Dear Ron, Now that I am well past my high school and college years, I can look back with a different perspective than I had when I was living through this time in my life. While I am fortunate to recall mostly fond memories of my teenage and young adult years, there this a significant “I wish I had done this differently” thought I can use as the basis for this reflective letter to myself. I remember well-meaning adults in my life during high school and college who offered observations about what they saw as my strengths, areas where improvement was needed, or ideas about career fields which might be good for me to consider. While I would like to think that I participated in the conversations with these folks in a polite and respectful manner, I definitely did not spend much time giving their advice serious consideration.
Notes to my 17-year-old self: This letter is not about me—although I am scintillatingly wonderful, of course—and it is not about the future, despite the fact that there is so much I am busting to tell. At least, it isn’t about these things in any direct sense. You see: I know you. I know you do not want to know what you will be like at age 54. You most certainly do not want to know what happens to you in the future. Not now, especially, when you have so many options (and when you dare not contemplate them). I recognize that you have no concept of the future, who or what you might become, how you might think or act. In many respects, you do not care about it at all. It seems more than a little boring. I understand. I will therefore not disclose anything about me, or [...]
Dear 17-year-old smart-ass, I have been staring at this computer screen for days trying to figure out why it is so difficult to write to you, and I just realized something. I know you. I know you, and I know what you’re thinking right now, and you’re already rolling your eyes at this letter because you don’t need advice from anyone. So listen, I am going to ask you to do something for me. Trust me. I know it is completely against your instincts right now to believe anything I have to say, but I promise you if you can just trust me with this, you’ll be happier with yourself a lot sooner. First of all, I have some bad news. Mom is right about everything. I am serious, everything you are so absolutely sure she is wrong about, she isn’t. So do yourself a favor and stop trying to [...]
Dearest Seneca, If you are not the most indecisive person in the world, I really don’t know who is. Or do I? Making decisions is not exactly your forte, but the ones you have made have been, to put it plainly, quite rash. What looks good on paper is not always everything that it is cracked up to be. Think through things calmly, explore, and make decisions based on what is true to your core, and not to the fleeting desires and ideas of those you surround yourself with. Get rid of all of those comparisons that you tend to make. Your name is Seneca, for crying out loud, and, indeed, I have yet to meet someone who can capture in a word who you are. I sure hope that it remains that way. Never do a job that you do not like; money should not rule your life. But, [...]
Attention past Jamie, I know you’re worried about going off to college, but don’t be. The truth is, college is a lot of work, but the work is not super difficult. For the most part, it’s reading and writing, just more than you’ve ever seen in one place at one time. You can handle it. College is a lot like digging a hole: it’s not going to strain your brain, but you’re still going to need to bust your ass to get the job done. Don’t slack off, don’t get cocky, and if a professor wants you to learn something that sounds ridiculous, just go with it. You don’t need to take everything they teach you to heart, but arguing with the professor will get you nowhere; just do the work, get the A, and move on. You are going to be attending a community college for two years, but [...]
Dear Ionut, Wow, will you be in for some surprises!!! Now, you may think you know what you want to do in college and later in life, but let me disabuse you of any notion that your plans are worth a dime! You will not only change your major two times over the first couple of years in college, but you will also find your career calling in an area that you may have always felt an attraction for, but which you never really counted as a serious option. All of this is good news though! You will discover new things that will greatly stimulate you intellectually, you’ll meet amazing mentors and friends and develop relationships with them that will go on for the rest of your life. And that’s just awesome! Lastly, one piece of advice on your personal life. College will be a place full of all sorts [...]
Dear Jacob (the 17 year old version), Your 23-year-old self thought your 17-year-old self should be aware of the following: Please start questioning yourself and take some time to reflect on the choices you make and how they define your character. End this robotic non-sense. There’s no instruction guide this time around, but you can start by seeing what meaning you can extract from Socrates’ quotation, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Stop thinking that the universe of colleges exists only within the top 25 teams in the ESPN / USA Today college football weekly poll. As much as you want be that “guy” on Saturday mornings and afternoons who paints his chest in his school’s colors and helps rally the student section in the large Division I behemoth of a stadium, you’ll realize that such fan behavior extends to the smaller schools who play in D-III conferences and [...]
Dear Meaghan, Stop it. Just stop it. Now. I know this might be falling on deaf ears, but it’s worth a try. You are an incredibly capable young woman and already mature beyond your years. Stop the ruminating, the negativity, and the self hatred. It’s annoying. You are a wonderful, smart individual chock-full of talent and potential. Yet, potential, by definition, is unrealized. So, get your head out of your ass and start studying. Right now, you’re a B average student. Because you don’t have to try. But there will come a day when you will have studied for 14 hours straight, and you will really regret knowing that had you put in a couple extra hours a week in high school, you could have been a straight A student. This single act alone could change your entire future! Stop listening to other people so intently–their word is not gold. [...]
Dear me, So I guess you want to know what’s gonna happen in the future. Yeah, I’m not going to tell you. What I will tell you is what would have helped me back then. Well, first off, don’t worry, you only get better looking. Next, always remember that you are incredibly smart, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Tell her you love her, but only if you mean it. And you will know when you mean it.
Dear Today’s High School Student, Reflecting on my anxieties as a high school student and fast forwarding to where I am now, I want to inform, encourage and reassure you. Visit lots of colleges. From there, you’ll be able to get a sense of what you like and what you don’t like, and maybe if you’re lucky, get that instant sense of a place that you know you’ll fit in and make a mark. Don’t write off study abroad as being only for foreign language or international relations majors. It would be a shame to let them have all the fun! Make it a priority to find a way to study abroad while in college. Yes, there are lots of scholarships out there, but there is conjointly a lot of competition. It’s not a personal attack if you aren’t selected. The best kind of scholarships are those you win after [...]