Have you ever thought about sitting down and writing a letter to your younger self? A letter filled with the missteps that created your pain, experiences that took you to great depths of feeling alone and afraid, and the opportunities of not sucking on the lemons we get handed? All in an effort to put someone else two steps ahead of all the painful memories still running through your head, and change the choices that they make.
There is a song about just this thought by Mercy me titled “Dear Younger Me”. And every time I hear this song, I’m taken back to several memories in which if I had a “do-over”, I’d take it. For me, at 43, the reflections become deeper, maybe longer at times, and the eternal wisdom from the joys and the pain weave into my DNA with greater strength. My motto forever was “work hard, play hard”, which by the way is somewhat of the “paintbrush broad stroke labeling of a Gen Xer. I achieved “Professional” status work hard play hard at about 21 and maintained it until the day my kids were born at 31. I pushed my body to lengths I shouldn’t have. I did some things I shouldn’t have. I went to some places I shouldn’t have. And I experienced some things I shouldn’t have. And all in all, none of those things too severe, and illegal, but things that as my body grew older, and my mind a little wiser, were behaviors that didn’t align with my internal core values, personal mission, and the extremely high expectations I had for myself that began as I child from my parents instilling those expectations in me.
As I listen to “Dear Younger Me”, which you should listen to now to help give the vibe for this post, it really isn’t about me. I reflect and have a 2-hour flashback of all the memories and wouldn’t change much, as those things make up the very fabric of my DNA and my failures have become my greatest successes. The song is really about me looking through the lenses of my twin’s innocent yet growing eyes, seeing the journey they see and inserting small daily pieces of wisdom, hope, questions, love, and learning into their lives. The learning opportunities for our kids, or our people, or others we care about, aren’t through formal sit down speeches and lectures. They are about daily conversations as we walk the extra mile with them. Don’t get me wrong, there are intentional meetings on family mission, family core values, who we are, and how we behave, and some for work, but helping our kids or our people win at life comes at the most inopportune time when you need to drop everything, pay attention, and “walk with them”, listen to them, talk with them. Most of us never write a formal letter of “Dear Younger Me”, and that’s ok. You have the opportunity to “write that letter every single darn day! Your walk alongside them in their journey, walking the extra mile or two, will hold so much more power than any letter or piece of paper ever will.
Dear younger me, I cannot decide, do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life, or do I go deep and try to change the choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me. Even though I love this crazy life, sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride. Dear younger me!