Family & Friends · Marriage & Life Partners · Relationships & Dating

Letters to My Younger Self: You’re Fine, Just As You Are

3584131250_6c97dc84e3_zImage from Flickr via Tyler Burrus

Editor’s Note: In our new series at Women’s Voices for Change—Letters to My Younger Self—we discovered, through many conversations with our mothers and daughters, with our girlfriends, spouses, and partners, that our younger selves would be much more content, much more at peace with our lives, and much wiser, had we known then what we know now. We asked our Contributors for their candor, courage, and honesty in this assignment—to embark on a time-travel of sorts, a dialogue with their 20-, 30-, and 40-year-old selves. As we expected, they weren’t always comfortable as they conjured up the good and the messy about their lives. Self-study is always hard work. In this series, you’ll witness women sharing with their younger selves—and, by extension, our younger readers—the conclusions they’ve come to about life, love, family, career, and friendship. Here, our Eleanore Wells reflects on the many directions and questions she was faced with in her 20s and the wisdom she has now that what she needed to do was simply relax.


Lesson Learned: You’re Fine, Just As You Are

As I sit here writing this, I wonder what my life would have been like if the younger me actually had had the benefit of this guidance from the grown-up me.  My life probably would have been different, though I don’t know if that means better—even if I’d followed my own advice—at all.

When I graduated from college, I was excited and ready to get on with my grown-up life. I didn’t know what this really meant, but I couldn’t wait to get started.

And yet, I was also unsure of so many other things. Like, how would I find a job I really wanted? Where should I live? And what should I do with the guy I was dating? I loved him, but didn’t want to marry him. How would I figure any of these things out? I just knew that I wanted more.

My friends and I were all going in different directions. Could we maintain our relationships? Would I make all new friends? How? I was full of questions about the so-called “rules of society.” Marriage? Kids? Dress codes? Social decorum? How to decide what really matters?

I often wish there had been someone to help me with these decisions along the way, because I was quite clumsy at navigating so much, although I wasn’t really the kind of person to ask for help. But this is what I would have told me:


IMG_3553A twentysomething-year-old Eleanore Wells in Washington, D.C.


Dear Twentysomething-Year-Old Eleanore:

Welcome to adulthood! This is a very exciting time, though I know there’s also some apprehension. When I think about the way your life turned out and the concerns you have now, I just want to tell you to relax.  The truth is that you’re going to be fine.

I want you to know that most of the things you worry about don’t turn out to be nearly as bad as you fear they will.  This is true for lots of people, and is especially true for you. So even when some guy breaks your heart or you do something really stupid at work, these things will be of little consequence.  In fact, in a relatively short time they won’t matter at all.  Now this doesn’t mean not to worry about anything, but it does mean not to let the worry get in the way of moving forward.

You don’t know it yet, but New York City is in your future! In fact, it will become your home and the beginning of a really exciting journey. It will open up a whole world to you. You’ll meet people, go places, see things that you never really even dreamed about. Right now, from Washington, D.C., the idea of living in New York seems about the same as the idea of living on the moon!  But it will be perfect for you and you’re going to love it in a way you can’t even imagine.

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  • Judith A. Ross February 6, 2015 at 11:27 am

    First I have to say, I admire anyone who takes on this topic — it is a tough challenge to go back and rethink. So much of what happens to us in life is chance.

    I agree that asking for and accepting help is something I would coach my younger self to do. In the same vein, I’d also advise finding a mentor and making every effort to stay in touch with that person. It might have helped me make better decisions about work. And what about confidence? Still my Achilles Heel — perhaps the right mentor would have helped there.

    And then, to myself, “Don’t waste a lot of time worrying about appearances, your own and also about being judged. At 20, you have already lived through some of your life’s hardest challenges. Things will only get better as you age.”

  • anonymous February 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Yeah,I truly wished I had asked for more help, too. Would have made problems more manageable, especially knowing that one’s situation wasn’t unique. How to ask for wisdom is the issue.

  • Arlene February 5, 2015 at 9:12 am

    I am a senior citizen, active, good health and involved with a man whose mother left when he was three yrs old. I have tried to understand him for more than four years and find that his distance and lack of companionship is troubling. I have asked him if he would like to end our relationship and he says NO! His reply is I’m doing the best I can. However, holidays come and go and nothing! No small gift or special dinner out
    Do you have any Advise for me and others about men who have not had a mother in their formative years?
    I love your column