The part that always impressed me most about time travel movies wasn’t the hoverboards or Doc’s incredible sense of fashion. Nope. It was the fact that the protagonist usually had the ability to relay information to their past self to help their future self. Now if I could write a letter to my younger self, read it and apply the knowledge, that’d be groundbreaking.
That’s not how time travel works though (in movies or in real life because.. y’know physics and the space-time continuum).
Why I write letters to my younger self
So I write letters to my future self once every six months, as part of how I do a mental cleanse as I’ve mentioned. And it’s great as a sort of self check-in but it doesn’t have that same fortune-telling power as time travel does.
Being a particular brand of Anxious Human™, I’m pretty reflective by nature, so when the 10 Year Challenge came around, I wasn’t all that shocked by what I saw when I looked back at photos of my 18-year-old self. I didn’t post the photo’s to Facebook but I did have a chuckle with my husband at my totally misguided fringe.
The whole month as I watched friends post 10 Year Challenge photo’s, I noted, without judgement the difference that ten years makes. For some friends, they didn’t seem to age at all, for others, the years were more obvious. For close friends, I thought about the things that each of those years gave them, experience, relationships, babies, houses and careers. As well as loss, substance abuse, recovery.
Reflecting on that, I thought I’d write a letter to younger self, and tell her what I wish she’d known as an eighteen year old.
You’ll learn how not to care
As well as being an Anxious Human™, once upon an unmarried. I was quite the Wild Child™. For me, this meant making poor decisions, almost constantly. I chose the wrong people to go out with, the wrong friends and the wrong hobbies.
If only my eighteen-year-old self knew that it was going to be okay, that the utter heartbreak and rejection she felt over whatever relationship crumbling was going to pass. The amount of TIME I spent being so incapacitated to see beyond my own grief was ridiculous! I was convinced that I needed someone else in order to be “worthy”.
I spent so much of early adulthood trying to attach myself to people who didn’t have the means or capacity to love me back. Chasing that basic human right made me feel unworthy and needy. In reality, I was breaking my own heart. These people had shown clear signs that they weren’t available but I kept pushing.
I wish I could teach her that with time, these things that seem so important won’t even cross her mind. The road to not caring is long but it does exist.
You’re better than you think
In the spirit of the above few paragraphs, I realised I wanted to highlight (to myself, and to anyone else who feels like their inner 18 year-old needs to hear it) a few more things.
Oh how I wish I realised ten years ago that I wasn’t a horrible bridge-troll, doomed for a lonely little existence with only my dog whilst I reigned terror on all of Who-ville.
Truly though. My inner dialogue, although not perfect now and in definite need of improvement is miles ahead of the way it was in 2010. As an 18 year old, I’m convinced that a lot of my churlish and downright mean behaviour was down to a “I’ll hurt you before you can hurt me” mentality that I carried around.
At 18, I was smarter than I thought I was, prettier than I thought, kinder than I thought.
Only through hindsight can I see the truth.
Your mental health matters
After being in hospital as a kid for OCD, I knew that I was vulnerable to mental health issues. Looking back on the past ten years though, I’ve recognised that I blamed a lot of my illness symptoms on external factors. I was seeking help but I wasn’t able to connect to the right services and the right therapy for my particular trauma and illness.
My mental illness lay dormant for a few years and it seemed as though I had things under control (from the outside). I’d tell my past self this…
You’re about to get really sick
The scene in Mean Girls depicts it so well.
“Regina: At least you guys can wear halters. I’ve got man shoulders.
Cady: [voiceover] I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there’s lots of things that can be wrong on your body.”
A messed up relationship with control, germs and coping with health anxiety, coupled with a toxic boyfriend and I was a time bomb for anorexia.
Though I’ve mentioned before about hospital admissions with mental illness and PPD, recovering from anorexia and the refeeding process is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
I believe that you can sometimes catch warning signs of eating disorders but it’s not necessarily preventable. Even if I read this letter to my younger self, I don’t think she’d be able to stop it. Unfortunately, she’d just have to go through it.
Butterfly’s National Helpline (Australia)
We’re open 8am – midnight AEST, seven days a week.
You spend too much money! (On stupid crap!)
Something I think many of us can relate to. Wanting to shake our younger selves around the shoulders for wasting out hard earned future money. (PS: Future Money should be the name of an album).
I’ve compiled a list of ridiculous items that Past Me (AKA the Money Shredder) has purchased back in 2010:
An Ipod Nano – Wow. So glad you bought that, really enjoying the tunes. No other way I’d be able to get music to my ears without this ancient device…oh wait.
Bright Red Hair Dye- I’m 50/50 on regrets for this. Partially for all of my grandmother’s towels I ruined over the years and my hair condition. But I had a “style”. Yes it was a blatant ripoff
Jeffrey Campbell Shoes – DOES ANYONE REMEMBER THESE SHOES?! The spiky death ones in black were my pair. I take it back saying that they’re stupid. They were cool as all hell and made me feel like a goth amazon woman. But practical for a mum of an almost-two-year-old? I think not.
Anything to make a boy like me – Enough said
Anything to make a girl like me – Again, enough said
Any clothes – 100% should have gone naked for these years or failing that, worn some kind of fashionable sack. Given that the clothes I owned back in 2010 no longer fit me and are also the strangest fashion ever (hello neon, shutter shades, distressed ripped jeans, rara skirts and feather earrings…wtf) I am bitter that I ever spent money on clothing.
You’re going to sort your life out..eventually
After a relationship breakdown at 21, in which my then-boyfriend literally fled the apartment in the middle of the night (dramatic, eh?) I moved back in with my Dad.
Since moving across the country with my now-husband and having a baby, I’ve had a ridiculous amount of growing up and maturing to do. A lot of us grow up with this idea that once we hit 25 we just “know “ things. And I think that stresses us when we realise that the tax form filling fairy doesn’t exist. Here are some of the most important (and not so important) things I’ve figured out in the past 10 years.
If someone doesn’t answer the phone IMMEDIATELY, it probably doesn’t mean they’re dead
That I can grow and raise a human child!
How to drive park a car (and not in the furthest possible parking bay)
A boat load of things about blogging (still learning but RIP Livejournal)
That in order to regulate my emotions, I need TIPP skills
When writing a letter to your younger self, what would you include? Things to look out for? Or the joyous things? Let me know.
This Anxious Mum x