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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!