In my stack of recently unearthed journal entries, was a letter written to my younger self. This was my wisdom at 17.
One day on a walk, I ran into my 10-year-old self. She was short and skinny and stood with a worried look permanently stretched across her face.
“Courtney?” I said.
“Yes, and you are?” she replied.
“I am you in 7 years. Older, wiser and most importantly, stronger.”
“But I don’t get it. How? Why?”
“Just trust me. I don’t have long, so pay attention. Ahead in the road, especially middle school, you’ll feel lost and lonely sometimes. It’s important that you don’t allow yourself to become a follower. Followers never outgrow the people they stand behind. Be open to new things and doubtful talents. Most importantly, people will try to get you down, but that’s just their insecurity showing through. Everything lands where it’s supposed to.
And with that, I turned and walked away. The rest she has to learn on her own. That’s how she will become me.
First, I have to just say what we’re all thinking here. This seems like a crazy heavy conversation to be having with a 10 year old, no? Not to be my own worst critic, but ease up there philosophical Phyllis. She can’t possibly process that deep of an emotional dump. Cheese and rice ….
I do feel the need to rekindle this assignment; to right the wrong that is my over-dramatic, over-analytical junior year docent into adulthood. If, at 33, I just happened to collide with this high school version of myself on the street, I would smile fondly in an attempt to calm and quiet her 50-miles-a-minute thoughts. I would speak deliberately and honestly, knowing her thirst for truth, clarity and directness.
“Courtney,” I would say, “stop focusing so much on what success should look like or might look like. It will look like different things at different times. Sometimes you’ll think you have it, only to discover, it doesn’t really feel as great as a simpler happiness did. It will find you if you resist the urge to chase it. It will mean less when you get there than you think it will right now. In fact, you could measure it in the increments they use to measure air in comparison to the value you find in the people who will fill your home.
Those people, those amazing blessings your mind can’t even fathom at this point, will come to you through love. I know you worry about if and where that kind of love lives and how it will find you. It’s there, dear girl, and it’s much closer than you think. Find a peace in your being and confidence in your own skin and your heart will let you know when he gets here.
Make your friends, your family and your health a priority. Make phone calls, send cards and take walks. Watch your mom; believe it or not, one day your crazy and her crazy are going to look pretty darn similar, and you’ll be better for it. Relax on the sugar and the smokes and the self deprecation. Go out and push your body.
You worry so dang much. And, I’m sorry to tell you, that’s not going anywhere. You are cursed with a persistent perplexity and it only grows as your care for those around you deepens. The only thing I can tell you is that, to this point, the road has been mostly smooth with subtle turns that brought unexpected joy and growth. Try to look around and appreciate the adventures when they come.
Never stop working on yourself. Never trust a stranger when they stand to gain anything more than friendship from your relationship, and visit with yourself in the quiet moments. You might like what you hear when you really listen. Enjoy the journey … it’s a good one.”
And then I’d go get frozen yogurt and she would go get a pack of Camel Lights and Diet Coke. I mean you have to let kids make their mistakes, right?