Letter to My Eight-year-old Self
Dear Eight-year-old Jessica,
I’m writing to you from 30 years in the future. Almost 40! I know. Crazy! Believe it or not, 40 doesn’t feel as old as I thought it would, when I was your age. I’m not sure what I want to tell you. Let’s begin and see how it goes.
Don’t let the moods of others bother you too much. It will come naturally to empathize with others, but feeling someone else’s feelings with them, may make you less capable of supporting them, and supporting yourself.
Don’t depend too much on other people’s opinion of you. Don’t be too afraid of criticism. Find your voice; find your singing voice, you have a beautiful voice, and you won’t know what it can do until you use it.
Wear sunscreen. Like actually start wearing sunscreen right now. You will live in mostly warm places, perhaps for the rest of your life, so take good care of your skin. And eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
As you grow older, you will continue to desire order, so keep it up! One day you will have a husband and children, and they will have stuff and their stuff will combine with your stuff, and it will test your patience and challenge your peace of mind. Just like now, the more organized you are, the more peaceful you will feel.
Math is not as hard as it sometimes seems. Find help from people who are good at explaining math. Not all math teachers are good at explaining math, which may make you feel stupid sometimes, or like your brain is not made for math, but I’ve come to believe that everyone’s mind is made for math, but they have to find the right person to explain it to them.
Pay attention to the Spanish around you. Let it sink in. One day you will have children who will want to speak Spanish, because it is their father’s first language. Spanish will open doors to another world.
Being able to identify what you are good at, as well as what draws and holds your attention, is a gift that should not be taken for granted. Don’t be afraid to take these gifts seriously, even if they don’t sound “serious” to other people. I am a writer. I don’t have a degree that says I am a writer, or that I am qualified to be a writer. But I love it, and I know that this is what I am meant to be doing.
“Every cloud has a silver lining.” You must have already heard this expression so many times. I want you to remember that difficult situations, or things you might regret, may end up having positive side-effects. But you’ll need patience to see these challenges through. Stay open to possibilities.
One day the internet will exist. It is a thing that allows you to access all kinds of information, share all kinds of information, and contact almost anyone in the entire world. It is a lot to wrap your head around, but I just want to tell you that it is both useful and harmful; productive and counterproductive.
Spend your time intentionally — even if that means eating Flaming Hot Cheetos while watching Netflix. You won’t even believe either of these things, but you’ll see, one of these days. It is easy to lose track of our choices.
Don’t give up on learning to play a musical instrument. If your life goes how my life went, you will fall in love with the piano, beg to play it, and then you won’t practice, and you’ll have to quit. If this happens, don’t be too disappointed with yourself. And definitely don’t think that you’ve lost your only chance. Look for your next opportunity, and try again. And again.
Don’t allow disappointment in yourself to discourage you from taking risks. I know that sometimes your disappointment in yourself will prevent you from trying again, from risking failure. But risking failure, and sometimes succeeding is how to make things happen, and how to find out what you’re capable of. Maintain a willingness to risk failure. Make friends with failure, and with rejection, they are evidence of your effort.
Not all toxic things are ingested or inhaled. Gossip websites, gossip in general, certain people, certain spaces, can be toxic — bad for your physical or emotional health. Cultivate healthy spaces and healthy relationships. You’ll know if something is healthy if it makes you feel good, and you don’t have to keep any secrets. Yes, people can be bad for your health.
Don’t always believe the stories that people tell about you, or the stories you tell about yourself. I know that it sounds so silly to your eight-year-old ears, but sometimes we, or others, create a story about a person, or about ourself, to be able to understand them better. The trouble comes when the story limits a person, and limits how we see that person, or, how we see ourself. These stories prevent us from growing, and from imagining possibilities. These stories are not necessarily told with bad intentions, but they still may have a negative effect on you, and on others.
Toss away the comment that you are “not street-smart”. You will be surprised at how intuitive and how forward-thinking you can be. You will gather the knowledge you need to succeed in the classroom, and beyond.
Toss away the comment that you are not as naturally “smart” as someone else, but that you “work hard”. You work hard, and you are naturally intelligent. There is no comparison. We each have our gifts. Write your own story. Keep telling yourself who you are. Believe in your own growth, and in the growth of others. It is our nature to grow and learn; and you will, and they will.
You won’t always be shy. I am not even kidding. You especially won’t be shy after you’ve given birth. You will be shocked at how not shy you will become. No dancing on tables, but some karaoke. One day you will understand the joy of embarrassing your own children, not for the sake of embarrassing them, but in celebrating that you are no longer restricted by the fears and judgment of your youth. You will be an example that they may need to remember in their own journey to being free of of fear and judgment.
Your body is nothing to be ashamed of. This may not make very much sense now, but soon it might, and it is important for me to have said it. Don’t worry so much about your physical development. Be brave. Be defiant of any negative or hurtful messages that you will be confronted with. Always see beauty in the mirror.
One day you will have children, and you will help them navigate the uncertainty of life. Be gentle with your words, even when you’re tired. And when you’re not gentle, apologize to them, and forgive yourself. You’re only human. Remember yourself today — at 8; when you are a grown-up it will be easy to forget what it was like.
Remembering yourself as a child will help you parent more sensitively, and more effectively. At the same time, don’t try to shield your children from all suffering. It is unnatural to live without suffering. In moments of suffering: Learn.
If you follow the same path I followed, you will naturally be cautious. But, perhaps, balance your caution with a little more daring. I can guarantee you that you will be equipped with the inner resources necessary to thrive in the big wide world, as well as the intuition to keep yourself safe.
Now that I am a mother I can see how quickly humans change and grow. Be patient with yourself, but also be patient with others. Try to judge people gently. Everyone is doing their best with the tools they have. Perfection is unattainable. Be careful to seek growth, but not perfection. Beware of aiming for perfection.
Hear your “self-talk”, don’t just listen to it. Hear the stories you are telling yourself. Be willing to disagree. I know that you like things to be just-so, and that you like order in your space and in your self. But beware of using shame and self-criticism to make changes. As a 38 year-old I can tell you that approaching yourself gently, with compassion, is more effective, and ultimately more constructive than using shame and criticism.
Always ask yourself: Am I treating myself with kindness? If you find that you aren’t treating yourself with kindness, take a step back. Evaluate. And then treat yourself, with at least as much kindness, as you would treat your best friend.
Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. You can disagree with people, and they will still love you. They might not like what you say, but that doesn’t mean they won’t like you. The people you need will stick around. I promise. Don’t be afraid to lose friends, or relationships, people will come and go. You will come and go from people’s lives. It is alright.
Ask for help. Your strengths and gifts will carry you far, but don’t be afraid to call out when you need support. The people who have been placed in your life, are there for that reason, just as we were placed in their lives to help them.
Keep in touch with you. Never be so busy, or go so fast, that you forget to check-in with yourself.
I’m tempted to keep writing, but you are 8 years old right now, and perhaps this is enough for now. You’re doing great. Truly, you are. Take good care ❤️