Over the weekend, I was going through the arsenal of books I have collected through the years, searching out just the right one to kick off the Coffee Loves Wine book club. It is an idea I have been toying with for months but moving, life, and settling in stalled things a bit.
As you might imagine, over a decade in the publishing industry, our shelves are quite full – even after giving away 6 large boxes of books before moving in hopes of shaving off some weight from the shipping container.
I stumbled across an old one that had been given to me years ago, What I Know Now – Letters to My Younger Self. The title stood out, so I plucked it off the shelf. The book is a collection of stories from successful women, all lending advice and writing letters to younger versions of themselves. As I turned the coffee-stained pages (I talk with my hands and have been known to spill coffee on everything taking up residence on my desk), I found a letter that was written to me 12 years ago.
“This is a great book filled with stories and advice from strong & successful women – which is what I have gotten from you. I cannot thank you enough for being an amazing boss and mentor. Thank you for trusting me. It means so much and has given me a tremendous amount of confidence in my own abilities. I feel prepared (thanks to you) to take the next step toward the real world.”
The letter was from one of my former interns turned assistant. She had given me the book as she prepared to venture on to the next stepping stone in her career. It was one of many letters I have kept through the years given to me by young people that have worked for me. The young woman who wrote this letter in the early days of her career is now the Director of Content for a major digital company and oversees a team of global branding professionals traveling all around the world, curating amazing stories. An incredible and successful woman.
I had to stop and collect myself after reading it. Sometimes I forget the impact we have as bosses and mentors, and how important it is to extend a helping hand to young people early on in their careers. The ability to positively impact someone’s life by simply encouraging and empowering them. Helping them plant the seeds for their future.
I started thinking back through all the years – the moves between cities, my own climb. What would I say to my younger self, knowing what I know now? And at what stage in my life would I have liked to hear this message.
Several months ago, shortly before our move, a girlfriend and I were scheduled to have a catch-up session over wine on the deck (are you sensing a theme – wine and conversations from the back deck – a regular staple of our old life). She called about 20 minutes before she was supposed to be at the house. Her daughter was going through some “teenage girl drama.” I could hear in her voice how concerned she was. We rescheduled our time together as it was obvious she needed to tend to her daughter.
I texted a few minutes later to check in and make sure everything was okay. My friend said there was a little girl in her daughter’s class, who had previously been her friend, who didn’t want to hang out with her anymore. She had said some pretty mean things and it left her daughter distraught and not knowing what she had done wrong.
I texted her the following, a message for her daughter:
“If that girl doesn’t want to be your friend, that is her loss! You are an amazing kid. Too bad for her. She is probably on her period.” (The last part was to induce a laugh or smile).
A few days later, we had our catch-up on the back deck and found ourselves laughing about our own junior high and high school experiences. We agreed that we wished we had known how insignificant those things would be once we were adults – things that won’t matter when high school is over, when you are forging your own path in life and moving in your own direction. A blurb on the radar screen of your life.
One of the things we laughed over was the story of when a football player asked me to wear his jersey for the pep rally and attend the homecoming dance with him, only to find out he was telling everyone he was going to “pop that virgin’s cherry.” I hadn’t even had a real “first kiss” at that point (a peck from one of my best friends, who is now like a brother to me, during a game of spin the bottle in 7th grade doesn’t count). When I found out about what he was saying, I marched straight up to him in the main hallway between classes so everyone would see, threw his jersey straight at him, and gave him a piece of my mind. I made it very clear that I would not allow myself to be treated that way. Did it gain me any new friends? Nope. Did it gain me a reputation of being a “spitfire?” Absolutely. And while having an opinion didn’t make me Ms. Popular, it certainly gave me all the character I needed to survive the next 4 years and forge my own path once I left.
I still have an opinion. I am still a spitfire. And I still don’t allow people to walk over me. But those moments were tough while in the midst of them – not knowing who I would be 20 years from then, where life would take me, or how little it would actually matter in the grand scheme of things.
Those days are a far cry from where I am today. If I could go back, I would tell the 15-year old version of myself the following: “Be you and don’t be afraid. Your life will take you on adventures you never imagined possible, far from these halls. But, be mindful not to let success define you along the way and never let the opinions of others guide you or tear you down. Plant the seeds you want to grow. Create the future you imagine for yourself. Never settle. Embrace who you are. Remember to laugh and tell the people who are good to you how much you love them. Everything is going to be okay. This too shall pass.”
Even today, there are times when I need to hear these words.
This week, let’s all challenge ourselves to look back for a minute. If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? What advice would you give, knowing what you know now?
How are those words translating into your life today?
Keep striving forward. Keep growing, And, keep planting seeds that will create the life you imagine. You deserve it!
Cheers to a new week!
PS. Stay tuned for book club details, launching November 1st.