All the cool kids are doing it

“It” being responding in kind to this gorgeous piece by Elizabeth Eslami which asked this question: “If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?  What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”

Dale Favier responded in kind.  And then Jessamyn Smyth chimed in.  These are especially poignant to me now because I just signed up for my 25th reunion and I’m remembering that girl.  So here’s mine:

Oh.  Hello, you.  Mom must have just told you that letting your hair fall in your eyes makes you look like your IQ is plummeting.  I can tell because you dipped your head to encourage that shaggy blonde veil further downward.

You think you want to be more bohemian, but your native timidity and small budget means you’re wearing that sparkly, fringed Indian scarf with an inherited bespoke white men’s dress shirt of considerable antiquity, jeans, and boots I would covet even today.  You don’t really understand yet that these half measures of prep and boho actually add up to an individual style.  Or they will.  Eventually.

You probably wouldn’t recognize your dreams in my life.  Your head is full of theatre and art and music.  You’re looking forward to a life on the stage and you can’t imagine any other way to be.  It’s okay: the skills you take for granted today will be seen as unusual assets in the life you forge later.  But go ahead and continue violently rejecting the idea of a life that you would probably see as not for you.  That change will come with surprising swiftness and a sudden load of self-knowledge I am still sorting through to this day.

You’re not as angry as you think you should be.  Stop pretending.  Happiness isn’t weakness and cynicism isn’t intelligence.

I’m sorry you’re feeling that piercing pain of first love lost.  It will take a while to heal.  Let it.  Because decades later that healing will allow you to feel so much joy when he contacts you and asks for forgiveness.  You may find it hard to believe that the forgiveness will flow so easily and make you so happy, but it will.

Listen more.  Speak less.  You will start to like yourself a lot more when you can exist on the periphery of a group as easily as you claim its center.  As an added bonus, other people will like you better too.

Those people who terrify you with their confidence?  They will later tell you that they think you’re the one who has it all figured out.  But here’s the big secret: nobody has it figured out.  Anyone who tells you they do is either kidding or lying.  Avoid those people.

Stop looking around for the love of your life.  You haven’t met him yet, and you’re in for a lot of learning about love and relationships.  That’s okay too.  All that learning means he’s easier to spot when he does show up.

You know what?

Keep doing exactly what you’re doing.  It turns out pretty great in the end.


  1. Such a tender and affectionate piece! Loved the part about forgiveness.

  2. Dear Jill,

    Great writing, Jill. Resonant beyond our shared geological strata, and something between realism and optimism. Hard to catch. Thank you.



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