To my younger self,
Several years ago, mom and dad moved out of our childhood home and mom sent me a box filled with items from our room that she didn’t know if I wanted to keep or throw away.
As I looked through this box, I found random items like a Mia Hamm Barbie in a package that I never opened and drawings from third or fourth grade. As I dug a little deeper, I also found a letter written to my future self. It was written by you – my younger self – a 17-year-old high school senior.
I don’t remember you writing this letter, and I certainly didn’t know that it was buried somewhere in the bottom of my closet for all these years. But I am incredibly grateful that I found it and even more thankful that you wrote it.
In this letter, you asked for advice. At the time, you were losing weight, and you didn’t know why. You felt stressed, as you worried about your future. You wrote to me, pleading for my wisdom.
I never formally responded to you – until now. But when I found the letter, I did think a lot about what I would tell you.
I remember you quite well. Despite being a good student, you want to be top of your class like your older brother. In sports, you made varsity soccer as a freshman and you have always been one of the best athletes in your school. But you want to be one of the best in the region. You put so much pressure on yourself to prove you are more than a girl who loves wearing pretty dresses and dating cute boys.
You are confident that you are good enough, but good for you is never enough. You want to be the best. Your dreams are so big, and your plan is very specific:
Go to a top school – become a sportscaster – somehow parlay that into your own show or, better yet, your own network.
I commend you for having such heart, passion, ambition, and determination. But I am sad for you as well. Too often, you sacrifice your peace and your well-being, constantly worrying about what might or might not happen.
You’ll be happy to know that you got off the waitlist and into your top-choice school, Columbia University. While you will question whether or not you are smart enough to go there, college won’t be very difficult for you. Academics will almost come secondary to falling in love, getting your heart broken, making lifelong friendships, and starting your career.
After college, it will take a little bit of time, but you will make it on air. You will become a sportscaster. In some ways, the dream will be everything you ever imagined and more, and in other ways, you will be left hurt, frustrated and disappointed.
I’m sorry to tell you that so far, you didn’t get your own show, and you don’t have your own network.
But that’s OK.
What I love about you and what I love about me is that we follow our heart, and we stay true to our morals. We stand up for ourselves and others even when there is a heavy price to pay.
These qualities will lead you to tell the world in an open letter about what happened at that house party in Nyack when you were 16. I know you thought you’d be able to bury that, to push it away and forget what those boys did to you forever. However, it just won’t play out that way.
Don’t worry. You’re OK. You are more than OK. Your letter, which was addressed to sexual assault survivors, will help you transform all your pain into purpose.
Sharing your truth will feel so empowering, you will decide to lend your ability to write and tell a story to other people’s voices. You will start a business you can’t yet even visualize. It will be called The Unsealed, and you will ghostwrite open letters that will inspire strength and encourage equality.
While most of the letters won’t be about you, you will write the letters based on your interpretation of each person’s story. And thus, within each letter written, there will be a piece of you and a part of your heart. These letters will reflect the compassion you feel for others and the impact you want to make on the world.
The response to your work will be incredible.
Your very first letter, which was about grief, will save someone’s life. A man, who lost his mother, will reach out to you and tell you that he read the letter with a gun in his hand. By the time he finishes the letter, he will have a tear dripping down his face. That will be the moment he decides not to take his own life.
And that’s not all.
A former foster child will tell you that you made her feel seen. A father who will lose his son to cancer will thank you for caring about his child’s legacy. A teenage rape survivor will tell you that you are the reason she shared her story, and you are the reason she feels hope for her future. Countless people will be grateful because you listened to them, helped them express themselves, and amplified their voices.
Your work will give you so much happiness, purpose, and connection. The passion you feel burning through your veins will help combat the nerves that come with the uncertainties of starting and running a business.
It’s not your own show, and it’s not your own network. But this will be right for you.
Once again, you will be confident that you are good enough, but you will still want to be the best. Your dreams will once again be big, and your plan will be very specific:
Build an enormous badass company that will change the whole damn world!
You will have your moments where you wonder, “Is this possible?”
“Can I take this to the next level?”
“Will I continue to grow?”
Most of the time, you will be excited, but there will be moments that you feel scared. And in those moments, you will think of the letter your 17-year-old self wrote to your future self.
See, when I think about you and your struggle and how the cards ultimately unfolded – I know precisely the advice I want to tell you.
I want you to relax. You have wonderful friends, the best parents and you are young and curious. Stop missing out on the joy of the present moment because you’re consumed with the unknowns of your future.
Don’t worry. Everything always turns out just fine.
All you have to do is continue to follow your heart and work hard. If that doesn’t take you where you plan to go, I promise it will lead you somewhere better.
I hope this helps.
And thank you again for writing to me. The advice that I realized I wanted to give to you ended up being the exact wisdom I needed to remind myself.
We got this! Let’s go!