Note To Self
Every once in a while I see an essay or blog or video that looks back to the author’s childhood – hoping somehow to make it better.
Invariably, these stories are titled something like, “What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self.”
I can see the appeal of it. From a decades-later perspective, when we know how everything turns out and what matters and what doesn’t, how we wish we could revisit the children that we were and ensure their happiness and spare their hurt.
If I could send a message to little Nancy, I would tell her not to care so much what others think of her. That little girl was so desperate for approval, she often became who she thought others would like her to be. And yet she already had the approval of those who mattered. Just the way she was.
I want to whisper in her ear – or perhaps shout – “You don’t have to please everyone.” That not everyone has to like you. And that’s it okay if not everyone likes you. Just listen to Mom and Dad. And to your own little heart. You are sweet and pretty and smart. And those who don’t see it are missing out on your funny unique soul.
But I can’t tell her. And if I could, and she learned how not to care about approval quite so much – well, she might have turned into a self-centered brat. Or at best, if she stopped trying to become what someone else wanted, if she stopped trying on so many personalities, maybe she would not have developed such an imagination. Little Nancy might not have become Grownup Nancy the Writer.
Instead of envisioning messages and advice to my younger self, I think it might be more useful the other way around.
Instead of Grownup Nancy sending Little Nancy her post-facto counsel, I think I would prefer if Little Nancy sent Grownup Nancy her innocent advice. Instead of trying to change the past, which I can’t do anyway, how about changing the future? Maybe go where the possibility of change actually exists?
Little Nancy might have important things to say.
Just because you aren’t the best athlete doesn’t mean you aren’t an athlete at all. Get dirty and sweaty once in a while.
The same goes for drawing and painting. Not about getting sweaty. About doing it.
Kiss your mother and your sisters and your brother.
Write that children’s book. Make funny rhymes.
Eat more vegetables, which includes potato chips.
Be a good friend. Be loyal to your old friends and generous to new ones.
Go to the beach every chance you get. Live there if you can. And most probably, you can.
You don’t have to please everyone. You are just fine the way you are.