letter to my twenty-year-old self

Karen Walrond at Chookooloonks is one of my heroes.  I am so in awe that it is probably for the best that I don’t live in Houston.  In my fangirl enthusiasm, I might veer toward stalker territory, and while I know Karen would be well capable of setting boundaries and telling me to bugger off, I wouldn’t want to put her in that position.  It just wouldn’t be nice.

Recently, Karen responded to Cassie Boorn’s call for women bloggers to write letters to their younger selves. (I wonder if this idea was inspired by Ellyn Spragins’ books, including What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self.)

Since Karen’s letter posted, roughly a month ago, I’ve been noodling on the idea, and this is what I’ve come up with.

Dear 20-year-old Me,

This is kind of long, but I know you won’t mind.  We still don’t have the hang of telling the short version of the story.

Trust your gut. You can count on the decisions you make from there.  Overthinking can be paralyzing – you already know what I mean, don’t you?


Really. Do this.

Those people who bring back great travel stories and pictures? Don’t just admire and dream.  Create your own memories.

Travel will inspire you.  It will expand your world at the same time that it reminds you how small you are in the grand scheme of things.  And wherever you go, learn the words for please, thank youI’m sorry, and Where is the bathroom? in the local language.

I love how much you read books and write stories and take pictures with that awesome graduation-present camera.  These can be so much more than just hobbies.

Dive in.  Really sink your teeth into them.  Maybe even take a course – contrary to what you believe now, it’s not a frivolous thing to do.  This is where you are happy and creative.  Remember how you feel when you do these things – that feeling is another good metric for making decisions.

I know you had some real crap-ass things happen to you when you were younger.  You don’t want to talk about them yet, and that is okay.  Someday soon you will, and you will be surprised at how much better that makes you feel.  You couldn’t have done it sooner, so don’t beat yourself up over it – things come in their own time.

All of those hard things that happen make you a deeply compassionate person.  That helps when you are going to bat for the underdog.  You are a generous and spirited advocate – it is in your nature.

Wow – how much fun do you have with kids?  Some people will appreciate your innocence and say it’s part of your charm, others will call you naive and criticize you for it.  That is their problem.  That innocence you have, that ability to always see the good side of things – that is a GIFT – hang onto it.  It helps you through some (more) tough times later.

You will have other best friends, and yes, it is shitty to have one walk away to be with a man.  Remember how this feels – take care of your friendships even when you have a fabulous new man on tap.  (And, oh, what a man.)

On a lighter note, you don’t have to wait until you are 40 to pluck your eyebrows.  Brooke Shields will eventually do it, you can too.  Just be careful not to overdo it – we know people who now have to draw their eyebrows with a pencil.

All the ways you take care of your skin?  That is awesome.  Keep doing that.  When you are over 40, no one will believe you have a teenage daughter.  (Oops… yes, you have a teenage daughter.  She’s amazing.)

Go to more foreign films.  This is the time for that.

And the beach.  Go to the beach as often as you can.

I know you don’t have much experience with it, but camp whenever you can.  Sleeping outdoors, waking up to birdsong, breathing fresh air – these things always soothe you.

Also, wear sunscreen.  I’m not kidding.

And for god’s sake, enjoy your body.  You look great.  You are healthy and strong and fit – ENJOY IT. Oh… that guy who said you had pretty feet, and you didn’t know what he meant?  There will be more like him, and it turns out – you DO have pretty feet.  Paint your toenails.  Every colour you can imagine – it’s not nearly the risk you think it is.

Mostly, it’s okay to relax a bit.  You won’t shatter.  I promise.

With love,

You… later


  • I´m sorry is such a Canadian thing to learn while traveling! Not all languages have such an all-purpose word for sorry, while we have more than one in English that we use mostly interchangeably. Demetri Martin says that “I´m sorry” is the same as “I apologize”, unless you are at a funeral.

  • I think I need to do this exercise. Off the top of my head I think I need to tell my young self to forgive myself cause it is lots easier to love yourself if you let go of all those perceived inadequacies.

    Thanks for sharing your letter.

  • Catherine: Dimitri Martin might have a point.

    I have also encountered the difficulty of translating “I’m sorry.” Our other language does have a translation in Je m’excuse.

    In my travels, I have looked for a translation for “Excuse me,” as in, “Dude, we are on a crowded bus/sidewalk/aisle, and I’d like to pass by. Would you be willing to make some room?

    Whether or not Dude was willing to make room, I found it curious that there was simply no translation. A commentary on personal space, maybe? Perhaps, as a Canadian, I was more sensitive to it. Apparently, I am not the only one to notice this: close talker

    Martha + Dr. Kim: thank you

    I think this is a powerful thing to do. All of the letters I’ve read leave me with a full heart for those young women we were, the young women inside of us. I am in favour of actions that bring us into stronger community, supporting each other.

    Do it! I encourage you to write your own.

  • definitely interesting topic, lovely ideas here 😀 i may need to come back to blogging to make it happen as well 😀 …. ps welcome back.

  • Thank you, Anita! I’d love to see some of your writing, and it’s a great place to collect pics, too – do you have a blog now?

  • dinosaur green toes make everything better. feet are weird and they will always be weird.

    you’re an amazing writer and this is beautiful. but don’t ever wish that you could go back, y’know? everything turned out just fine. look at me. i’m awesome. 🙂

  • Aw… (can you hear Auntie C?) Thank you, lovey. My life is good – everything did turn out just fine. I wouldn’t go back for anything. Being here is GOOD. And you are awesome.

  • I loved your letter, a lot of what you wrote relates to my 22 year old self. I’m finally doing those things you wrote to your 2o year old self. Traveling, and learning that I won’t shatter whatever comes my way. So thanks for sharing your letter, because your story helps me write my own!

  • Tsunamiblues, thank you so much for your kind words. I found it very powerful to write the letter to my 20-year-old self. I think we carry all of our previous ages inside us – anyone who knows me will attest to having met my four-year-old self often – but the 20 yo me needed some tender loving care. I am glad I gave it to myself, even this much later. All the best on living your own story.

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