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.
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.”