I’m still in the midst of reading What I Know Now: Letters To My Younger Self, but these 3 letters are my current favourite and I wanted to document the words down.
Olympia Dukakis – Actress
“Learn how to celebrate.”
One way is to realize that being strong doesn’t require that you deny yourself pleasures. You don’t have to “earn” them by toiling harder than every other workhorse. You’re unnaturally good at deferring gratification, Olympia. Learn that you can be responsible for your children and enjoy them at the same time. Talk to them about what’s happening and, even more important, listen to what they say.
What could also ease your stress is a different way of thinking about how we travel through this world. There’s no ladder to success. The rhythm of life runs in cycles. There are times in the darkness and times in the light. The energy of life is like the rain forest in Borneo. Things live, grow, die, fall to the forest floor, rot, and then they are born again. Remember what Mother says? Everyone gets kicked down the stairs. This is one of those times.
You must embrace these changes. As difficult as they are, they will pass. But you mustn’t bury or deny the darkness. You gotta live through it, you can’t cheat.
Even now, you have a lot to look forward to. Birthdays, for example. You and Louie have rarely made merry on those days. Sometimes you’ve forgotten them altogether. But that will change. You’ll understand that purposely capturing happy moments expands your soul. On your fortieth wedding anniversary, you’ll have an enormous party at your New York City loft with fifty people raising their glasses to you. In time you’ll start to rent a giant house at a different beach every summer and invite the whole family to come.
It won’t be a “happily ever after” story – the cycles of darkness and light continue. But have patience. Your most important struggles will be hard-fought but won well.
Endure and have faith,
Rebecca Lobo – Olympic Basketball Athlete
“You can pick and choose.”
Your family gives you the kind of refuge and anchor you need. But, Rebecca, can’t you see that your boyfriend doesn’t?
I see what’s happening and I’m puzzled. You’re travelling the country and the world for the first time with your team, but you feel like you’re on a leash – worries about going out to dinner with your teammates in case you miss his call. Or, more to the point, worries that missing his call will trigger another fight that ends with tears running down your cheeks. You don’t enjoy conflict and arguments, but they’ve become a regular part of your phone calls and conversations with your boyfriend. He’s a good guy, yes, and he makes you laugh. But for some reason, he can’t trust you. You’re both young and you just aren’t right for each other.
This is the first real boyfriend you’ve had. I think you’re expecting it to be like the only relationship you’ve known – your parents’. They have their irritated moments, but they love each other to death and they trust each other completely.
Why isn’t your relationship like that? Here is where your best traits, your determination and persistence, are working against you. You can’t make this work. You have to find the right person.
Don’t spend nearly two years anticipating his next blowup. Say good-bye to your boyfriend now. You’ll form much closer relationships with your teammates. Your friends won’t be given short shrift. You’ll get to fully experience traveling to China, Australia, and Siberia. You’ll get to see as much as you want of your family when you go back home, rather than feeling pressured to devote every instant to him.
There will be a lot of terrific men who will have an interest in you. You’re just as special as your family has taught you all along, Rebecca. You can pick and choose. Your future husband is a writer who will devote a funny, adulatory column to describe the way he fell in love with you. At age twenty-one, your boyfriend is making you cry. At thirty, you’ll say about your marriage, “It couldn’t be more perfect.”
You warm my heart,
Cokie Roberts – Columnist and Commentator
“There’s no need to be doing it all at once.”
Is this a life sentence?Will you spend the rest of your life with jelly stains on your knees? Will your kids ever sleep through the night?
Being the mother of two tiny kids frazzles you because the utterly banal is, somehow, profoundly important. Nothing could be more mindless than wiping noses and pouring apple juice – yet you know there’s no bigger job. For so much to hinge on so little is brain – numbing. It’s as if world peace depended on how well you dust your living room. Worse, you were never any good at homemaking arts, apart from cooking. Now you’re supposed to put toys away and clean out the tub as if your children’s entire future success hangs in the balance?
This kind of absurd mismatch between day-to-day motherhood and the emotional charge it carries can be a little scary. Your kids, like all kids, are a pain in the neck sometimes. As a regular person in your regular life, you really don’t get angry. But as a mother, you’re shocked at your capacity for anger with your children.
Instead of childish misbehavior, their transgressions seem like horrible reflections on you as a mother.
Here’s my advice on anger, chaos and isolation. First, beware the dangers of extrapolation in motherhood. Despite his impressive tantrums, your willful son will not throw himself on the floor of grocery stores, screaming for angry, when he’s grown up. Just because your daughter can’t seem to stop talking now doesn’t mean she won’t ever. Also, understand that this won’t last forever. Don’t feel oppressed by it. These are very short years in the scheme of life and you will live through them.
You’re trying to fit everything in at once, working for TV station and a magazine. But Cokie, you’ll be in the workplace for fifty years, literally. There’s no need to be doing it all at once. At times you do have to, but there are times when you don’t. You can leave the work world – and come back on your own terms.
One more thing: There will be compensation! Your children will grow up to be charming and caring people – who will produce adorable grandchildren. Your willful son will someday have an extremely willful daughter. One of your daughter’s sons will talk incessantly. And guess who will have patience for all of that and more? You.
Hang in there.
Reading these, makes me wonder at times, how life would be if we could live it backwards. If only, you are born with the knowledge that you have acquired as age catches up on you. Isn’t it tragic you die with so much knowledge, wisdom to share? You spend so much of your youth questioning decisions, choices, life, we fail to live and enjoy our childhood. We get so caught up growing up, being an adult, bearing responsibilities we forget the innocence our childhood means, is supposed to mean. It’s like seeking comfort in knowing where you will be in 30 years time, knowing whose hand you will be holding as you walk down the aisle, who you should keep close, who you should walk away from to be happier now. Instead of worrying about the future. If only, life can be lived backwards.
What would you tell your younger self? Here’s what I would say to my 16-year-old self.