22 Jun 2015

Dear Younger Self

jane birkin photographed by her brother andrew birkin.

If you could advise your younger self, what would you say?


Hindsight is a mighty superpower and one we all play with from time to time.


Is there much you would do differently? Do you know so much better now?



My answer would be something like this.


Dear Younger Self,

*Enjoy the freedom.

Little responsibility in life is a great luxury; embrace it.


I remember feeling as if I had so much to worry about when in truth life back then was so uncomplicated. I was in too much of a rush to grow up, to settle down and be responsible. Now I could think of nothing better than to feel free enough to chase those dreams.


*Be flexible.

Don’t like something, change it.


Change is so easy to incorporate with a younger self. I often tell my girls to enjoy how they look today because it is all pretty fabulous right now.  The same goes with study and with careers; keep searching for what inspires and drives. Working takes up so much of our time, we have to love what we do and the sooner the better.


*Have confidence in yourself.

Trust your instincts, they are so often right the first time.


Age and confidence go hand in hand but I seem to remember so much second-guessing when I was younger. Being selective in how we are influenced is never as easy as it sounds.


*Take the time.

There is so much time, don’t be in a rush.


Were you always in a rush? I wanted everything to happen yesterday. I don’t think I understood the concept of time, that it is to be savoured and how quickly it passes.


*Listen and stay open-minded.

Sometimes those we love do know better.


This is the best piece of advice and the hardest one to follow. The invincibility of youth ensures we know all and everything. It comes, as something of a shock when we realise that is not the case. The flip side is, as adults we need to gently guide our children towards the best decisions for them, not force them. As a parent it is the hardest job of all to watch them make mistakes and feel powerless to intervene. I still don’t have the answers to that one.


Be yourself.

Accept and enhance the unique qualities.


Did you worry about fitting in and conforming to what was expected? Wanting what was popular and fashionable instead of what was realistic? Striving for the impossible wasted a lot of precious time.


Try not to take for granted.

Youth takes it all for granted.



What would you advise a younger self? Or is hindsight a reflection with no benefits? I would love to hear your thoughts, xv.



image jane birkin and andrew birkin

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56 Comments

Anita Rivera

Bonjour Vicki!

Well, this is a provocative post. If I had anything to say to my younger self, it would be this:

“Younger self, you are still possible. When we were one, young entity, you had no direction and worst off, you had no one to point you toward your dreams. I am telling you now, that you were lucky. You were blessed. You were divinely steered toward many choices and you did pretty well considering you had no one that believed in YOUR dreams. Now that we are still one yet separated by the years, I can tell you that I am proud of you for at least trying, for making mistakes that led you to who I am today. Thank you.”

Anita

Reply
Katherine Howden

Above all I would advise my younger self to have the confidence to trust my own judgement.
I would also tell myself to take what I had and make the most of it.
How much easier the journey if we knew 30 years ago what we know now?!

Reply
Vicki

So true Katherine… how we tortured ourselves and generally because we didn’t have the confidence to trust our own judgements.!

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Candice

I completely agree with the fitting in and being yourself part .. it is SO hard for young people not to want to be just like everyone else. Those that are not, are often spoken of as not as “good” as everyone else, they don’t fit in, it makes most people uncomfortable.
I grew up in the Southern US … being just like everyone else was very important.
It made me rebel. I now look back on that teenage me and feel sorry for her that she did not know anyone who could help a kid see the big picture, not just the managing to look good enough for the yearbook photo . My husband was brilliant about this subject, he admired Everyone who was not like everyone else .. he opened my eyes in so many ways :)

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Beth D.

Live in the moment!
Focus on what is happening right now. Relax, really breath it all in. Enjoy what you can, but if life is painful, feel that too. It only makes the good times even better!

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Vicki

We never get the good without a dollop of bad… that’s true and real life… :)
Appreciation is such an important part of life and living in the moment does allow us that luxury.

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Pamela

Wise words for sure Vicki! I will share them with my University bound son. Here’s what I would add:
Live in the moment! Don’t spend all your time thinking about what could be or what you want to do-appreciate where you are and just enjoy! Also, learn to appreciate the little things in life. They’re free and surround us wherever we live-the blush of the first roses, the architectural detail on a historic building, a hike in the forest.
Thanks for sharing!

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Vicki

Yes Pamela… living in the moment is relevant at any age isn’t it?
And the little things are often the best things..
We should make a list of all those little things we love… it would be interesting to see what we take notice of… :)

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Karena

Vicki I really cannot add a lot, you have covered this beautifully; I would just say to reflect on our youth and that it is never too late to make changes to enhance our lives, no matter our age!

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena

Reply
Dianna

.

Reflection…such a luxury & important thing to take the time to do. What would I tell my younger self?
All those things you are saying to your daughters are things that I tell my older self.
As we just celebrated Fathers Day in America I am mindful of all the words my Father told me to impart his wisdom of life is now…live it.
Words…powerful things.

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Vicki

They are powerful things… those words of ours…
I often reflect on my father’s wisdom too… I wasn’t always in agreement but near enough… :)

Looking back is a luxury … that is for sure

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lori powell

Vicki….Everything you said is spot on that I would tell my younger self. The only thing I would add is don’t listen to your family members….they are all nuts, so run for your life! Wish I had realized this sooner than I did.

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Angela Muller

Great topic, Vicki. Personally, I have always marched to the beat of my own drum, have never worried/cared about anyone else’s opinion, and at this stage of my life (60’s), only would want to redo two things. I have one beautiful (inside and out) daughter; however, I wish I had made the decision to give her a brother or sister. The second thing is being more thoughtful about the future, in terms of financial goals. Though I am self-sufficient, it would be nice not to have to work. But…..life is often not a redo…..and some things require careful thought and planning, while being “free” to be ourselves.

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Vicki

Some are planners and some are not… I think the non-planners have a crazy wild ride when they are young and the planners rest on their laurels when they are older..
Finding that balance is the tricky part! :)

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Rena

yes indeed, but thrilling too and most of the time you pick the sour
grapes. I wanted to say, just enjoy and don’t think too much what is
good or bad, right or wrong, take life as it comes you can’t really
hide from your destiny.

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Teddee Grace

“*Listen and stay open-minded. Sometimes those we love do know better.” I would say just the opposite. Because I had penned (penciled) some cute little stories when I first learned to print, my mother repeatedly told me I should be a journalist. I don’t think she knew the difference between creative writing and journalism, but I dutifully went off to the University of Missouri, one of the premier journalism schools in the country, and got my degree in journalism. I specialized in magazine writing, but ended up writing and editing employee magazines, doing public relations and freelance writing and never really made much of a career out of it. I, however, wonder why she didn’t put two and two together that childhood day I wandered off into the big timber, found wild strawberries, sought out a piece of bark, filled it with moss, added the strawberries and carefully carried it back the half mile to the house as a gift for her? It was one of the few times I saw her cry. I would have been so much better off going into interior design. I think it wasn’t even a career anyone in that very rural area of the Midwest knew existed at the time. Give yourself time, once you get out into the world, especially if you come from a rural area or a small town, to really find out what latent skills and interests you may have that will lead you into a truly fulfilling career.

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Vicki

I think we all have the benefit to see who we become and then realise what career we would have loved. I never had any idea at all and am grateful to have found myself doing what I love everyday. That’s great luck on my part…

I am certain with careers we need to discover them for ourselves but I still believe that age brings wisdom and listening is always a bonus… :)

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lisa thomson

I like all of those, Vicki. I really think I didn’t appreciate my uniqueness enough. Especially, I didn’t think I had as much time to accomplish things as I actually did. I was in a hurry to grow up as well. I wish I stayed single all through my 20’s instead of marrying so young.

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mona turner

Vicki,
A song comes to mind, “I hope you Dance,” by Lee Ann Womack.

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Michelle

My dad died when I was very young and my mother was not very worldly when it came to men. As such, I found it tricky navigating the world of dating and relationships. I finally found my wonderful prince of a husband, but ohhh, the frogs I had to kiss! I would have advised my younger self to be more self confident and assertive in my relationships with men.

There were also a couple of great career opportunities that I passed up- one for a major fashion designer and one for a cosmetics giant –I worked for them both, but they didn’t pay much at the time. I’d tell myself to stick it out with those jobs! I ultimately took jobs that paid more but with less chance for advancement. Ah, well!

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Vicki

The frogs we have probably all kissed… I don’t think you are alone there Michelle… ;)

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Missi

I would definitely tell myself to try harder in high school and be more of a goal setter. I would also tell myself to not please others at my own expense. Getting my self worth not from people or things or a career, but from God, is truly what has made me a stronger person.

Listening to our parents or other mature persons, is important! Sometimes my parents had too much to say but I know they always wanted my best. My husband said he wished his mom had said more. It is definitely a balancing act!

Reply
Kathy

I would tell her about enough. Invest in people and relationships not things. To slow down and enjoy the moment, every single one. Love fully don’t hold back, we don’t know what time we will be given.

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Denise Lipper-Wood

This is odd…my husband and I were just speaking about this last night. The single piece of advice I would give myself is this: do not let fear stand in the way of doing what/going where you want. Do the homework, know the risks, but don’t let the fear get in the way (especially someone else’s fear).

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Kim

The advice I would give to a younger self is that every person is sacred and unique. Finding self can be found in many interests, as there is still so much to discover in everything. Be helpful to others along the way. Be more generous with listening to others and looking into their eyes. Giving sincere compliments to others takes nothing from you, but will probably help you feel stronger and happier, and probably make you more friends. It will certainly help you look for the good in others. Shyness and fear are stifling. Everyday, nourish your mind and your relationships, especially with your family. Take care of the body you have and learn quickly to control appetites in all forms. There is more freedom and happiness that way. Listen to your parents….they love you and so will a lot of other people. You are sacred. You are unique. You are loved. You are wonderful. Now, go practice your music!

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E. J. Simon

Follow your passion early in life; don’t be afraid to express how your opinions, even if you displease others and, finally, think about and reflect upon who you really are – and seek to close the gap between that person and how you present yourself (assuming you’re halfway sane).

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Cathy C

Hi Vicki,
Lots of responses to this one. Don’t know that I have much to add to your great list. Maybe one thing: Wear Sunscreen : )

Reply
Linda

Dear Vicki,
Too soon to be turning 61, I would tell my younger self as I tell my younger friends…Love who you are at this very moment, love what you look like, love your body. You will look back on photos and think you looked wonderful, knowing full well how much you hated that photo when it was taken all those years ago. You will never be younger, prettier or more alive than you are at this very moment. Age is really just a number, especially when you are in your 60 year!!

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Monica Robinson

My younger self could not have known or had an inkling of what I know now. I did my best with what I had to work with. Today, I am finally glad to appreciate that I did my best when I was younger. However, had I been in possession of different circumstances at a young age, I would have recognized my talent for design and I would have nurtured and informed that talent. I would today be an interior designer. A real one and recognized one.
Merci Vicki, for asking such a good question!

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Barbara

I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional family, one with secrets so deep and monstrous, that only in recent years have my seven siblings and I discovered how controlled and belittled we were. I came of age thinking I was stupid and ugly. When friends admired my appearance, I thought they were making fun of me. It took years to build my self-esteem, and looking back at photos of when I was young, I was quite beautiful. I would hold that girl in my arms and tell her that she is wonderful, full of love, creativity, and yes, beauty. I once told a friend that I wanted to surround myself with beauty. I do that now, with my friends, my family, my home, my actions and my thoughts. The most incredible thing happened in my family: my father and step-mother meant to break all of our spirits, but not one of us turned to drugs, alcohol, or other harmful behaviors. We all found success in life.

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judith rael

hello vicki…you know, i wouldn’t say anything to my younger self. i was such a child in my teen years…highschool during the awful 50s, parents couldn’t afford much time or money for my sister and me, so i just drifted along and did what seems good to me at the time. i never considered college, not many of us did then, especially girls. but after finding an average job excruciatingly boring, even if it was in san francisco, i got myself to the community college somehow and asked how i could attend. the nice people there set me up and in those days it was all free except for books. lived at home and took the bus to school. i loved it. after 2 years, i got to automatically transfer to u.c. berkeley, and lived at home and took the bus again! dropped out after my jr. year and go married to my highschool boyfriend and had 3 wonderful daughters. the bf was so not right for me, but we raised our girls and then divorced and i finished up at uc berkeley and then went on to become a social worker and remarry to a great guy. there’s nothing anyone could have said to me to have changed what i did. i just did what felt right to me at the time. it worked out. i eventually grew up, got a brain and common sense and an education and landed in a good place. thanks for the chance to send these thoughts along.

Reply
Alison

I wish I had listened to my mother when she said “marry in haste, repent at leisure”. She was unfortunately right. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own life and own home which now seems so silly. My advise to my young self would be to buy the plane ticket and go and see the world it will all still be here when I get back.

Reply
Ree

Maybe I say to my younger me who I was years and years ago – be more brave, do not fear fall down, it is normal.

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Michelle

I should have added that my early employment story ended happily. After spending some years in advertising, I was able to return to my first love. My background is in fine art and illustration. I’ve had my own business as a professional artist ever since.

Reply
Maya

Wonderful post! I have often thought about this. I am 32 now and at a place in life where much as passed, yet much remains. Many of the lessons that you’ve mentioned, I managed to learn but there are some other things I wish I had known and practiced–
I would tell my younger self these things-
1) Do not worry. Most bad things do not come to pass. The bad things that do come regardless, you cannot really change by worrying about them. So it is best to take life as it comes and deal with it head on.
2) Put yourself out there esp. when it comes to dating. I did not because I was afraid and still am sometimes so I would hold back. I am already an introvert (so I do not enjoy a lot of social interaction to begin with) and on top of that I struggled with not feeling pretty enough, slim enough etc. only to find that other women who were neither pretty nor slim nor anything else landed some pretty good guys, God knows how! Confidence and showing up goes a long way.
3) Accept yourself as you are and embrace your flaws. I did not lack confidence per se but obsessed about my minutest flaws. This is a road that leads nowhere. The sooner you do it, the happier and lighter you will be. There is nothing else you can really do–you HAVE to love yourself.
4) Do not take everything so seriously- When I was young, I thought every little thing was a matter of life and death. It isn’t. It is not the end of the world. No victory or failure is final. And everything eventually passes. Taking things seriously enough is good but not so much that you stop enjoying yourself.
5) Let go! -As I have grown, I’ve realized you cannot control everything and over planning doesn’t help. Life throws many surprises at you and that is often a great thing because it helps you grow in ways you otherwise could not have imagined and actually lead you to the life you want deep down.

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Lori Roth

Great life lessons Vicki. I think I would have looked at life differently if I would have not sweat the small stuff and learned to live life at its fullest at an earlier age. As I have aged – I recognize the importance of the gift is another day.

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Monica Robinson

Question to the ladies out there… What is your opinion and or advice for me. I just turned 63 in January, I am in a rut and feel my good days are past me. I am single, cannot stomach the work I have done for 34 years and don’t know what to do about that, not living where I want… just in a big RUT! Good news, I have lost 4 dress sizes! Help ladies…… what words of inspiration do you have to share? Thanks, Monica

Reply
Vicki

The first thing I would say, Monica is that your good days are ahead of you. Every day is a great day if we make it that way. I know that sounds trite but I really truly believe it.

I am a great believer in surrounding yourself with positive people and influences so if there are negative people impacting your mood, leave them behind.
Embrace that new weight and remember 63 is absolutely nothing, no age at all. Some of my greatest friends and ispirations are well older so age has nothing to do with it!

Can you take a break from work, plan a holiday somewhere you have never been and allow yourself some thinking time? Don’t throw work in until you have a new plan but let yourself escape for a little while and challenge yourself with the destination. Face and conquer… You will be surprised at how this lifts your spirits and opens your horizons.

Anyway… enough from me…

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Monica

Vicki….. thank you for your heartfelt response. I do need to surround myself with positive influences. Positive people can be very hard to find. I think that is where I need to put most of my efforts.

Thank you for taking your time to respond.

Monica

Reply
Vicki

My pleasure Monica… and keep reading with us.
The women who write to me are truly the most positive and engaging that I have ever “met” :)

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Cathy C

Hi Monica if you are still following this chain of replies,
BIG congratulations on losing 4 dress sizes! That is a huge accomplishment for us gals of a certain age. If you utilized an exercise plan to lose those pounds, keep it up. Exercise makes our body release endorphins – which gives you a natural high and can help you feel less in a rut. Volunteer. Helping those less fortunate not only feels really good, it gives us a shot of much needed perception. Meditate, even for five minutes in the morning and five minutes before bed. It is a vacation for the mind. 5 minutes is challenging, but try not to think about anything except your breath. Use a 4 count breath and your body will start to enter a parasympathetic response (the healthy opposite of “fight or flight”), which is tremendously relaxing and healthy. Last suggestion: a Find a hobby. I say find because it is important to cultivate new interests in all phases of our lives whether it be line dancing (I have a single friend who does this weekly), bridge ( let’s bring it back!), book club etc. find something that gets you out with others while having fun.
I wish you happiness and peace. Ruts don’t last unless we let them. Got get ’em girl.
PS: donate your old clothes. That will make you feel good too.
Cathy

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Cathy C

Shot of perspective. Oops, we want to lose perception and gain perspective.

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Monica Robinson

Cathy C…… thank you so much for taking time to respond and give very good advice.

I take seriously and with great appreciation your constructive words and suggestions. I think I will give those clothes away!

I have meditated through my life, but not as often or consistently a I should. I am making this more of a practice again. Thank you for your encouragement.

I think finding more positive environments struck a chord with me. It is more to find where we are celebrated and be with those people and things.

Again thank you Cathy!

Monica

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Teddee Grace

Find someone you trust, and it probably won’t be your mother, to teach you how to flirt safely! Learn to say, “No,” gracefully and then go out and have fun!

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Janet

Say “yes” more than “no”, except to the obviously stupid things.
Ignore what everyone else thinks, does or says — be your own person. Embrace your own badass self with verve & humor!
Don’t be afraid of anything.
Start a good financial savings plan earlier.
Have more sex [see #1, #2, # 3].
Trust me: you’ll regret the things you didn’t do a lot more than you’ll ever regret the things you *did* do. [see #1, #2, #4, #5]
But also remember it’s never too late to do any of these things. So don’t waste any time regretting anything — just live!

Reply
Debra

So enjoyed this post. What you said was so true. I wish I had the wisdom, patience, understanding, and sense of caring, then, that I have now. It would have made me a better person. I would not have made so many foolish choices. Yet, if I had, would I have learned what I now know? With age, mental growth and understanding come. I am thankful. Thank you for this thought provoking post. Realizing how far I’ve come….

Reply

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