03LetterToYoungerDear Margaret, the Younger,

For the last year or so, I have been working on a family project to preserve photographs and documents for our Precious Jewels, and I have found a number of photos of you, triggering memories both wonderful and sad. I have also realized how much I know today that my younger self would take decades to absorb.

So, in no particular order, here is some of what I wish I had known when I was your age.

Worry less about what others think about you and any other subject. What really counts is what you think about you and the world around you.  

Learn to trust yourself and your instincts. You will make mistakes, but you will also learn from them and not repeat them.

Many young women spend their youths looking for Prince Charming, who may or may not show up and who is almost certainly different people at different stages of your life.  No need to expect him to pop up around every corner.  You will likely find each other when the time is right.

In the meantime, enjoy your life.  Meet new people, not all of whom will like you — or you, them — but as my mother told me, you can learn something from everyone you meet who knows something you do not. 

Prepare yourself for the rest of your life through a solid education and experiences that challenge you, but understand that no matter how much you prepare, life probably will not turn out the way you expect.

Travel. Go as many places as you can because once career and family take over, travel pretty much flies out the window for decades. International travel changes your worldview, but travelling to other cities and states broadens your outlook and is fun. Heck, a day trip to the North Carolina Zoo is a terrific change of scenery.

Understand that as life unfolds, you will experience great joys and losses that bring you to your knees.  Everyone goes through this, though some have harder and longer travails than others. You will be wiser and stronger from all your experiences.

Dream big. You can be the first woman U.S. president, but chances are you will not, and
that is okay. 

Don’t worry overly about your appearance. Clean and healthy go a long way, more than makeup and the latest trendy outfit. Paraphrasing Jill Conner Browne, author of the “Sweet Potato Queen” books, pretty and handsome do not last. Stupid does. Fortunately, so does smart.

Let go of anger and resentment as soon as you can. We all have these emotions, some deeply held, but they hurt only us, not those who we believe have done us wrong.  Allowing these emotions to rule us means that someone else, not us, is in charge. Kiss negative emotions goodbye and get on with your life.

Likewise, don’t sweat the small stuff. Surly store clerks. Traffic jams. People who let you down. Telephone solicitations. The list is endless and not worth your time and attention.

Beware of people who say they are often bored. Chances are that is because they are boring themselves.

Cherish your family — parents and siblings and those beyond the immediate family circle.  These are the people who know you best and love you most and are most invested in your happiness and success. They can make you more joyful and angry than almost anyone else, but they will not always be here. Some will go much earlier than you think. Whatever your differences, your hurts, your sadnesses, you will ultimately be thankful if you nurture your
family relationships.

On that note, though, the only person who will walk every step of life with you is you. Learn to love yourself and enjoy your own company. Treat each moment and each day as if it were precious, because it is. None of us ever know when, where or how our end will come. Fret not, but treasure each day as if it were your last. 

So go forth bravely and with a smile to meet whatever comes your way.  It is the only way to go.

Much love and with fingers crossed,

Margaret, the Elder

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