I’m taking the opportunity of this forum to write a letter to my younger self. Probably my teenage self, inspired by Maya Angelou’s letter to her younger self, and all of the famous women who also wrote to their earlier versions in What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self.
I had no idea what I was doing at that point in my life. I could feel, even in that moment, that I couldn’t make my brain work completely. It was still developing after all, and, though I didn’t know that that was what was going on, I could still feel it keenly. (See NPR, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, Mental Health Daily, and the National Institute of Mental Health for more information.)
Dear Young Jenny,
It’s okay. I know you feel like you’re floundering now, not knowing what you want to be when you grow up, not sure what your interests and skills are, not sure how to spend your free time (other than your copious amounts of time on BBSes—keep doing that—what you learn from that activity will actually be useful later on, I promise!). But this is because you have too many interests, too many budding skills, for any one of them to rise above the rest. This will continue as you get older, but the more passionate interests will eventually begin to stand higher than the others, and your skills will get stronger the more you practice them. Your career path will seem haphazard, but will be a clear, straight-ish line of related activities in hindsight.
Your future will be full of surprises, so many surprises, both good and bad, but much more good than bad. You’ll have adventures, unexpected turns, disappointments, and successes and accomplishments. There will be plenty of challenges, but nothing you can’t handle, because you’ve worked so hard to create a network of amazing friends and family. There will be joys that you expect, and joys that you won’t expect, ones you won’t see coming from a mile away.
Pay attention to what you choose to give your energy to. You will start to see patterns of what you enjoy. I, as your older self, keep coming to realizations that I am passionate about certain things, when they’re things that I’ve enjoyed for as long as I could remember. I just hadn’t noticed them along the way.
Consider the places and people who make you feel free to be yourself and challenge you to improve. These are the people who will help you grow. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone sometimes, by choice. Whenever you stepped out of the house growing up you were outside your comfort zone, but rarely by choice. You will again create that safe place for yourself at home, but keep reaching outside of it. Take a few risks. Try to care less about what people who don’t matter to you think of you.
And by all means, keep writing. Write stories. Research subjects. Write down your opinions about everything. Write. Write. Write.
But my best advice for you is this: Just be you. Continue to do the things that you do naturally. Listen to your gut. It’s smarter than your conscious brain sometimes. But worry not: Your life will be glorious.
Of course, I could probably go on for pages giving advice to my younger self, but I like who I turned out to be, so I’ll leave it at this for now.