Wednesday, October 15, 2008

“What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self”

It hasn’t happened recently that I’ve found a book I wanted to put work aside for to read. But “What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self” is a book that I found truly empowering and inspiring. It has “girl power” at its very core. Every page is infused with hope.

The book’s author asked famous women in various sectors of life to compose a letter to their younger self. And what the book’s pages contain are raw and real self-reflections by women who we used to know in name only.


“We don’t always have the wisdom we require at the time we need it” (xii).

Isn’t that the truth? Timing is a funny thing…

“Choosing to grow during trying life passages can be lonely work” (xiv).

I’ve had to learn over the last week or so that I have to measure my life differently than other graduate students. It’s a very hand lesson to learn, especially when I embarked on this academic journey expecting never to fall behind. However, I have to count the things that are important to me – walking down the stairs of my apartment building without feeling too much pain, being able to open a jar or Tupperware on the first try, and not chucking it mercilessly across the room when I can’t open it at all. And the truth is, this is very lonely work. Much of it happens in my head or when I’m alone in my apartment.

“But you need to learn how to celebrate – not just to suffer. It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? How, in the midst of all this turmoil, can you possibly find a way to feel good about what’s happening” (41)?

I found this really inspiring. It doesn’t provide answers to either myself or the person who wrote it, but what it does provide is hope. It provides hope that things will get better and that in some small way, I have the power to make some aspects of my life better.

“It won’t be a ‘happily ever after’ story – the cycles of darkness and light continue. But have patience. Your most important struggles will be hard-fought but won well” (42).

I think being realistic about ones life is incredibly important. I think those who are unable to do that find it very off-putting. But it’s not about gliding through life on a magic carpet. It’s about persevering over countless, what will sometimes feel like unbeatable odds.

“You feel like a piece of gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe” (62).

We all know how that feels, don’t we?

“When juggling as much as you are, remember that some balls are glass and some are rubber. You can’t drop the glass balls” (137).

I think this had the biggest impression on me. I’ve been really thinking about and trying to prioritize and this analogy of the balls really spoke to me. The only thing is that I came to the conclusion that school/work, health, and family and friends are all glass balls. So I still need to work on it, but I think this helped me to really start thinking about what really matters in my life.

“Don’t hang out with anyone who doesn’t understand why you’re so wonderful, or who needs to be told, or who doesn’t tell you at regular intervals or when you forget” (146).

Lately I’ve been getting such a crazy mix of compliments and criticism that I haven’t been able to make heads or tails of it. But the truth is that we all deserve to be surrounded by people who think we are great, if for no other reason than that we are our own, unique selves and no other person in the world can replace that.

‘You should live as though you know you are going to be famous. Even if you aren’t, you’ll still have the satisfaction of knowing exactly how you spent your time’ (151).

I just love this idea! It strikes me as being so hopeful. Act like everything you do matters, even if in the end it only matters to yourself.

“You’re going to have to learn how to pat yourself on the back eventually” (156).

Now, you’ve probably realized that most of these quotes are about self-esteem and overcoming odds. And it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they spoke to me.


So here’s my charge to you (and don’t say you didn’t see this one coming): write a letter to your “younger” self. Tell yourself the things you know now that you didn’t know then.

I’m planning on sharing mine with you, but you don’t have to share yours with anyone. So do yourself a favor. Read “What I Know Now” as a gift to yourself. And look for my letter to my “younger” self tomorrow.
(Spragins, Ellyn. What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self. New York: Broadway Books, 2006.)


  1. Thank you for sharing this Leslie - great little quick reminders that do give us the more hopeful support we need somtimes to just get through the day.

    You do have a lot of juggling going on - and I think you're doing very well...looking forward to reading that letter~

    Take care

  2. Thanks Maria! You're feedback and support are much appreciated.

  3. I missed this post. As an "older" person (57),what I've leraned is how much you learn --if you're smart enough to learn it. But there's a trade off. Life is no longer as exciting, thrilling and moving as it once was. I suppose that's called "wisdom" and balance. Either way - I think it's all a kick and we just have to be where we are now. My 2 cents! Rosalind Joffe