glimpses of faith in action. Acknowledge His work in your life, it's not a coincidence and it damn sure ain't the "universe."
- Don't be ashamed by your naivety. Or sensitivity. But don’t allow people to take advantage of those traits. People will lie to you and disappoint you. Learn to be cautious instead of impulsive. But don't use them as a crutch to play the victim.
- Open your eyes, your passions are right in front of you. Stop searching because you think you’re supposed to be different. It's all the things you've always loved doing, why are you running from them? Seize them. Own them and never stop learning about them.
- Partying is not a sustainable lifestyle. It won’t fulfill you. It’s expensive. It doesn't add value to your life. And hangovers last for, like, 2 days now. Take it easy.
- Think twice about those tattoos.
- Invest in yourself. Constant learning will change your life. Conferences. Books. Podcasts. Consume information like the air you breathe. Take notes. Revisit. Repeat.
- Be your authentic self. A little country, a little rough around the edges, not quite the ra-ra-sisterhood-type, a desire to help others and create experiences, a creative mind fueled by wild words and bright colors. Own your mix of weirdness and know that it is special.
- If someone leaves, let them walk. It was God who showed them the door.
- Make a happy, healthy home. Having a place to come home to and to build with the one you love is the greatest of all. It's there that you will love, fight, forgive and grow. It will be your safe haven, your escape from the world. Don't underestimate the greatness of this.
- Be good, kind, humble and honest. And always remember the Golden Rule :)
- Hold your loved ones close. Embrace the dysfunctionality. Spend time together. Say "I love you" everyday. The more people you lose in life, the more you realize how precious these moments are.
Don't you worry, Younger Me, life is good here in the future. Remember to hug your dog tight, she won't be around forever. Also, I don't want to spoil the good parts, but you'll have a boatload of nieces waiting for you ahead. And the man you're going to marry is pretty awesome and you'll learn a lot from each other. I can't wait for you to meet him.
He said, "Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough."