10 Life Lessons I'd Tell My Younger Self

Take Charge on 05.03.12
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Photo: Rene Syler

I've been spending quite a bit of time on airplanes these days and when you're staring out the window at the clouds, you have a lot of time to think. The thoughts that have been taking up space in my brain are big ones, life, love, and happiness, that sort of thing. And I was thinking about how idealistic I was two decades ago. I had my whole life planned out and according to that blueprint, it was going to be perfect. That didn't mean there wouldn't be an occasional bump in the road but for the most part we're talking smooth sailing on the way to success. Yeah.

Well, it didn't work out quite like that. What would I have told myself at 16 to prepare?

1. Real growth hurts. Don't expect to grow when you're comfortable or be comfortable when you're growing.

2. You are smart. Don't let anyone tell you you're not. Question the motives of those who would have you believe otherwise.

3. You will be okay. Through job loss, health crises, fear and loneliness, there will be days that will take Herculean strength to get out of bed.  Power through; you will triumph.

4. Be unafraid. See above.

5. Accept others. The world is not black and white, so don't be a judgmental twit.

6. Everything happens for a reason. At 43 you will lose your job. Two weeks later you will lose your breasts. The following year you will lose your hair. In losing all those things, you will find yourself.

7. Your sense of humor will save you. The times you crack up will keep you from cracking up.

8. There are no shortcuts in life. You will have to experience every one of life's twists and turns, thrilling joys and crushing disappointments. There will be times the context will elude you and it may take years to figure it out. But you will.

9. It will turn out better than you had imagined. This I can promise! Rene, you have blinders on right now. You are tiptoeing the tightrope of expectation, both yours and others. By 48 the blinders will be gone, opening your mind and heart to a world never before on your radar.

10. You will be loved. Even you with your prickly personality and idiosyncrasies you will be surrounded by a love deeper and more fulfilling than anything you've ever read about in a book or concocted in your head.  That kind of love will snatch your breath away and sometimes you will feel wholly unworthy of it. You are not. Breathe it in, let it envelope you like a fleece blanket. Let it buoy you in bad times and return it in spades.

What 10 things would you tell your 16-year-old self, knowing what you do now?

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