A Note to My Younger Self

30-year-old me, enjoying life (and cake)

I love Tyler Perry. As an actor, writer, producer, and director, he’s living proof that your dreams can come true with a lot of hard work and unwavering faith in God. He literally started from the bottom and is now one of the most successful men in the entertainment industry.

A few years ago, he posted a link to a challenge that CBS This Morning gave him. The challenge was to write a letter speaking to your younger self. Inspired by his post, I decided to do the same.

When I initially started thinking about it, I immediately started thinking about all the wrong things I did instead of focusing on all the successes and achievements. (Why do we always go to the negative first?) But the more I thought about it, I realized I’ve come a long way. And with all the mistakes I’ve made and all the struggles I’ve experienced, it’s made me a better person.

I wrote this letter shortly after I turned 30, so it’s five years old, but I wouldn’t change a thing. So, here goes: a note to my 20-year-old self.

Dear Jennifer,

I’m sending you a letter to give you some much-needed advice. Who am I, you ask? Well, I’m you, ten years older and MUCH wiser. I know I’m probably the last person you want to hear advice from because, at your age, you still think you know what you’re doing. I’m here to tell you, YOU DON’T. And you won’t know what the hell you’re doing or who you are for at least another 5-7 years.

You’ve done well so far. You graduated high school without getting pregnant (yes, that’s a monumental achievement believe it or not) and went right to college at a good school. After a semester of figuring out how to study because you never really needed to before, you’ve got your priorities in order and you know what you need to do to keep your grades up. You even managed to balance your classes and studies with an on-campus job, even though you work for one of the most hated agencies on campus. Years from now, you will avoid getting your car towed or ticketed many times because you realize the implications of not following the rules of parking signs.

In the interest of helping you out, I thought I’d give you a little friendly advice.

  1. Stay in school. I know you’ve been thinking about taking a break from college, but you’ll come to your senses in a few months and realize if you do, it’ll be that much harder to go back. Besides, what would you do while you’re on a “break” from the education you enjoy so much? You’re halfway done and let me tell you, one day you’ll look back and wish you were still in school, with no real world problems to deal with. You really should take part in more campus activities. Okay, so we don’t have a football team and we could definitely use a Student Union, but there’s still plenty to do.
  2. Don’t drink on campus. At least not until you’re 21 anyway. This one’s probably the hardest to stick to since someone’s always having a party and your friends in the next dorm over seem to have an endless supply of adult beverages. You don’t want to go to student court and even though you have a lot of friends who are cops, they won’t be able to help you out.
  3. Value the time you have with your family. Just because you’re growing up and loving your independent life, don’t forget those who got you this far. You don’t know it, but you have less than 2 years left with the most important man in your life. Time is limited and you are wasting it every time you decide not to come home and be with your loved ones.
  4. Scan62
    20-year-old me, on Spring Break in Myrtle Beach, SC (because what else did college kids do back then?)

    You don’t have to get married right after college. There’s pressure to take the next step after graduating. You’ve got a degree, a great job, now it’s time to lock it down and get started on a family. Hello, this isn’t 1960. Slow down. And by the way, the guy who’s pressuring you to get married is a TOTAL douche and he’s about to cost you your friendship with your BFF. And don’t be surprised if BFF says he doesn’t want to hear anything about him because he’s tired of watching you cry.

  5. You will experience a heart-wrenching loss in 2 years. See #3. This loss will be the first huge blow to your soul and you’ll come close to losing it. But you won’t. You will also start to find out who your true friends are. Years from now, you’ll have a precious few friends who understand the impact of this loss and will always be there to comfort you in your times of sorrow.
  6. Don’t give up on your faith. Your parents raised you Catholic. I know you’re into exploring other religions right now and you have no desire to go to church. In about 7 years you’ll realize that church is really the only place you can go when you feel you have nothing left. You’ll start to rebuild your faith and you’ll re-commit yourself to the values your parents gave you.
  7. Don’t get a credit card. It’s really the dumbest thing you can do. If you can’t afford it, DON’T BUY IT!
  8. Live a healthy lifestyle. Workout and eat right. Practice these habits now before you hit 26. You’d be surprised how quickly bad habits catch up to you.
  9. Your first love will not be your only love. You will love others and one day you’ll finally realize that you can be good friends (and only good friends) with the first person you truly loved. You’ll also realize that just because two people love and care about each other, it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be together. Scratch that, one day you’ll finally wise up and realize that this guy was never good for you and you’ll finally have the good sense to eliminate him from your life forever.
  10. Never put your career before anything else. The economy will hit a downward spiral in about 5 years and you’ll realize how that a job is just a job. No matter how dedicated you are to your job or your career, if they need to cut costs and people, they will. You’ll decide you want to work in Marketing when you graduate and unfortunately, that’s the first thing to go when they cut costs.

You’re going to learn so much about yourself in the next 10 years. Life is full of surprises. Some of them are wonderful and some are more painful than you can imagine. There’s a huge world out there with so many things to see, feel, hear and touch. You’ll have the opportunity to travel to some amazing places and you’ll discover that no matter how far you go, home is the one place you want to be more than anything. Treasure the moments you have with your family and hold on to each other in good times and bad. At the age of 30, you’ll realize that you have an amazing life and so much to be thankful for.

PS-YOU are amazing!

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