Our project, featuring letters millennials have written to their younger selves, continues with this plea for change.
Dear 14-Year-Old Me,
Breathe. You’ve been holding your breath for 14 years and it’s time you learn how to unclench your fists and let out some of that negativity. So please, take a deep breath and relax. It’s difficult to do, I know. You are feeling trapped and powerless and the least you can do is hold steadfast to your convictions. Right now those consist of being right, being indignant, and being alone.
I swear there is a better way to live.
Even though life isn’t perfect, there is good in it that deserves your acknowledgement.
As satisfying as you think it feels to be detached and stubborn I wish you knew how freeing it feels to let go of that anger. Please believe me when I say that it’s impossible for you to be happy if you keep choosing to feel wronged. Yes, it is a choice. More than anything please see all the ways in which you are in control and let go of the things you’ll never have influence over.
1. Let go of the cynicism.
I understand how you’ve become so jaded and negative. And yes, you are being a “Negative Nelly” like mom says (she’s right about some things). Eventually you’ll be off your high horse, whether it’s because you chose to get down on your own or because you were bucked off. So consider gracefully coming down to reality and admitting that you’ve been pretty cynical and it’s not been warranted. The world will always look dirty, cruel, and painful if you always choose to see it that way. Admit to yourself that you are fed, and warm, and loved and even though life isn’t perfect, there is good in it that deserves your acknowledgement.
2. Be open.
Please stop believing your cold attitude is actually stoic and strong. Your fear of being rejected is controlling you and there’s nothing stoic about that. Be open to the people in your life who want to spend time with you. No, you won’t keep in touch with all of them forever - but that’s OK. Enjoy the friendships being offered to you for the time being. Be open to people, but also to new ideas and hobbies and dreams. As hard to swallow as it may be, you don’t know everything. Don’t limit yourself by believing you never have to question your ideas again and that your opinions will never change. They will and should change. Open yourself up to the world and let yourself be excited by what happens.
3. Moving away won’t equal immediate happiness.
I know we’ll disagree here, but getting out of that small town won’t equal happiness. It’ll help, for a while, but if you choose to hang out with the same type of people and keep the same limiting beliefs then you won’t be happy. Consider that the problem isn’t where you live, but who you are hanging out with and how you are thinking. Who knows (I know actually) maybe one day you’ll return to that small town and learn to love it (you do).
4. Perception is more important than your situation.
Being a broke teenager in an unhappy home without the freedom to do a quarter of the things you want to do is pretty awful. Guess what? This will not be the most difficult situation you’ll ever face. Compared to what your future holds, this might be one of the easiest times you’ll have in life. However, your unwavering negativity will leave deeper scars than any terrible situation ever could. If anything, your perception will be the catalyst into those terrible situations. If you want to feel harmed and broken and powerless, then you will be harmed and broken and powerless. The ability to shift your perception is all the control you really need in order to be happy.
Yes, this letter has mostly been a plea for you to drop your fists and embrace the situation you are in.
5. Be in the moment.
Stop scoffing and hear me out - being present is the single hardest skill you’ll ever try to develop. I say “try” because even at 24 you still won’t be able to do it very well. It’s worth the effort though and you might as well practice it now when everything seems disastrous. When the bright, positive moments do happen, you’ll want to be able to experience them. It might sound cliché and hippie and all the things you roll your eyes at, but “being in the now” really is vital.
6. Don’t lose that fighting spirit.
Yes, this letter has mostly been a plea for you to drop your fists and embrace the situation you are in. You are so busy raging against every injustice to you, to your peers, to mankind and it’s making you crazy (and giving us worry lines)! Accept that bad things happen and then rationally devise a calculated plan to solve the problems you can actually tackle. That is the only way you are going to accomplish anything. What changes do you think you are making in the world by stomping your feet and whining? Not many, and none of them are positive.
I’m not asking you to give up, I’m asking you to fight smarter. Channel that energy into productive change. There may be a time that you will feel so exhausted from years of anger that you stop fighting for anything, including yourself, and you let yourself get trampled. But in that moment it’s more important than ever to remember you are worth fighting for. So be present and positive and open but always willing to stand up for yourself - even if your biggest challenger is your own mind.
What advice would you share if you could travel back in time 10 years from now? Be a part of Project: #YoungerMe. Check out our terms and style guide, then submit your letter here. Or simply share your thoughts in the comments below! (And be sure to use the hashtag when tweeting us @reply_mag and sharing on Facebook).