You don’t know me. You haven’t even imagined me. I’m your future you.

I remember you well. You’re a timid, uncertain, self-conscious girl who thinks everyone else is better than she is. School is easy for you, yet you think you’re not very smart. Consequently, you have no ambition or drive to do anything other than what’s in front of you at that moment. You constantly feel sorry for yourself because your friends have serious boyfriends and you don’t. You have crushes on several guys but never get the nerve to talk to them. You think you’re ugly and that’s why boys don’t like you.

When I think of you, I wish I could go back then and tell you how other people see you. I wish I could tell you what you are capable of and all the things you could do with some effort. Since I can’t, I’ll tell you in this letter.

Here’s what I would say:

1. You’re smarter than you think. The ease with which you coast through school should tell you that. You don’t have to settle for being a secretary. Shoot for being the one who NEEDS a secretary. You live in an age when women’s opportunities are opening in jobs other than teaching, nursing, and secretarial. Follow your heart. Be a historian, an archaeologist, a writer, a computer scientist. You don’t have to be just one thing. You have the brains; go use them.

2. Stop feeling sorry for yourself for not having a boyfriend. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or that you’re ugly. It doesn’t mean your thick glasses are repulsive. It just means…it doesn’t mean anything. Enjoy the freedom from the drama and heartache it involves. You’ll be married way more years than you’re single so enjoy your single-hood while you can. God will send someone in time so wait patiently for him.

3. Stop being afraid of what other people are thinking of you. It’s none of your business. What’s more important is what you think of yourself. Stop trying to be like someone else and be yourself. Be the kindest, nicest person you can be, and I guarantee, no one will be thinking anything bad about you.

4. Don’t be afraid of people laughing at you. No one is perfect and no one does everything perfectly every time. We all trip over invisible speed bumps. We all drop something off our forks at one time or another. You’re no different than the crowd. Learn to laugh at yourself, and you’ll keep yourself entertained all your life.

5. A heads up: your shyness and inability to talk in a group makes you seem like a snob to some people. You and I know that it’s fear keeping your face somber and your tongue tied up in knots, but they don’t know that. If you do nothing else, smile. That makes you seem friendly. Acknowledge other people’s presences to make them feel special. You don’t have to have a prolonged conversation with anyone, but just say hello, how are you. It’s enough to start. Most of all, those things you want most like being seen and heard, give them to others and they’ll return them.

6. Very important, learn how to take care of yourself. Quit depending on others to tell you when and how to do things. Take it upon yourself to be responsible for yourself. Learn about financial management (very important skill). Learn how to take care of your vehicles. Learn about insurance, paying bills, and all the other things that come with being an adult. You’re almost 18, when you’ll be considered an adult in the eyes of the legal system. It’s time to start acting like one.

7. Learn good strategies for making decisions. Your whole life you’ve been told when and where to go, what to wear, what to do. It’s time to start making some of those decisions yourself. Learn how to weigh the costs and the consequences of your actions. Think of short-term and long-term outcomes that you want or want to avoid and alter your decisions appropriately. As an adult, you’ll make decisions every day, and it’s time to start practicing the skills.

8. Stop saying “I’m sorry” for everything. Not everything is your fault so there’s no need to apologize for it. It’s a bad habit that should have never been started. Even as an old lady, I’m apologizing for everything and I wish I could stop. Stop now so I don’t have to in the future.

9. Learn all you can. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the better off you are. Watch for opportunities and take advantage of them. Learn things even if you don’t think you’ll ever use them. At least you know. Try doing all kinds of things because you never know when you might stumble across the one thing that brings you a lot of joy. Plus, knowing how to do all kinds of things means you’ll never be bored.

10. Be confident. Be kind to everyone. You never know what they are dealing with at that moment when you are near. Look for ways to do good and make others feel special. What you give out is what you get back. If you want to reap good things, then sow good things.

11. I’ve had the good fortune to live a lot longer than you ever imagined. Someday you’ll hear a joke about if you’d known you were going to live this long, you’d have taken better care of yourself. I’m telling you now, you will and you should. So start now, watching your weight and getting enough exercise to stay healthy.

That’s pretty much what I would say to you if I could go back in time. There’s no telling how much more you would have accomplished by my age if you’d done these things. But you didn’t. I suppose passing them on to our grandsons will have to do.

If I were there, I’d give you a long bear hug and tell you how much I love you. You don’t hear those words very often, but someday you will. Hang on, girl. You’ll be amazed at what all you accomplish.

With love and respect, You 48 years from now

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