Words for a younger self

I feel tender toward the uncertain young woman I was when my life seemed to be spinning out of control. I want to tell her things will turn out all right. She’ll survive the crashes. Sometimes she’ll soar. There will never be a day when something good doesn’t happen. She’ll find happiness, not as a destination but all along the journey.

If I could talk to that young self, here’s what I’d tell her.

Cathryn Wellner

A picture from a younger, more confusing time in my life.

The place you are now is as good a launching pad as anywhere else. You won’t stay in this place. You’ll move from it in directions you can’t anticipate in advance. Expect the unexpected and revel in it.

 

Choose companions who enlarge you, who make you smile, who ask good questions, who believe in you. Love them. Listen to them. Some of them will come into your life for a short time. Others will walk beside you for years. Enjoy them all. Each will add something unique to your life.

Be compassionate when your friends are down, but don’t drown in the whirlpool of others’ despair. They need your strength and joy, as you will need theirs when your roller coaster ride temporarily derails.

Dance. Sing. Draw. Write. Explore every inch of your creative self. Listen to critics whose words are sparks, helping your own vision burn more brightly. Ignore them when they speak from their own fear. You’ll know the difference. Advice from the good critics will resonate in you.

Keep any advice you receive tucked into your traveling bag, not as a map but as a companion. The advice anyone gives you will be colored by their own experiences of love, elation, betrayal, generosity, steadfastness, confusion, loss, and courage. Take what rings true for you. Discard what grates your soul.

Travel light. Carry with you the belief of family and friends who love you, your intelligence and curiosity, enough good sense to keep you safe, and enough daring to break the boundaries of limitations. Little more is needed on this journey through life. Material goods are valuable insofar as they provide a modicum of comfort and security. Beyond that they become weights that hold you earthbound when you would soar. And you will soar.

Finally, always carry this quote from Henry van Dyke in your heart: “Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be very silent if no bird sang except the best.”

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29 comments for “Words for a younger self

  1. May 18, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Wow, I love this.

  2. May 18, 2011 at 8:46 am

    So nice, thanks so much for writing this and sharing it. I’m going to share with my daughter!

  3. Naomi
    May 18, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Very well said! This is one to keep on my desk and live with for a while.

  4. May 18, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Thanks, Lydia. 🙂

  5. May 18, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Sounds like your daughter is one of the lucky ones, with a loving, supportive father.

  6. May 18, 2011 at 9:53 am

    That means a lot to me, Naomi.

  7. sterling haynes
    May 18, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I enjoyed your words and your ideas.
    I write and enjoy our four daughters. I was lucky to have honest, straightforward and talented parents with different, compassionate ideas of society.

  8. Liz Weir
    May 18, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Ah…..that picture is one I remember, as I do all the advice you have given me over the years. Very wise words, Cathryn. Thank you!

  9. Anita
    May 18, 2011 at 10:44 am

    So true and I will share with my daughter. It will be another discovery along her life’s path.

  10. emmie
    May 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

    good writing cathryn…!!!!!!
    that youngest self of mine wished to have heard your voice….

  11. May 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    We’ve both ridden the roller coaster, and I’m thrilled our journey has been as friends.

  12. May 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    You have a beautiful daughter. I know she’s had good guidance from you.

  13. May 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you so much, Emmie!

  14. May 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    If children actually can choose their parents, yours chose well. 🙂

  15. May 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    “Travelling light” is great advice – I have at times felt so bogged down with well meant advice. Have had to learn to be more selective of the guidance that I take on my own travels. And yet even that process has been a lesson in itself, and all part of the journey. Wonderful post Cathryn. Thank you.

  16. May 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    The good part of bad advice is that it teaches us to rein in our own. You’re so right, Rebecca. It’s all part of the journey.

  17. May 19, 2011 at 7:20 am

    Cathryn, I may have mentioned this before, but this also strikes me as a wonderful launch for a memoir. And I wonder if an entire memoir could be written in this voice, of you giving advice to your younger self. It’s compelling. I relate to your message to your younger self a great deal and wonder if this passage from “not knowing” to “knowing” is tucked in the cards all along. Perhaps. But either way, I really think you’ve got a neat approach here … as a blog post, or as something longer one day. What a gift this kind of book would be to all the many “daughters” in the world! Because we do forget how we used to feel. And we do forget how far we’ve come, how much we’ve learned. It’s a great reminder. Thank you. –Daisy

  18. May 19, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I speak here from experience. A reader of my recently published memoir who had agreed to exchange books wrote me that she could not bear to read what I had written–not her exact words but the gist. I was devastated, thought I had done harm. I wrote to Cathryn (did not mention the person’s name) and told her about what I felt. It was through her words, her help that I was helped. And then I knew I had to invite her to write a guest post on my blog. And that post is remarkable, as is this one. Cathryn, you define courage, but more, wisdom, a combination that makes you invaluable in my life, as “virtual” as this friendship is, it is also palpable.

    If any readers here would like quick access to Cathryn’s blog post on my blog, go here and read more about what this remarkable woman has done throughout her life: http://maryltabor.blogspot.com/2010/10/cathryn-wellner-on-risks-storyteller.html

  19. May 19, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Our younger selves are sometimes so lonely and afraid, certain what we are experiencing is unique and insurmountable. We have to travel the hard road before we can look back and see it was actually light filled and that we were never really alone. Your insight inspires me, Daisy, and it sets me mind spinning with possibilities.

  20. May 19, 2011 at 10:11 am

    What I will one day write about, dear Mary, is a period of time when I was sure I was the most wicked woman on the planet and the pain that lingered for so many years. Your honest and deeply moving book, (Re)Making Love: Sex After Sixty will be the catalyst for that. I will be forever grateful for meeting you on Twitter and sensing a soul shining with love.

  21. May 23, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    thank you Cathryn for your wise and inspirational words…what a beautiful piece that captures some of the magic of life, love and creativity…hope you’re doing well

  22. May 23, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Your words mean a lot to me, Dawn. You were one of the people I was thinking of when I wrote of the kind of companions to seek on the journey. You are an inspiration to so man – including me.

  23. June 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I love your words.

  24. June 22, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Your kind comment sent me to your Web site. Your beautiful photography and thoughtful reflections are a delight.

  25. Kara
    June 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    LOVE! Thanks for sharing–will be printing and posting to my wall. (The real kind, not facebook.)

  26. June 25, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks so much for your comment. You’ve made my day!

  27. July 22, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Great advice. So many times, I’ve wished I could go back and tell my younger self things. Unfortunately, I’m not sure she would have listened.

  28. July 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I laughed out loud, reading your comment. My younger self insisted on doing everything her own way. 😉

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