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“Wear sunscreen!” And other advice to myself as a twenty-something

Well, ’tis the season for commencement speeches, so I decided to write a private one to myself on the eve of my long-ago college graduation.  These are the words I wish I’d been able to hear at twenty:

Dear young thing,

Exhale, please.  And stop standing on tip toe.  You’ve scored a seat here at the table, and you can relax.  You’re welcome here; the world wants to hear what you think, so please share yourself with us.  Don’t be afraid your words might piss us off (they may) or that they aren’t wise enough (they are).  Share your gifts, your insight, your perspective with the rest of us — we are ready to be enriched by you.

Editing yourself does not please others, even though it seems it might.  And while pleasing others is an old habit of yours, it really doesn’t serve you.  So stop editing, and speak your mind.  Find a way to say it so that your truth comes out without unnecessary and distracting barbs.  Your truth might be searing, but it can sear right into the hearts of others.  This is a good thing.  Your words matter.  They matter to YOU, and therefore they matter to the rest of us.

Get very very quiet.  This may take awhile, so practice until you are comfortable with inner silence.  Some helpful allies are meditation and yoga, though you may very well find other ways to access this precious silence.  Within the silence lives your wisdom.  Access it.  Often.  And as you learn to trust it, bring it into the world and find ways to act on it.  Your wisdom is your only truly reliable compass, and you’ll need it as you navigate your way through rough patches.

Y’know that belief you have that another person is out there who is going to “complete you”?  Well, it’s not true.  You are already complete.  You lack nothing, my dear.  So pining away for the love that’s going to make you feel whole is, I’m sorry to say, a waste of time.  Rather than looking outside for it, rest in the knowledge that your heart is full.  That the love you seek is right here.  So claim it, embrace it, extend out to the edges of your own heart.  When you know that you’re complete, when you’re really quite sure of it, that’s when love will come along and knock you off your feet.  But it’ll be a love that enriches you with its uniqueness, not something you needed because you were lacking it.

While you’re graduating from college, you’re just beginning to learn.  Keep your mind open and available, as teachers will show up in all different forms.  Some will be unorthodox and hard to embrace, and some will become part of your inner circle.  Stay open and curious to teachings and to learnings of all types.

Keep this list of To Be’s in your back pocket:

Be humble.

Be respectful to yourself and to others.

Be kind.

Be honest.

Be yourself.

Be compassionate.

Be flexible.

Be profoundly grateful.

Oh, and one last thing.  Please, please wear sunscreen.  You have no idea how much you’ll appreciate this advice later, so trust me on this one.

What would you say to your 20 year old self, based on what you know now?  How might you ease some of the more painful chapters between then and now?  Please write your letter in the comments below!


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  • Lynn / Power Chicks May 31, 2011, 4:19 pm

    Dear Twenty’ish Me,

    Like all women, you need to understand that you have unique value that NO ONE ELSE HAS. The more you know yourself, respect and value your dreams, and take time to honor who you are as an individual, the more successful and happy you will be. It’s easy to believe that success has to do with outward things – your degree, your experience, your job, your relationships, etc. And YES – of course, all of these play a part in your life.

    Ultimately, though, it’s what you believe about yourself that determines how things play out. Believe you can do something, and you’ll have the courage to step out and DO IT. Believe you can’t, and you just won’t.

    What our world needs now is women who are willing to be bold, who know their own voices, who speak with confidence.

    Are you not there yet? No worries.

    Have great compassion on yourself as you learn, grow, try your best, stumble, and start again. Being a woman is a glorious thing, and we have much goodness to bring into our world. I trust that you are on a pathway that will serve our world beautifully.

    You contain within you the seed of much strength and inspiration, which you will share with others during your lifetime. Believe in yourself. If I could give you any gift at all? It would be a mirror in which you could see your own glorious being, ready to take on the world.

  • Amy Wolff June 1, 2011, 12:34 am

    What excellent, kind and wise advice!! Let’s print this out and slip it into every graduate’s program. Thanks for letting us read your letter!

  • diane leslie June 2, 2011, 8:56 pm

    Love reading this ~ beautiful wise women!!