Thursday, August 28, 2014

Notes to My Younger Self

Today I'm participating in a blog series called Notes to My Younger Self, started by the awesomely inspiring Sarah- blogger at Yes and Yes, and writer of The Post College Survival Kit. She's invited some of her "clever, talented internet friends" to share their "wish-I'd-known words of wisdom", and for some reason, I was let into the cool-kid club to share my advice. So here goes...

Advice for a younger me? I could probably write a book. I could think of 1,002 tips to help poor, unsuspecting Courtney avoid each tiny mistake and major catastrophe she had to face. I'd tell her what to do, who to date (j/k, I was already married by then), and most importantly, I'd demand she throw out those hideous lazy-girl clogs that she was so fond of.

But despite all my hindsight wisdom, I'm hesitant to dole out advice on a 22 year old me...mostly because I remember being 22 year old me, and I thought I had things figured. OUT. And even in the rare moments when I realized I might not actually know it all, I was still bull-headed enough to insist upon figuring it out myself. So if the now-me bothered to lecture the past-me, would I even listen to myself? (If I talk to myself in a forest, but I don't listen, did I ever make a sound?) And further more, would I even want young-me to heed my warnings? 

Because, as I see it, giving that advice- laying out a cheat sheet with a secret path of least resistance to the ideal end goal of life- It's not a gift. It might actually be a robbery.

Sure, it would be great to save myself some tears over some relationship that wasn't going anywhere, or a mean coworker who would eventually be a blip on the radar. And I'd love to go back and erase any of the hurts my ignorance (or selfishness, or insensitivity...etc infinity...) caused to others. But providing a perfect path for an easy breezy life robs past-me of the opportunity to develop grittyness, determination, and the deep viceral desire to do better next time, after experiencing the gut wrenching feeling of failure and disappointment. And perhaps even more troubling, it takes away my chance to be thrown back on my heels in a good way by the twists and turns of life...There's no room for wonder if you already know all the answers. 

So as I look back on it, I'm hard pressed to find any advice I'd want to give myself, without traveling down a Butterfly Effect rabbithole (holy mixed metaphor!) fearing any deviations from my history would change my present. Sure, I could probably tell her to wash her makeup off every night, and put away $50 more each paycheck, and skip that second grilled cheese. But she'll figure that stuff out eventually, before too much damage is done. And the big stuff? As much as want to wrap my previous self up safely like a faberge egg, I know that I'd do better to let little baby bird me step out of the nest, flap, flop, and eventually fly. 

So I won't give myself advice. But I wouldn't give myself the cold shoulder either.
 If a baby-faced Courtney was standing in front of me, here's what I would give her:

You can do this. 
Even when "this" seems difficult, and confusing and scary. Remember- you are talented, and smart and brave. In other words- you're a perfect match for the tasks before you.

And reassurance.
You will do this. 
It's hard to know in the moment if all that effort is ever going to pay off. If the road clouded with dark patches will end in the light. I know how it feels to be on the endless path of striving, just try try trying until (and past) the brink of exhaustion. But stick with it. Because after a long uphill trek of caring too much and trying too hard...after the struggles of boundary setting, and priority finding and self doubting...after experiencing things the hard way, again and again before finally learning them the hard way...After all that? You'll find yourself at the top of a mountain you didn't fully realize you were climbing. And with that comes the motivation and confidence to scale the next peak. Oh, and a pretty kick-ass view.

And love.
You are doing this...And you're doing it beautifully. 
And though some of the strife will be behind you- the comparisons, and the insecurity, and the fatigue will still come. But the beauty of that long road traveled, and all those tiny scar reminders of your missteps, is that you'll realize your imperfections in a way that is somehow more empowering than defeating. You will have moments where you look around, in awe of what surrounds you- the love, the beauty, the success, the mess, the joy, and you'll realize: THIS. This is what I was working towards. THIS is what I've been blessed with. THIS is it. 

So as you find yourself in the moments of I can't, or I'll never, hear me- hear you- telling you: you can, and you will. And in those rare but exceedingly beautiful points in your journey, when you're lucky enough to stumble into a light that illuminates not only the splendor of your path- but just a teeny tiny slice of the awesomeness to come.... embrace those with everything you've got. Grab a couple of beers, pull your friends in close so you can kiss them squarely on their beautiful, surprised cheeks, and go to bed five minutes earlier than you want to. Because tomorrow comes quickly, bringing a whole new set of challenges, and there's no substitute for beauty sleep. (I guess I couldn't resist jamming some advice in there after all!)

(P.s. For real though, Court- throw away those clogs. You're better than that.)
What would you say to the you of yore? 

For the record- though I took this to a weird meta-theoretical place (as I'm weirdly prone to doing)- I have to say that there is value in the assignment as it was given, and even more in the advice Sarah offers in her book. Of course no one wants to take away the free will and wonder of 22 year olds. That's just my over dramatic soap box tendencies talking. But a few tips to save some time, heartache and a whole bunch of money? We should all be in line for that. So if you're hankering (that's right: hankering. That's a world old curmudgeons like me use) for more actionable advice, check out a few of the bloggers in the Notes To My Younger Self series: 
  • "Stop making that stupid peace sign with your fingers when you pose for photos."-Today I'm Bobbi 
  • "If you have to wonder if the person you’re dating likes you, then they probably don’t." -Smaggle
    "This day, this moment, right here and now is your whole life. And it will pass whether or not you spend it pushing, rushing or worrying." -The Small Change Project
  • "Embrace the free time. YOU HAVE SO MUCH FREE TIME"- enJOY it
    "Your chances of getting everything you want are slim to none if you don’t A) figure out what you want and B) SPEAK UP"- RosyBlu Handmade
  • "There is no man, no job, no home or amount of wealth that can ever generate an ongoing, uninterrupted sense of fulfillment."- Danielle Dowling


  1. I wouldn't be who I am now, and I love who I am now if I deviated from the path that I was on then so I don't think I would change a thing. It was worth all those struggles and mistakes to get to who I am today.

  2. This is great. It's good to be thankful for all our experiences in hindsight. But hard to live that out when we're in a hard day-to-day.

  3. This is beautiful. Seriously, I just teared up (being 22 and knowing EXACTLY what you're talking about). Thanks for the advice.