LETTER TO MY 20 YEAR OLD SELF
by GARANCE DORE
“ One day, my dear, you’ll be 40.
It will happen on May 1st in the year 2015 — a date so far away, it almost seems unreal to you, right?
On that day, you’ll remember how your mother told you that when she turned forty, she sat down on her bed and cried. For hours. Cried, not out of sadness, but out of intensity.
As for you, you will have seen your forties coming for a long time. You, the forever teenager, solidly rooted in reality, but a total vagabond at the same time, never really staying in one place, never really satisfied, and eternally curious, you will have taken turning 38 as a shock. That was when you finally realized what was happening to you.
Life, your life was here! Not in the future like you’d always imagined it, preparing yourself for “later”. But right here. In the present. Everything you do today, every minute, that’s your life.
That kiss you give, that place where you live, that work you do, that’s your life.
Readjusting to the present is something that will have happened to you kind of late, but it will finish the work of liberating you from your fears. After that, for you, turning 40 will be a gift.
First of all, my dear, because you’re alive.
It sounds silly said like that, right? When you’re 20 you never really think about it, and that’s a good thing. But, by the time you’re 40, you’ll have lived a life. You’ll have seen the world lose wonderful people much too soon. And you will think of aging as a serious privilege.
You’ll see, being 40 will be cool…
For one thing, when you say how old you are, people will stare at you in disbelief and say: “But you don’t look 40 at all!!!” and you won’t be able to keep from blushing – you’ll still be just as sensitive to flattery at 40, in case you’re wondering, but you’ll answer with a big smile, because you really believe it when you say:
“No, it’s not that I don’t look 40, it’s just that this is what it looks like to be 40 now!”
When you’re 40, you’ll still be coming up with theories about life. You might as well accept that right away, because it’s not going to stop. You’ll have a few completely dumb theories, but I really like the one you’ll have about aging physically.
You won’t think of it as a kind of defeat, but rather as a chance to really learn to take care of yourself.
Today, you’re 20, and your body can take all those excesses with no problem at all (Don’t try to look innocent, the truth is you won’t have changed very much when you’re 40, in terms of excess. Well, you will, but not really, I mean – you’ll see, let’s keep a little bit of the mystery, right?) but when you’re 40, you’ll immediately be able to see and feel what’s good for you.
Is it because you’ll know yourself better or because your body will be more sensitive?
Probably a little bit of both. Use it as a guide for staying well.
When you’re 40, you’ll have friends of all ages, and they’ll add just as much to your life as you will to theirs. You’ll often wonder how your 20-year-old friends can be so mature, since it took you 40 years to get there, but you will have beautiful, balanced friendships with them. You’ll help each other, you’ll give each other advice, and you’ll laugh like crazy.
A good girl is a good girl. Whether she’s 5 years old or 95, you want to have her in your life.
You’ll have lots of good girls around you.
When you’re 40, you’ll be someone that people listen to. Weird, right? You’ll be perfectly certain that that’s the real treasure of your life. People will read what you write. A lot of women, like sisters, or best friends, will give you the opportunity to be heard. And they’ll respond. They’ll be incredibly generous, and sometimes hard on you. Deep down, they’ll be like you.
It’s pretty funny – there will be a few people in your life that see you as a mentor. I know, it seems ridiculous, since right now you can’t even find your way to class C, and you wonder why you ever enrolled in this stupid university, but one day, people will seek out your advice. And you will be really happy to give it – you’ll try to be for others what some people, either by accident or intentionally, have been for you in your life.
And you’ll know that it’s important to say that you’re 40 and that you want to celebrate your age, and that you’re proud of it, and that age definitely isn’t something we should hide, especially not as women.
In 2015,I know it’s hard to believe for you, but we’ll still have a long way to go. One of the rights we’ll need to reclaim is the right to age peacefully.
My dear 20-year-old self, I know you so well, so here’s the most important thing I want to say to you. What I want is to send you a little perspective.
No, seriously. Stop freaking out.
The truth is, everything you’re afraid of is going to happen to you.
You’ll be poor. You’ll get dumped. You’ll lose someone you love. You’ll be ridiculous. You’ll make mistakes. Oh yes, you’ll make mistakes. You’ll make so many mistakes!!! Sometimes you’ll feel completely lost.
But whatever happens, you’ll always have yourself.
Your sense of humor, your crazy theories, your love for life, your curiosity about others. Your ever-changing vision of the world — all of these things will stay intact.
And you’ll realize that right when you think you’re going to fall into pieces and crash on the floor, that there will be loving arms there to catch you, and whether that support comes from close friends or strangers, they will be there. Learn to recognize it, and give yourself over to those loving arms.
Learn to let go and give yourself over to loving arms. Learn to see the magic of existence.
Learn to follow all those invisible threads that you’ll weave together just by being yourself, always progressing toward more light, more acceptance, and more truth.
You also need to know that you will be loved, and you will be successful. And all those difficult moments that came before will protect you from being afraid. Stop worrying. You’re going to see the world, and meet people, and learn to love them. You’ll learn tenderness. Toward others, and toward yourself.
You won’t be so afraid anymore. Don’t be so afraid, sweetheart.
And don’t worry, you who loves nothing more than having a good time. You’ll have just as much fun at 40 as you did at 20, maybe even more. Life won’t become this gray, serious, full of responsibilities thing you imagine.
Life won’t be at all like you imagined, so stop guessing and go experience.
The more you’ll go, the more your life will take on richer, more vibrant, deeper colors. You won’t regret all the silly things you’ve done, not even for a second. You’ll always be here, the same person, with the same hunger, the same thirst, the same dreams of new adventures. And there will never be a second to waste on feeling sorry for yourself. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, you’re annoying.
Work on becoming a good person, and hope that one day, if you have the privilege to get very old and wrinkled, you’ll be able to look back and feel that you brought a little light into the lives of the people around you.
Put this letter down, grab your keys, and get out there and discover the world.
Everything will be fine, sweetheart. It will all be okay.
On the day you turn 40, maybe you will sit down on your bed and cry too. But I have a feeling they’ll be tears of joy, gratitude, and an immense love for life.“