Saturday, July 30, 2011

Note to Younger Self

This is my friend, Susan, in 1986. Isn't she adorable? She recently posted this picture on facebook as part of a joke about big hair. I left this comment:

Oh girl, you are rockin' that hair...a true 80s diva!

She commented back:
Haha! That just goes to show that pictures can mean whatever we want them to 25 years after the fact. The truth is that I was an insecure 17-year-old who thought that I wasn't cool enough, thin enough or smart enough. I wish I could go meet that girl and tell her that she was really all three.
Susan is a really dear friend. She is also ridiculously impressive.

She is married with two kids. By the age of 26, she had completed a PhD in Neuroscience from Emory.

A full-time professor, she's been her daughter's Girl Scout troop leader and the student government faculty advisor where she teaches. Two years ago she was voted "Professor of the Year."

She spends time throughout the summer with her best and brightest students in the lab...just because she wants to help them get into good graduate schools.

She's also finishing up a Master's Degree in Bioethics. {Because clearly, she needs to bolster those credentials.}

I've often told Susan that she has better time-management skills than any person on the planet.

As if that's not enough, she is witty and creative and multi-talented. She cares for others and personifies devotion. I love Susan because, well, I just love Susan...and she has been a precious friend to me over the last 9 years.

When I read her comment, I was immediately struck by how someone like Susan ever thought she was anything "less than." And then I was immediately struck by how I thought so many of the same things at that age. You probably did too.

Now I am not as accomplished as Susan, but I still never came close to measuring up to my own standards. At 17, I did not consider myself noteworthy. I longed to be someone impressive but felt forever relegated to the land of mediocrity.

Looking back, I would have told my younger self that there's so much more than popularity, beauty, athleticism or having the highest GPA.

Yet here I am, at 38, and I still struggle from time to time. There will forever be those who are more "popular" and likable, those who are lovelier {and have less gray hair,} those who run further and faster or complete triathlons, those who are smarter or better writers or more accomplished as mothers and "domestic engineers."

In a way, do we girls ever really graduate? Do we ever "measure up" in our own eyes?

There is, however, one thing that distinguishes me now from my teenage self {besides stretch marks.} I may not totally know who I am, but I'm finally learning who I'm not. It's something I'm learning to embrace actually. I can admire others' talents, gifts and attributes without wishing they were mine.

Please tell me that's a sign of grace and maturity. Please. Because the process of acceptance has been painfully slow and hard-fought.

But I can say that there is finally less striving, not as much wishing, and a whole lot more accepting.

My friend, Katie, and I were sitting in my driveway a few days ago discussing this very issue. She figured out who she wasn't long before I figured that out for myself. I envy that. She also told me that one of her favorite quotes is from the great philosopher, Dolly Parton:

Find out who you are and do it on purpose.

Don't you love that?

So in light of Dolly's wise words and Susan's wishes for her younger self, here's a note to my younger self:

Love your skin. And your body. And your hair. Because it all sags and stretches, grays and thins faster than you can say "Botox." It really is what's on the inside that counts. Sunbathing on the trampoline in Crisco is a bad idea. You can thank me later. Most importantly, quit wishing you are someone you're not. Get to know yourself and embrace the God-given uniqueness that is you. I could tell you more but you're 17 so this will probably go right in one ear and out the other.

P.S. : Your parents are smart and usually right after all...especially the part about nothing good ever happening after midnight.

P.S.S : Forty will be here sooner than you think and it's not as old as it sounds.

Love, Me


  1. :). Thanks Marian...STR

  2. If I only knew then what I know now I would have savored life more.

  3. Oh, funny that I just wrote about a similar topic, albeit in a less profound and poignant way. The teenage years can really be very difficult and I guess everyone will have to go through that so we can have the wisdom to validate our children when their own teenage years come.

  4. Scooper,
    Once again your posting is spot on to what I need to read. Bless you, Dear One!

    Love, love, love the photo of your friend.

    As the mom to two teenagers your words are especially helpful in me guiding them through these turbulent years. Naturally they think I'm dumber than dirt and know absolutely nothing about anything, but I'm persevering through these years. Speaking to them as one who deeply cares for them is essential. Not mushy, but lovingly encouraging them.

    Remembering to turn to the One who knows them (and me) intimately aids the process, too. Knowing I am never alone, that God is always with me and with them is so helpful.
    Blessings to you and yours.

  5. Nothing good happens after midnight? Sounds like pronouncement of a morning person! Love who you are . . . and are becoming. LYF, Dad

  6. Love this! As the mother of a 16 year old daughter and a former teenage girl myself, this really resonates. I wish I could say I was all grown up and never felt like that insecure teenage girl, but sometimes I still do. Like you, I've matured, but I'm not fully there yet. Glad to have encouragers like you on my journey!

  7. Your friend sounds amazing. . . it's really interesting to think that even someone such as she had those same teenage doubts and insecurities! I wish my insecurities had been limited to my teenage years. Wish I'd heard Dolly's words of wisdom many years ago!

  8. Oh, my word! That Crisco baking girl on the trampoline has got me laughing again! What memories!

    Life, and living, must be sorted; and discovering who we are NOT is amazingly helpful in leaving behind the sifted discovery of who we ARE. Some of us seem to come at self-discovery through the swinging back door.

    You are loved, my girl.


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