Letter to My Teenage Self

Erin Sadler, Ph.D.
Jan 6, 2020 · 5 min read
E.L. Sadler, at age 30, holding a notebook containing her wedding vows.

Dear Little Self,

I see you.

You don’t think anyone sees you, but I see you.

You are always saying how you wish you could see the future to make the right decisions. Well, hello, nice to meet you, I’m your future self. And I am here to fill you in.

Allow me to outline some things for you about what’s up in this particular time zone. It is 20 years down the road and you just reached age 35.

It is 2020.

Girls don’t wax their eyebrows into tiny lines any more. In fact, they would kill for your eyebrows in this day in age. Women literally tattoo their eyebrows to look like yours. Don’t be ashamed of them for one more minute.

I know you are all geared up to be a writer or a journalist. Hate to break it to you — but you are not.

Instead, you end up with a Ph.D. in psychology. Right now you are thinking — “whaaaaaat?” I know, it was big decision and you made on impulse in about 30 seconds during your freshman orientation to college. It isn’t like you give up on writing and you find a way to be psychologist and a writer.

Oh, and you’re like, totally gay. I think you know that right now, but you cover it up for years. And that’s okay. But it turns out, no one hates you or has tried to kill you yet. I know you worry about that sometimes.

You get married — in jeans just like you always said you would — surrounded by your best friends and it is beautiful. Turns out you are going to be wrong on the never being happy mantra you seem to repeat in your head. Maybe come out a little sooner.

There are even videos on something called Youtube on the internet of tons of people expressing that “It Gets Better.” And they are right. You are wrong. They are right. So, just start telling yourself right now that it gets better.

© It Gets Better Project (itgetsbetter.org)

Pickles are still the worst. French fries are still the best.

Your face doesn’t age as quickly as your soul. People will continue to think you are in your teens while you are 25. You’ll get carded until you are in your thirties.

These same folks are shocked when your temples start to turn gray, and you don’t cover up those little hairs because they make you look older. It suits you. You remain older and wiser than your actual age.

Because you love animals so much, you become a vegetarian for a little over a year. But something gets weird with your liver and you can’t be a vegetarian after all. Still do it, though.

Now, please sit down for a minute, because shit is about to get real.

Some people die and it is… like… really bad.

I can’t tell you who — no one on Earth has that power. But you can cherish the time you have with everyone and express kindness to all in your path. Maybe it will make it easier, maybe not. You grieve deeply. And that grief is a receipt for the love and life that you encounter. In your pain, try your best to be grateful for that receipt.

Death is part of your life. It is part of everyone’s life. One loss in particular changes you and, as a result, you vow to take off all of the heavy armor you carry as to not befall the same fate.

Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

You aren’t rich, but you don’t have to worry about money any more. But you still do, and that is okay. If you can, don’t take out that extra student loan. Except for that one you use to travel and study abroad in London. Worth every penny.

You know how you always say that the only concert you would pay the big bucks to see is Elton John? You’ll have the chance to spend that moola and score great seats on his Farewell Tour.

Here’s another “mic drop,” as they say these days.

Believe it or not — you are not actually invincible. You’ll get arthritis, struggle with pain, and your hands will look like your mom’s. You develop a case of generalized anxiety, caused by so many different things, but you pin it down to the stresses of doctoral education. You start to worry about the finite nature of your life.

So, why don’t you just go ahead and start caring about your heart, and liver, and brain — starting right now? And drink more water.

Photo by Francisco Galarza on Unsplash

Speaking of drinking, in college, you are going to drink a lot of tequila. Like, a lot, young lady. I wish you wouldn’t have felt the need to use it as a way to cope, but you did. You don’t get arrested or assaulted or into any trouble, but for the love of Buddha, consider taking it down a notch.

By your 21st birthday, you figure yourself out and trade the tequila binges for once-a-month Jack & Cokes and a glass of wine here and there. And it works out okay.

For as hard as you work to get away from your hometown — you live in London, Chicago, and Ocean Springs — but you end up right back where you started, in the middle of nowhere Indiana. Trust me, still go on these adventures. Still try to escape. The return to the cornfields is oh-so-sweet.

The best part is, along the way, you meet some of the most wonderful people that have ever walked the planet. You are loved, supported, and deeply cared for. These people make you laugh, let you cry, and you do the same for them.

You are successful.

You are kind and gentle, yet tempered with a spine of steel.

You fail and you rise.

And it all keeps going.

Your life is wonderful.

Nothing turns out how you have planned, and nothing ever will. Let that sink in and keep moving forward darlin’.

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

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Erin Sadler, Ph.D.

Written by

Writer. Psychologist. Fueled by conversation, connection, coffee, & internet cats.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

Erin Sadler, Ph.D.

Written by

Writer. Psychologist. Fueled by conversation, connection, coffee, & internet cats.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

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