I’ve been thinking recently about my life and the things that I’ve learned…and had to learn again. And while this idea of writing to “your 17 year old self” is not original or new, it made me think that while I have no regrets, I wish I could somehow whisper a few words of wisdom to the angsty teenager that was me at the time. So here is my list, minus the humorous and obvious things you’d say such as, “do whatever you can to work at Google in the early days”…
1. Take school more seriously – I wasn’t a horrible student by any means, but I wish I would’ve developed better habits of studying when I was younger, as well as taken my classes in high school a bit more seriously.
2. Don’t settle for less than you deserve/desire – This is one I’ve struggled with my whole life. And while I think most humans tend to do this in some way, shape or form at some point in life, I think it bears constant reminding. It ties in nicely with my next one which is,
3. Set high expectations - I often hear people say they set their expectations low so as not to be disappointed. But why do we do this? To protect ourselves from disappointment? What exactly is wrong with being disappointed? We use that word and feeling in such a negative sense, like we should be ashamed of it. At the end of the day, protecting yourself is not always the best thing. It’s a short term fix instead of a solution.
4. Spend more time with your parents - having lost my Dad at a relatively young age, I will forever live with the guilt of not spending as much time as I could with him. And while I know many people might scoff at the idea of spending more time with their parents, I only can say that I had a great Dad. And I wish I would’ve been able to learn more about him and from him while he was here.
5. Don’t be ashamed of your feelings – As most of my friends and family know, I have always been emotive. My Dad used to call me his “little Sarah Bernhardt. “Express, not repress” has always been a go to statement of mine. I wear my heart on my sleeve and it’s hard for me to hide my feelings, be it good or bad. But there have been many occasions where I’ve been made to feel guilty or ashamed of how I feel. And at the end of the day, it’s rarely served me well to not let my emotions and feelings have their say. I know many would disagree with this, but I stand firm in my belief that you should allow yourself to feel…these things are natural and true.
6. Don’t doubt your capabilities – Straight forward. I think I’d be in quite a different place right now if I had worried less about failing at something, rather than just doing and/or trying it out.
7. Eat better, exercise more – This one may sound a bit like a joke, but it’s so true. I think of what a struggle it is now to try to stick with a healthy diet and work out regularly. If I had learned better habits in my youth, I think it would be much easier now.
8. Be wiser with your money – Something that I think parents really should instill in children is the value of a dollar. I think my parents failed a bit here with me. I wish someone would’ve taught me better saving habits so I could have started at a younger age to be smarter with my money.
9. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero- “Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the future”….Horace had it right. So many things I’ve talked about are on the serious side, but at the end of the day, life is fleeting. There’s a quote I love from the play, Steel Magnolias: “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special“. It’s a balance you should really strive for, but there are moments that will pass you by if you don’t take them. Take more of those moments.
10. Be okay with being you – I would say this not only to my 17-year old self, but to my 21-year old self, my 25-year old self, my 30-year old self and even my 34-year old self. In this day and age we are in constant awareness of the things that people are saying, doing, being, creating, etc. It is easy to get wrapped up in what you think you “should” be and what you think you “should” be doing. But where does that get you? Never really knowing yourself and learning about who you are. This, more than anything, would I tell 17-year old Melanie: You are unique, you are worthy and you are amazing because you are you. Do not try to be something you are not for this will only set you further back. Be you and bask in the pure beauty of knowing who you are and what you want, standing tall and proud, knowing your truth.