• blogAs I finished unpacking the last of my boxes from my move across the country, I came upon my senior portrait. I looked at the girl I had been, remembering my excitement at graduating high school and having my whole life ahead of me. I thought about what I would tell that 18 year old me about what her life would entail and the advice that I can share from the years of experience that separates us.

    First off, I can hardly believe I graduated high school 30 years ago, but I am a proud member of the Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School Class of 1986. Go Generals!! I thought about that young woman who spent so many hours studying to get the best grades she could, working at Harvest Market, and picking the college she wanted to attend.

    The first thing I would say to her is, “Relax and have fun.” I was so serious and focused on my studies; I did not form a lot of friendships in those days. I was almost painfully shy and I was such a perfectionist when it came to my grades. I put tremendous pressure on myself and was very self-judgmental and not very compassionate with myself.  In doing so, I missed out on a lot of opportunities for fun. I did not have a lot of confidence in myself and wrapped my identity around being the perfect student, the perfect daughter. How sad. Perfection is unattainable and lonely.  If I could talk to that young woman now, I would so encourage her to not sit on sidelines, not be the wallflower at dances, parties, and other gatherings. I would tell her that confidence comes from taking action, not from sitting around with your nose stuck in book or doing all the chores at home perfectly.

    I also would tell her, “Trust yourself, you actually know what’s right for you.” I made a lot of decisions as a teenager and young adult based on what I thought was expected of me, even my choice of colleges was not truly mine. For instance, I had decided on Hood College in Maryland, I loved the campus, I felt at home there. The fact that the school had dances attended by the Midshipmen from the nearby U.S. Naval Academy didn’t hurt.  I was excited to receive early admission notification. I indulged in daydreams about walking across the beautiful campus with friends. Then one evening, my dad asked me, “Do you really want to be that far away from your mother? You know Grandma is ill.” I wrestled with my decision. I had also received early admission notification and a great scholarship package to St. Joseph College in West Hartford. In the end, I decided to go there. It was not a pleasant experience. I only stayed there for my freshman year. I choose not to regret decisions I have made in the past but I do occasionally wonder what would happen if I took the road less traveled, if I had stuck to my original decision.

    I am who I am now because of the decisions and choices I made and I am grateful for the struggles because they made me stronger, but I do wish I had learned long before my late forties to trust myself. I am having more fun now than I did in my teens and twenties. I am more relaxed and comfortable in my own skin. I do wonder, though how my life would have turned out, had I had that advice to relax, have fun, and trust myself 30 years ago.

    What advice would you give the younger version of yourself? How do you think it would have changed your life?