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A letter to my 15-year-old self, celebrating life’s lessons

Posted by on Dec 15, 2013 in Blog | One Comment

“What would you write if you would write a letter to your fifteen-year-old self?” asks the latest prompt from j-carn, a blog carnival I like to participate in occasionally here. When I was fifteen, I had strange dreams. My group of friends and I were the geeky ones who thrived in the classroom. And the high school newspaper, yearbook, quiz bowl teams were our playgrounds. We said we would change the world, and do “big” things we couldn’t possibly articulate. Some cheered us on, some chuckled at our idealism and ambitions. The “adults” would tell us, that as we grew older, we would find more of our people. Fairly shortly after, many of us found what we were striving for. I know I have, and it’s only the beginning.

Also that year, after a night at a sleepover at a museum in Chicago, I would see an alarming medical sign and find out that I had kidney disease, leading to experiences with kidney failure, steroids, transplantation, chemotherapy, and so many other things I never expected of my teens and 20s. But they would become part of my character, and help me to feel awe at the power of medical science, and the fragility of life itself.

This year in particular has been especially formative for me, so I’ll write this letter in the form of bullet points of lessons from this year.

  • Don’t wait if there’s something you want to do. Health will never be completely stable; you will never learn everything you want to know for your job. Just keep trying.
  • You will get hurt, but you have to trust people. No person is an island.
  • Talking louder doesn’t make you more right. Learn the power of persuasion with calm conviction.
  • Heartbreak hurts, but is one of the most human feelings there is.
  • You are not an imposter in your field. Everyone is always learning. You deserve to be where you belong, and can play ball with the rest of them.
  • Working with people who know a lot, share a similar philosophy to you, and are as interested in sharing knowledge and learning new things as you are, is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
  • Your role models can become your peers. And it’s just as thrilling as you dreamed it might be.
  • Cooking isn’t an optional activity, but a key part of staying healthy and living life to the fullest.
  • Cooking is fun. It’s like building news apps, but with food. And then you can eat it.
  • Making jewelry is fun. See above.
  • You really like making things. Physical and virtual. It’s all creative.
  • Travel is a priority that makes you happy when you make time for it.
  • Travel to other countries is awesome, but you can capture the same feeling in your own city’s backyard.
  • It’s good to step away from the Internet more than once in a while.
  • Overcommunicating is a good thing.
  • Cherish family and friends. Get better at staying in touch.
  • It’s amazing how much we can connect with people through the Internet. Distance matters less than ever before.
  • You are a feminist, but that word means a lot of different things to different people. Own what it means to you.
  • Don’t be afraid of having weak or strong moments, because of how you represent your gender.
  • Focus more on your personal life.
  • Your family is more important than you can ever recognize. Cling tightly to them.
  • Life is finite.
  • Running chronic health problems the way you would a newsroom sounds like a bad idea, but it actually works really well.
  • You’re going to get more comfortable with needles and terms like “biopsy” than you ever thought. It’s okay, you’ll just approach it as an intensely personal beat.
  • Listen to advice from others. They’re smarter than you.
  • Don’t blindly heed advice from others. They don’t know your exact situation all the time.
  • So many problems can be solved with logic. Freaking out helps no one.
  • You are healthier when you live a calmer life.
  • You don’t have a responsibility to update social media constantly. Don’t do it if it’s not fun.
  • If you aren’t as vocal in the community for a while, whether for medical reasons, or just desires at the time, you will not be forgotten.
  • Nevertheless, it’s so important to share what we learn, and learn from each other. I must never forget it completely.
  • You are neither as important or unimportant as you think.
  • You learn so much every year, but part of that is learning how much you still have to learn.
  • Constantly learning is awesome.
  • Comforting mantra of the year, from my editor Troy who’s inspired a good number of these notes: “You can do it all, you just can’t do it all at once.”
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  • http://blog.digidave.org/ digidave

    Beautiful list Michelle. Being older/wiser just makes me want to be a kid again – but without all the hangups.