To My Many Selves by
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(149 Stories)

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About age 7, before 10 years of orthodontia

To my youngest self: A year makes the most difference at the beginning of life, and as I see now, in the midst of a pandemic, also as we enter older age. In between, there is time to recover from setbacks and change course.

Be proud of your accomplishments and intellect. Whew, all those highs and lows ...

To my grade school self: It’s OK that you aren’t either a “girly-girl” or a tomboy. Celebrate your imagination and unique take on life. It will serve you well.

To my middle school self: Focus internally, not on what you look like outside. The awkwardness is terrible and both kids and adults are cruel. Just because you are adult sized, adults have said you are “retarded” when you play with your petite friends. Ignore them.

To my high school self: Be proud of your accomplishments and intellect. Congratulations, you are enjoying school, activities, and friends. Disregard your mother when she thinks you are unattractive, but try to have empathy for her personal struggles.

To my college self: Wonderful, you’ve taken advantage of the amazing opportunities that college offers. What a terrific foundation to move forward.

To my 20s self: Whew, all those highs and lows … you establish your career, fall in love, and go your own way on all counts. That’s hard. You eventually go to therapy to help you, but there is no shame in getting it sooner rather than later.

To my 30s self: However hard it is, try harder to resist the social pressure to marry, and now that you are, insist on being treated better. But once you realize your mistake, you don’t beat yourself up. Fail early. You get points for knowing you don’t want children, despite forced trips to psychologists to figure out what was “wrong” with you.

To my 40s self: Wandering in the wilderness, you have the sympathy of my present self. You show grit after a divorce, but it takes a while to find your way after that. A subsequent heartbreaking relationship and death of your father are no fault of your own.

To my 50s self: Many challenges with health and misdiagnoses come your way. Good show for refusing psychiatric meds for what turns out to be autoimmune diseases. You find a way to regain decent health and show discipline in finding a good full-time job. You can lobby more strongly for help at home.

To my 60s self: Be prouder in your retirement and recognize the value of caregiving responsibilities. Focus on purpose balanced with fun.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Laurie Levy says:

    I loved your concept of writing to yourself in all of the decades of your life, Marian. It made me think about how we evolve and how the insights we gain on our journeys are so important to the people we ultimately become.

  2. Marian, so beautifully and honestly said, and aren’t we all still wandering in the wilderness!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Marian, I agree with Laurie, the decades concept works really well. You have been very honest with yourself and shared that with us. Life hasn’t always been easy, but it appears you have made great strides and come into your own. Thank you for giving us this glimpse into your hard-fought and well-earned wisdom.

  4. John Shutkin says:

    I’m late to this, Marian, but agree with the others that your idea of notes to yourself in deifferent decades is brilliant. Indeed, I could not initially decide what age self I wanted to write to, but did not come up with your great solution. And, beyond the approach itself, the advice is very wise.

  5. Little chunks of wisdom, very well crafted. I would like a whole narrative about the refusal to take drugs and the ultimate finding that you were dealing with something physiological, not just mental health. (or send me to it if that story has already been posted.)

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, Dale, I can give you a short version here and elaborate offline for more details if you want. In my case, it was the “middle-aged woman” problem, when the medical establishment assumes you are reacting to aging or menopause and everything is “in your head.” Right after I turned 50 I started gaining weight inexplicably, sleeping a lot, having brain fog, and feeling blah. My doctors berated me for gaining weight, even though I’d never had a weight problem previously. I went to a therapist, who was confused because my cognitive reasoning was completely normal and didn’t match my moods. She set me up for a psychiatric evaluation. Fortunately before that happened I was tested to find I had a pretty bad case of Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune reaction that kills thyroid cells. After a few botched treatment issues, I found a terrific endocrinologist and within a few months lost the 15 pounds I’d gained and had my energy restored. Three years later, over about a month I began getting unexplained stiffness and pain in my shoulders and hips. I could barely walk a block. I was misdiagnosed three or four times, trying everything from talk therapy to acupuncture. One night I was with friends at an old theater with a steep staircase and I couldn’t climb it to my seat. A doctor friend said I needed medical attention the next day. Turned out I have another autoimmune condition called polymyalgia rheumatica, which everyone missed because the age of onset is typically a lot older–75 or 80. No cure, but manageable with some medications, and my excellent rheumatologist has helped me live pretty normally. I have the “distinction,” as far as I’m aware, of being the third youngest person in California ever diagnosed with this condition. The takeaway is to advocate for yourself and always get a comprehensive medical checkup before you agree to take psychiatric medications.

  6. I agree with the others, Mare, re the decades concept. More than a letter, it’s almost a living portrait. Very touching to see what stands out for you in each decade, and how you as an awkward girl developed into a confident woman.

  7. Suzy says:

    Coming in so late, it seems everything has been said. I also love the decades concept – if I were inclined to write my own letter, I would be tempted to steal it! I also love your beautiful picture. In need of orthodontia (as were most of us), but still stunning!

  8. Khati Hendry says:

    I echo the comments about using the decade approach–and admire the introspection it required. The comments about growing up as a bit of a misfit, not fitting into the female stereotypes, would probably apply to a lot of women from our generation who were “smart” and searching for how to be our authentic selves. Thank you.

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