If could reach back through time and have a heart-to-heart with your twentysomething self, what would you say to her?
She’s in her twenties, that glorified period of life when she’s supposed to be discovering herself, deep in exploration, living her most defining decade. And yet.....she may feel like the exact opposite. Or exactly that. Or somewhere in between. She probably doesn't even know.
Maybe you pour her a cup of tea, look into her eyes, wrap her in a hug.
What do you tell her?
I'm so excited for today's letter, shared by Susannah Conway. After years of following her blog and then reading her book, I met Susannah at the Boston stop on her book tour last summer. She's just as sweet and authentic and warm in person, and I felt so lucky just to be able to sit in the same studio as her. When I thought of this series, I immediately thought of Susannah. I just knew she'd have some pretty awesome wisdom for her twentysomething self, and she truly does. Thank you, Susannah:
Dear 20-something me
It’s only now that I’m here in my 40s that I understand why you were so desperate. Desperate for love, desperate to be seen, desperate to be good enough. There was stuff that went down in our childhood that broke some key pieces of us, and it took years to figure out that that's what had happened, and that was what needed to be healed. I won’t lie to you, younger me — it’s such a relief to be here on this side of the space-time continuum.
The best advice I can give you is to trust that it will all unfold as it should. I could give you warnings about certain people and situations, but if you don’t experience them — and make those mistakes — you won’t get to where I am now, and it’s pretty great here. I know it would shock you to learn I’ve been on my own for the last eight years. Being on your own was the scariest thing you could imagine. Even in those quiet moments in your journal, when you questioned your relationship, your path, your future, you couldn’t imagine being truly on your own. Yet something is going to happen when you’re 32 that will shatter EVERYTHING and set you on the path to becoming me. Because all that running you did — running away from yourself, your feelings, your truth — you just won’t be able to do that any more. And that will be the greatest gift you’ll ever be given. You’ll discover that the desperation for love, for being seen, for being good enough will be healed when you finally get it from the person you need it from most — yourself.
I realise this letter hasn’t been that helpful. I’d love to sit down with you and have a coffee (or, more likely, a glass or three of wine) and tell you the stuff I know now. But in many ways this screwed up path you’re walking is perfect for you. Perfect for the lessons you need to embrace and figure out. Because it will make you the woman I am today, and everything that’s happening now for you will suddenly make sense. And you’ll be glad it happened. You’ll see that it’s just one chapter in the book of you, and we all need to start somewhere. You’re doing the best you can with the tools you have. And that, my darling younger self, is more than enough.
So, in closing, can I just gently suggest you keep writing in your journal as you have always done. And keep taking photographs. And keep questioning everything. Going back to college to get a journalism degree is a great idea — you have a natural flare for writing and it’s going to set you on the right path to the books you will write in your late 30s (I know, right? Your book dreams will manifest themselves. Just not on the timescale you want ;-)
Getting older is AWESOME. Hang on to that — the good stuff is on its way to you, I promise.
All my love
Your 40-something self
Ps. Please quit the cigarettes, okay? And use lots of sunscreen. Thanks.
Susannah Conway is the author of This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart (SKIRT! Books). A photographer, writer and e-course creator, her classes have been enjoyed by thousands of people from over 40 countries around the world. Co-author of Instant Love: How to Make Magic and Memories with Polaroids (Chronicle Books), Susannah helps others reconnect to their true selves, using creativity as the key to open the door. You can read more about her shenanigans on her blog at SusannahConway.com.
Read past posts in the series here.
Interested in writing for Traversing Twenties? Submissions are now open! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.