Letter To My 14-Year-Old Self

Some time in February, I got the opportunity to meet Chely Esguerra of Girl Matter / Channel Good, thanks to Anna Oposa of Save Philippine Seas, and she asked me write a 150-word letter to my 14-year-old self for The Better Story Project founded by Isa Garcia. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise, and in true word vomitter fashion, I came up with something closer to a thousand words. I wrote this back in February, but this hasn’t seen the light of other computer screens until now, and I hope someone finds it useful. 🙂

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Letter To My 14-Year-Old Self — February 26, 2013
ABRIDGED VERSION

Dear Jen,

Well into your adulthood, you’ll berate yourself about not being as talented, intelligent, funny, pretty, or charming as the next girl. And to a certain extent, it is okay that you feel this way constantly, as long as it never stops you from trying anyway.

It’s not your life’s mission to find the perfect man. Be the person you want to be, live the life you choose to live, and the right person may come. If not, then your life should still be complete either way.

I know that you’re already worrying about not knowing what to do with your life. You won’t really “figure it out” until you’re 28, and even then, you’ll constantly second guess yourself. And that’s okay. Because of your desire for so much and your inability to decide, you open yourself up to a wealth of experiences. Take it all in. These are all important.

Love,
Jen

Letter To My 14-Year-Old Self — February 26, 2013
FULL VERSION

Dear Jen,

About a couple of years ago, you were one of the most confident kids around, but somehow, adolescence may have diminished your self-esteem, even when you put up a strong front to make everyone think you’re more confident than you actually feel you are. Well into your adulthood, you’ll berate yourself about not being as talented, intelligent, funny, bubbly, pretty, or charming as the next girl. You’ve grown up feeling less than you actually are, and a lot less than your infinite potential. And to a certain extent, it is okay that you feel this way constantly, as long as it never stops you from trying anyway. Take those risks. Fall flat on your face. And more often than not, things turn out better than you expect. In the times that they don’t, you come out stronger and wiser.

Also remember that your mother may seem critical at times, but she does so out of love. And she too was a daughter of a mother who showed love in a similar way. Remember that you don’t have to continue that tradition if you have your own child, which is totally not a necessary step in a fulfilling adult life. It’s okay to not want a child of your own. There are a million other kids you can shape and influence and care for, and if you are kind to others, there will be people to care for you in your old age. Having someone to care for you when you’re older is one of the most selfish reasons to have a child. And there are a million other ways to “pass on your legacy”.

Being a strong-willed, independent young woman, you have no cares for boys right now, and for my sake and yours, don’t ever forget that it’s not your life’s mission to find the perfect man. Other people will disappoint you and let you down, and they can take your happiness along with them, but only if you let them. Put the effort into yourself, be the person you want to be, live the life you choose to live, and the right person may come. If not, then your life should still be complete either way.

I know that college is still a while away, but I also know that at this age, you already worry that you don’t know what to do with your life. And I’m somewhat (though not totally) sorry to disappoint you, but you won’t really “figure it out” until you’re 28, and even then, you’ll constantly be second guessing yourself. And that’s okay. Because of your desire for so much and your inability to decide, you open yourself up to a wealth of experiences. Take it all in. These are all important.

Be mindful of how you spend or save your money. Your friends might make you feel like you constantly need to buy something new to wear, or eat or drink at some hip new place, but you can opt not to give in, or at least not as often as you are tempted, opting instead to save your money for more valuable life experiences like travel, or maybe setting up your own small business. You’ll find that that’s the best use of your money, and that your life will be that more enriched by this constant reassessment of your spending priorities.

Since you were 10, you were convinced about this morbid premonition that you’d die at the age of 13. You’re 14 now, and you didn’t die at 13. Take this idea of impending death with you always. Because it is in being aware of the reality of death that we truly value our lives and constantly seek to live our lives to the fullest and leave the world with something of value. You may forget this at certain points of your life. And that’s okay. Forgive yourself. Just remember to come back to this thought every so often. It will make life simultaneously more meaningful and more bearable.

I want to tell you that by the time you reach 28, you’ve become a really successful person. But what is success and who defines it? When you’re 28, you’ll be alone without a man, you’ll have resigned from your own company, jobless for several months, with little money left in the bank. You won’t have notable awards, accolades and distinctions. And in spite of everything, you’ll feel glorious, because you are independent, free, doing what matters to you, traveling, transforming the people you meet along the way, one apathetic or disheartened spirit at a time, and experiencing life and the world beyond the walls of conventional success that you simply cannot be confined in.

Love,
Jen

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