Monday, October 14, 2013

Tiny Beautiful Things: Letter to Her Younger Self

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  Mine was awesome - but more on that later this week.  I wanted to do one last post on some of the wisdom gleaned from Cheryl Strayed book, "Tiny Beautiful Things."  If you haven't checked it out yet, I highly recommend it!

In the final column in Strayed's book, at the prompting of a reader, she shares a letter she would have written to her 20-something self.  Here are a couple of exerpts that really hit home with me:

Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.

There she goes, talking about acceptance again, which is clearly something I really need to continue to ruminate upon.  I struggle the most with the concept of letting go, meaning letting go of the fact that my life right now is so not what I have ever pictured.  I never pictured that running wouldn't be part of my life.  I never pictured that I'd be taking a chemotherapy drug to treat a chronic illness.  I never pictured I'd live in Charlotte, NC.  As Strayed says, most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be - and that is ok.

Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue.

Yes to all of this.  I love my job.  I worked VERY hard to earn the CFA designation, but my career is not my life.  This is something I had to learn in my 20s.  My career is great, but it is not the main source of fulfillment in my life, nor will it ever be. 

Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.

This last section is one of my favorites from the entire book.  I think we are all guilty of drawing assumptions about other's lives based on what we see or on how we perceive what we see.  But we really don't know what people's lives are really like.  I try not to assume that I know how easy others' lives are, and I ask the same of them, because what we show or say or write is only the tip of the iceberg of life.  When I am tempted to think someone else has it easy or lives an effortless life, I remind myself of this quote:  "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." 

What would you tell your 20-something self?  I would tell her to embrace her nerdy, number-loving nature.  I'd tell her that she would find the right field of work.  I'd tell her that she is entirely too hard on herself but that will probably take a lifetime to work on that tendency.  I'd tell her how much she is going to fall in love with Paris.


Becky said...

I think I flagged all of those quotes too - LOVED this book!

I think I would tell my 20-something self that while it's good to be smart with money, it's not necessary to worry about it ALL. THE. TIME. It'll eventually work itself out.

Jeanie said...

what a fabulous sounding book. I think this is something I should share with many, many people. She sounds wise indeed.

I would tell my 20-year self that your job/career may change again and again. And that's OK, because you are changing, too. And that you don't have to be married to have a wonderful partner to share your life with. And don't settle. You may find the guy of your dream right across the street! That friendships are critical to happiness -- people with whom you can share your ups and your downs. And don't forget to invest in your retirement plan early!

Raquelita said...

That whole career not being all life is about is such a struggle for me. It's hard for me not to feel guilty when I'm not devoting almost every waking hour to furthering my career, but sometimes I need to just walk away and remember that it's just a job and I'm more than that. I'd tell my 20 year old self not to smoke because it's disgusting, I'd tell her that she would fall in love with Spain, I'd tell her that she should be smarter about managing her money.

Marlys said...

Great advice! I think it is good for everyone to reflect on! Thanks for recommending it!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

I love the bits of advice you shared from the book. The insights are all very reasonable and things we should probably hear at different times throughout our lives!

I'm not sure I'd say anything to my 20-something self. I think there is a lot of value gained by learning through experience ... plus, my 20-something self would never listen to my almost-40 self anyway. =)

missris said...

"But we really don't know what people's lives are really like." This is so, so true. Especially in the age of blogs and IG and Facebook, it's so easy to think that everyone else has it better than we do, but you're right in saying that's only the tip of the iceberg. Great advice, from both Cheryl Strayed AND you :)

Stephany said...

Twenty was a pretty hard year for me because it was the year I failed my final teaching internship and was at an all-time low in my life so I think I would tell myself that "this too shall pass. These feelings, this regret, this confusion... it's all a part of the process to get to where I am meant to be. Breathe in, breathe out, and work through it."

I need to get my hands on this book!

Nora said...

I needed to hear the part about the job not being your life today- I'm struggling with that as I return from vacation, back to the grind and dealing with the ups and downs of the family business! What a Monday :)

Abby said...

This is beautiful, Lisa, and every single person can take something from it.

One thing I've noticed, is social media has made people's lives very showy. Which leads to making us feel inadequate about our own lives at times. What we don't see are the battles those people are fighting. People don't shout from the mountaintops that they're having a hard time with their spouse, or they are struggling with depression, or they kids are having a hard time in school. (all things that normal individuals face). So we put our peers up on pedastals because we only see the things that people want to market.

I am still in my mid-20's, but I feel older than that. In fact, at times I feel like there's advice I could give my "20ish something". (Me a few years ago)

It is interesting how life ends up being so different from what you envisioned years ago. But how many people actually meet the expectations they actually set for themselves?

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

I am reading this book right now :) I love it. I've flagged a few parts already and I'm not very far in. I'm glad I have a paper book of it (Thanks Becky!) because I know I'll want to go back and re-read it.

It's funny to look back at 20... I spent half the year in Australia, the other half back at BC. I met Eric that year which was a high point, but there were many low points as well. I worried about a lot of things that were dumb... in hindsight of course. I think sometimes I still do this, just different things. I don't even know if I'd give my 20 year old self any advice... the only reason why I know is because of the mistakes I've made :) Who listens to advice anyway? hehe

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I'd totally tell myself to stay at MSU and go through the college of social work.

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I would tell my 20 year old self:

Don't try to plan your life out too much, because you have NO idea how it is going to turn out, and the things you don't plan turn out to be the most fun.

Caroline said...

I'd tell my 20 year old stuff to stop worrying and everything will play out the way it should eventually. I still try to tell myself this haha : )

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

I like the excerpt about not really knowing people. Often people I have met have turned out so different than I originally thought they were.

I wouldn't tell me 20 year old self anything. I had a lot of fun in my 20s, and did things that now I would not even attempt to do and I am glad that I was more carefree and I am even glad that I made some mistakes because it's made me who I am today.

Cherry Blossoms said...

Very cute post! I need to check this book out.

I would tell myself to not sweat the small stuff. Something I have really grasped over the last few years.

Amber said...

Yup yup yup. Love all three of these and all the words of wisdom from that letter really. Especially about how most things will be ok but not everything will be and the one about not making assumptions about others lives. You just never ever know what is going on behind closed doors.