Letters to My Younger Self: The 19-Year-Old Starting a New Chapter

A woman with sunglasses holding flower petals

“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.

Dear 19-year-old self,

A little more than a week ago, I read a letter that I wrote to my future self when I was your age. Your sorority pledge trainer encouraged you to do this. As you sat in the chapter room putting words to the page, you had no idea how much your words would mean to your future self.

So, here I am now, replying to your letter. 

I am currently in my college town, waiting for the last of my friends to leave. Everyone graduated this past weekend, and I am sticking around for graduate school.

As cliché as it may sound, the past four years of college have flown by. When you introduce yourself to new friends these next few months, keep in mind how soon the goodbyes will sneak up on you. For this reason, relish the hellos and the time in between. 

For this reason, relish the hellos and the time in between. 

This morning you spent some time journaling and reflecting on this past season. You were honest with yourself for the first time in a while and realized how many expectations were not met. That letter that you’re about to write reminded me of a lot of these expectations.  

Realize that unmet expectations are OK. Spoiler alert, you aren’t going to have a ring by spring. In other words, you aren’t going to be engaged by senior year. That’s OK.

Another spoiler alert, the people you think are your best friends now, you won’t even speak with regularly by senior year. True friendships are going to bloom out of unexpected places, and that’s also OK. 

Write your plans in pencil—both big plans and small plans. You will learn very quickly how little control you have over circumstances. Have grace for yourself and be open to change. Seriously, write that last sentence on a sticky note and hang it somewhere you will see every day. It’s that important to remember.

At the same time, keep dreaming big. Some of your plans will come to fruition. Be persistent and put yourself out there. You can do hard things!

Realize that unmet expectations are OK.

College is going to be where you experience your lowest lows, but it will also be where you will experience your highest highs. Sometimes unmet expectations will break your heart. In these moments, call your parents or go get ice cream with your friends. These heartbreaks are growing you into a person you never imagined you could be.  

Sometimes unmet expectations will propel you into a greater future. One door closed often leads to a better door waiting to be opened. When these moments happen, still call your parents and have a dance party with your friends. 

The reality is that if you could see who I am now, who you are going to become, you wouldn’t believe it. Keep challenging yourself to stretch and grow. Keep working hard, but allow yourself to have fun often. Keep being your unique self and the right people will gravitate toward you. 

Keep challenging yourself to stretch and grow. Keep working hard, but allow yourself to have fun often.

You are stronger, braver and wiser than you know. Thank you for taking the time to invest in yourself now because it will pay off in the future. In the words of your dad, “Keep being you!”

Xoxo,
Your older self

What advice would you give to your younger self? What advice would you give yourself about unmet expectations of other people?

Image via Lenka Ulrichova, Darling Issue No. 16

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