I recently found a picture of myself at about eight-years-old. I had wild blonde hair and was dressed in a pretty floral dress (it looked like it could have been Easter), with my hands clasped in front of me. I looked sweet and shy, although the smile on my face was a little impish.
I looked at that picture and could only vaguely remember what I felt like at that time in my life. Time had erased any specific memories of how I felt about myself or what I was excited or scared or nervous or happy about on that day. I did, however, look at my eight-year-old self and thought of all the things I could certainly tell that little girl now. Looking back on those years through the lens of an over forty-year-old life, I figured that I could impart some wisdom to that small child.
With a pen in my hand, I wrote a note to my younger self:
“When I look at myself here, I think of the wonderful childhood I had. But I also think of the disappointments or insecurities that could have been avoided if I’d known then what I know now. So, I would say to my eight-year-old self: enjoy the simple things; be a little bit braver; don’t be worred about what other people think; still read all of those books; enjoy all of that time with Mom and Dad; don’t be so afraid of heights; love to learn; and dream big dreams. And I would tell you not to worry about your future. Sure, there will be struggles along the way, but it all turns out just fine. Many years from now, you have three wonderful daughters, a husband who loves you, and a very fulfilling life. It’s good to be grown-up Cheryl.”
The writing of that note turned out to be a really great writing exercise–as well as an enlightening experience–and it reminded me that writing can be carthatic and illuminating.
(Perhaps you can take my lead and do something similar today or sometime soon. Write a letter to your eight-year-old self. What advice would you give to him or her? Pour it all out in a letter.)