Recently, I was challenged to write a letter to my 17-year-old self, and this is what happened!
Dear 17yr old self,
Be sure to take care of yourself emotionally and physical. I know boundaries were not properly modeled for you within the family, but they are healthy and will help keep you safe. Learning boundaries and how to implement them will allow you to have healthy emotional connections with other family members, friends, and future significant others. Regardless of how much you love someone, it is never OK for them to abuse you emotionally or verbally. Stand up for yourself and learn to use your voice! You are a kind person, but often allow others to take advantage of you and/or hurt you. You can be kind and still have positive boundaries in place.
Be careful with the military path you choose to take, do not let your natural stubbornness get in the way of your physical health. Although you are young, you will not bounce back quickly from the toll your military experience will take; very few things are worth losing your health, or your life over! Unless you are saving someone else, do not forget to save yourself. Once your health is gone it is really hard to get it back, and yes, some things really are permanent. You are not invincible! Do not wait until something becomes an emergency, get help as soon as possible, and do not be afraid to ask for it. You can only soldier so much. Learn when to say no and mean it.
Do not fear other people’s opinions; follow your heart in combination with your logical mind, and you will do just fine. Not everyone has to like you and not everyone is meant to be a friend. Do not sacrifice who you are as a person, only to please someone else. At the same time, try to be flexible and keep an open mind. You will be amazed at what other people in your life will teach you about living, loving and dying. Be open to different experiences and cultivate your curiosity for travel and culture, you will not be sorry. Oh, and trust your instincts! Most of the time they are spot on and will not steer you wrong.
Word of warning, there will be a lot of grief in your life. You will lose many people by the age of 32, so make sure you invest time, and have quality interactions, with those that matter to you. Tell them you love them every chance you get, even though I know it is hard for you to express yourself verbally, in that way. Hug often and with every ounce of your being. Put aside your differences, in the end, they truly do not matter. All you will have left are the memories you made together, so always try to make good ones!
Learn to bend, so you do not break.
Tap into your creativity whenever possible. Say what is on your mind when it matters and do not hold your emotions in. It is OK to be angry, it is OK to be sad and it is OK to be scared. It is also OK to be happy and feel joy, even if others around you cannot.
Lastly, you are stronger than you think/feel. Things always work out one way or another, so have faith in yourself, and trust the process.
P.S. As crazy as this sounds….you will want to become a counselor when you grow up. Every single experience you have, good or bad, will help you connect with someone. If you can make just one person’s life better, it will be enough.
I found this activity fairly therapeutic. If you could write a letter to your 17yr old self, what would you say?
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