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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

if you could write a letter to your younger self offering advice, what would you say?


Today is National Letter Writing Day. On this occasion last year, Ali Swank at Yahoo! Shine wondered:

[W]hat if you could hop in a DeLorean time machine and deliver a letter full of advice to your kid self and make life just a little bit easier? What would you tell that little girl about those mean kids teasing you for being a nerd, or about coping when your mom died much too soon? How many of you wish you hadn’t put that baby oil on your face to speed up sun tanning?

(Click over to read excerpts from real letters real women have written to their younger selves.)

If you could write a letter to your younger self offering advice, what would you say?

I’m way too despondent about things right now, and my letter would be bleak and grim, so I’m going to abstain from this one…

Thanks to bronxbee for the suggestion.

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • Karl Morton IV

    Anyone who cares to offer warm, fluffy, supportive sentiments (empirically valueless? perhaps – but still…) toward MaryAnn should do so, I think. We all need it sometimes, yes?

  • bronxbee

    i would tell myself to (honestly, i would) that things are rarely going to work out as you think they would, that you really, really should save money for that rainy day (it comes along more often than you think), that you don’t know how happy you are until something comes along to change that happiness, that you have to take pleasure in your friends, and small talents and that it’s all way too short.

    not the cheeriest message either, i know… but it’s on my mind lately, as i wait to hear my fate at work, and see my loved ones getting older, and am separated from friends, and many other things.

  • Stephanie C.

    Kiss Chris the first time you want to, or never kiss him at all.

  • Danielm80

    The other kids aren’t making fun of you because they’re jealous. They’re making fun of you because you’re a Goody Two-Shoes who wears the same clothes every day.

    Your life is funnier than you think it is. If you realize this, you’ll be a lot less anxious.

    Also, you know all those movies where the guy pursues the beautiful girl more and more aggressively until she falls for him in the end? Do not use those movies as dating advice.

    But Spider-Man is just as cool as you think he is.

  • Bluejay

    You know, that’s tricky. I’m not sure I’d advise my younger self to do anything differently at all. My life today is the result of the choices I’ve made — ALL the choices I’ve made, good and bad, wise and foolish, timid and brave. And while there are aspects of my life that I’m certainly dissatisfied with, there are other aspects I wouldn’t trade for the cosmos. If I’d made different choices — braver and better choices though they might seem — I probably would have wound up in different places than I had, and there’s a good chance I would have completely missed out on meeting the incredible woman who’s now my wife; and I’d never have known the amazing girl who’s now my daughter. They’re everything to me, and all my triumphs AND my failures have made their presence in my life possible. No way I’m giving that up.

    I do think (or at least hope) that I’m wiser than I was, but I’d rather apply the lessons I’ve learned to my life going forward.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    “Go to grad school. Yeah, I know, being a band director sounds like fun. But lots of things are fun but don’t really work out. Go to grad school.”

  • lescarr

    It’s scary contemplating retrospective change, and I’m completely with you on not wanting to change family and friends. So I admire Tim Minchin for his outlook on this issue – If I Didn’t Have You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeZMIgheZro

  • Bluejay

    Yeah, I thought of that song as I was writing my comment. But it’s one thing to know that hypothetically I could be happy living a completely different life with different people, and quite another to knowingly make retroactive decisions that would deprive me of the people I already know I love. (Not that that’s really possible, of course.)

    Although I suppose life with a small blonde Portuguese skier with neck-down alopecia would be interesting. ;-)

  • lescarr

    I think I would just tell myself to just take to heart the lyrics of Baz Luhrman’s Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen). As a Viking descended ginger person, I went on to use a lot of sunscreen. But the rest of the advice would have been bang on as well.

    Of course, I didn’t believe Baz Luhrman at the time, and I don’t think I’d have listened to my future self either. The whole situation reminds me of a scene in a pantomime I heard on BBC Radio 4 when I was a teenager:

    Buttons: I should have listened to what my mother said.
    Ugly Stepsister: Why? What did she say?
    Buttons: I don’t know. I wasn’t listening.

  • LaSargenta

    Even contemplating this question opens too big a can of worms.

    Don’t look back, something may be gaining on you. — Satchel Paige

  • Beowulf

    I’d say: Buy Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Walmart.

  • That’s kind of my thought process. There’s just too much there. I’m much more of a forward thinking kind of person nowadays. Looking back makes me uncomfortable.

  • lescarr

    Hey, Biff Jr, I have a sports almanac to show you…

  • LaSargenta

    Especially since in many ways, there wasn’t much I could have done myself to change things. I was already counting down to being old enough to sign a contract so I could move out and get on with my life. I mean, what would I tell myself… beg a relative to take me in? Nah, none of my family would have done that. I already was keeping my chin up and putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t know what other advice I’d have. Except maybe to get therapy a helluva lot earlier than I did.

  • There was an exchange just like that in *The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy* between Arthur and Ford.

  • But what do you do after the rainy day comes, and it never stops raining? :-(

  • Guest

    find your shelter in other things…

  • lescarr

    That’s just the way it is in England. Sorry about that.

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