A Letter To My Younger Self
I try to live life with no regrets, but I'm not very good at that. There are many moments I wish I could take back. Many words I wish I'd never uttered. Many decisions I wish I could reverse. Many tears I wish I could have avoided. The thing about time is that it affords you this wonderfully annoying thing called 'clarity.' Wonderful because it signifies growth; annoying because if only you'd had this perspective in the first place, oh the things you might have done differently. In Ellyn Spragins’s 2006 anthology What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self, Maya Angelou advised her younger self to "be courageous, but not foolhardy." How I wish I could have had the benefit of that advice in my 20s!
If I had the chance to reach back in time, take younger 16 year old Meaux by the hand and offer some guidance, it would go something like this:
My dearest me -
There you are: wise beyond your years, but essentially unaware of the depths of who you are. You have achieved academic and athletic success and you're on the verge of being accepted into every college you apply to. What's more is that you are a good person and can basically charm your way into the hearts of anyone. But somehow you are not living the fullest expression of yourself because you refuse to acknowledge that you have what most people in this world crave: options. You have more options and opportunity than you give yourself credit for. But there is one fundamental thing that will hold you back from exercising all of your options unless you let it go now: your struggle with self-esteem. I'm here to give you the advice that will hopefully allow you to side step the self-placed landmines that have the ability to set you back years if you're not careful. You will spend so much time worrying about things that don't matter, so let's just talk about what does.
You can't see it now, and it will take you about 8 more years to acknowledge it, but you are beautiful. I know you mask your disappointment with your physical appearance by being the "funny" friend. You push yourself academically so that people will identify you with your brain and not your body. Here's the thing - I get it, but it's a serious waste of your time. Those girls who poke fun at you because you developed sooner than others and because you can't wear some of the on-trend outfits from the mall - they suck. In fact in my present world, they still suck. They also struggle with self-esteem, they just manifest it differently. My advice? Brush the comments and snickers off. Don't allow yourself to be bogged down by the opinions and views of those people. Instead, keep your real friends close. Trust me - the real ones will still be around 20 years from now and they will celebrate you for who you are. They matter.
College and law school will be amazing. You will deal with the same issues you dealt with in high school unless you take my advice now and realize that you are enough. But overall, you'll breeze right through these phases of your life. Find good friends during this time. They'll also be around. They definitely matter. And you will spend a lot of time lamenting the loss of friends over time. Here's the thing - some of them are supposed to be along for your journey. The others? Let them go.
Cherish the time you spend traveling the world. You will have what many people won't have in a lifetime: exposure to other cultures. These experiences will be life changing. Don't rush them. Take more risks. Kiss an Italian man. Dance with the sexy black Spaniard (yes they exist) with the gorgeous green eyes in Barcelona. Smoke all the strange cigarettes in Denmark and definitely try all the whiskey and wine in Australia. Get lost in Turkey and jump out of planes in New Zealand. Years from now, the best stories will begin with "remember that time we [insert reckless behavior] on the beach in [insert random country]?" Those memories matter. Make more of those.
When you finally become a grown-up with real obligations and responsibilities, things will get interesting. Don't be so quick to grow up, but definitely don't wait to invest your money - it will serve you well in the long run. That definitely matters.
Speaking of growing up, don't be so quick to find love. That doesn't really matter. Unless you get this self-esteem thing right, you will find yourself in a series of unfortunate relationships with people who you care more about making happy than they care about making you feel like the queen you are. You don't know it yet, but all of your boyfriends are going to go to jail anyway, so why be bothered with them? In all seriousness - because they are insecure, they will try to make you feel "less than" more often than anything. But you are enough. Regardless of how they try to strip you of your Super Woman title, you.are.enough. So you might as well just skip all of these boys and get to the last one. He's the keeper. He cares more about you than you ever cared about yourself, and your happiness is what drives him. He matters. You'll have to learn to let him love you and you'll have to learn how to get out of your own way for it to flourish, but you'll get there. You're worthy of that. That for sure matters.
God matters. At times, He's the only thing that matters. Allow Him to lead your life and don't fight Him so much. He will take you through some trials that you won't be able figure your way out of. You'll be required to endure jobs you don't love, life events you can't explain, and significant relationships that will crumble. Keep your focus on this one fundamental concept: God has a plan for your life. These situations you find yourself in are all just pit stops along your journey. In time they may make sense or maybe not, but if you keep your foundation strong in Him, you will have more blessings than you will know what to do with.
A side note about kale: eat more of it. Even though you're beautiful there are these things called thighs that will drive you nuts even when you finally fall in love with yourself (which will take you longer than it should). And even though you reserve the right to disagree; queso is not a food group. Get serious about your health sooner rather than later. Your health matters.
If only you could see yourself the way I see you... Your trajectory is headed up and the only thing that can alter your course is you. Don't allow negative self-talk to deter you. Remember who you are and Whose you are. And remember that you have options. It's your choice how to exercise them.
Go forth and change the world...because you, my dear...you matter.
Photo credit: Aaron Burden Photography