From 40 to 16 in 15 Minutes

I ran across this letter to my 16-year-old self (written by “26-nearly-27-year-old Katie”), and it made me think about what I would say in my letter to my 16-year-old self.

1984 Ford Tempo - my first car when I turned 16 in 1986. My grandparents were kind enough to hand it down to me when they bought a talking station wagon (oh the technology!). In retrospect, I think they realized they'd be stuck with the huge repair bills that a 1984 Ford Tempo required, and they wanted to get rid of it. I can't blame them, and without it, I wouldn't have had any wheels at all! I will always be grateful - I learned a lot with that car, including how to change all the belts every 3 months.

When I was 16, my English teacher had us write our obituaries as if we were 80. At the time, it seemed like a morbid and time-consuming exercise (and, frankly, at this time, it still does!), but I guess the idea was to look forward to set some goals and have a sense of future self.  As she said, “How do you want to be remembered?” Maybe she went to an MBA-ish leadership workshop and they did the exercise there, as in “What do you want your legacy to be?” Um, well, I thought I still wanted to have a lot of friends, so this is what my obit read after three revisions:

Melanie Booth, 80, of San Diego, had a lot of friends. She will be missed by all but one of them.

What can I say? I was a smart ass; I refused to accept the premise of the exercise. (And I got a “C” grade, on my own obituary! WTW?!?)

In any case, looking back may be a lot easier, and in some ways, more fun, but I don’t have a letter as much as a list. Here are the top 3 items on that list:

  1. The many jobs you are working now (the “clean up person” at the orthodontist’s office being the most disgusting) will pay off later in terms of your ability to juggle multiple tasks and priorities at once, think on your feet with grace (most of the time), and most importantly, develop your work ethic. Missing your friend’s beach party because you have to work is not the MAJOR LIFE CRISIS that it seems to be.
  2. It doesn’t matter so much where you go for college as much as it matters that you go, and that you finish. And then, that you keep learning well after graduation.
  3. Never underestimate how smart and supportive your parents are. They may embarrass you, annoy you, and piss you off (and in some ways, probably always will), but they will help you out immeasurably in the future, as they already have in ways you don’t even realize yet. (Exhibit A: In 2009 your mother will gift you the family heirloom food processor as part of the Booth Family Early Inheritance Act of 2009. Yes, yes, the one that only works every fourth Tuesday at 3:13pm. Cherish it. Take care of it. It will make hummus for you like no other.)

What in the world would you say to your 16-year-old self? Try it – it’s a great exercise in reflection!


3 thoughts on “From 40 to 16 in 15 Minutes

  1. Ahh the trusty tempo, I’m suddenly craving a carne asada burrito for lunch. I agree, your parents are the best and I’m lucky to have cool parents too.

  2. I TOTALLY REMEMBER YOUR FORD! And, thanks for passing on the orthodontist job to me! It was kind of gross to clean stuff that had been in people’s mouths. I try not to think of it too much. But I did like the paycheck.

    I can’t believe you got a C on your paper. Who was your teacher?

    I like your list to yourself, especiallly the idea of an Early Inheritance Act. And the specific time that the food processor will work. And the realization that your parents’ support mattered a lot then and now.

  3. Susan – I had totally forgotten that I passed along that job to you. Wow, I am so sorry! Why would I do such a thing to such a cool friend? 😉 (Oh yeah, the paycheck was nice.)

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