I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.
I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.
This week newspaper and radio reporter, music promoter and hotelier Dorothy Grover-Read New Vintage Kitchen shares a letter she would write to her younger self.
I wish I knew then what I know now by Dorothy Grover-Read
Dear Teen Dorothy,
It has been 50 years, and I can’t believe how fast time has passed!
You are just starting out, full of hopes and dreams, the future a blank canvas. But there’s all those unknowns. What will I do? Where will I go? Will I be happy?
I know most days you feel like a square peg, not quite fitting in! You found yourself in a huge regional high school knowing virtually no one. Athletics, not you. Chorus, not quite. Drama, nope. Bookworm? Of course! The kids all seem to have their own cliques in place, with no admission.
Here’s a little bit of insight – all those kids you’re convinced are having such a wonderful time have their own set of fears and challenges, worries and heartbreaks. It is something to remember when you think everyone else out there is happier, or luckier, or better off than you. You’re not missing a thing. But you are right, they don’t get you, and guess what? They never will, so don’t fret it. You’ll always have your collection of interesting, talented, and unique people around you. High school is just one tiny page. It will matter so little, you probably won’t go to your 50th reunion this year.
No, you are not spending too much time dreaming and writing stories and poems, it is who you are, who you will remain.
It’s a crazy, changing time in the world – from the Vietnam War to parents fretting over sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll. Some kids mold themselves to fit in with the crowd, going along with anything, even when they know it’s a mistake.
I know it can be lonely, but keep listening to your inner voice because you have common sense (we won’t discuss the ‘borrowed’ rowboat incident). You are grateful for those one or two friends to hang out with, but what you don’t know is that this is all you ever need. It’s great to be associated with a lot of people who interest you, and as you get older and out in the world, you will make many friends from all aspects of your life. This keeps things vibrant and interesting. But the deeper friendships are few and far between, and they will always be the cherished golden threads.
We grew up with very little in terms of money and things, and I know that makes you feel different as well. But we have a loving family and that makes us rich. You don’t yet know that the hard times give you some of your most important blessings – creativity, resourcefulness, and a feeling of independence and personal power. I wouldn’t trade the lean years for anything, they teach you more than all the times you sail through unhindered. This is where you thrive.
Don’t worry about fighting with Mom all the time, it will all work out. The bickering is a natural part of the growing-up process. You are lucky because Mom already treats you more like an adult than a kid. It helps you feel good about yourself, more independent, so remember that when she nags you about your messy room. She trusts you with the family grocery shopping in exchange for gas for the car, a great deal for both of you since she hates driving. She lets you plan a lot of the meals; you’ve cooked alongside her since you were little, and that will also serve you well in life. Cherish all those times in the kitchen and please write those recipes down, even the ones you know you won’t forget! And don’t be stingy with “I love you,” it is important.
The years between then and now have seen much love and joy and laughter, as well as an equal measure of struggles and disappointments and tears. Right now, you think if you do everything right, you’ll get to that place called happy; but, it isn’t a goal, happiness is all the wonderful gifts, sometimes large and sometimes small, strewn along the way, with the challenges and heartbreaks sprinkled in as well. Try not to miss the best in all the clutter. In a few years, John Lennon will write a song to his son in his last album Double Fantasy (oops, I just give something away), and includes a line “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” This line has stayed with me all these years and it hangs over my desk, reminding me not to focus so intently on what’s ahead that I don’t notice the miracle of the now. There are no ordinary moments.
Speaking of being in the moment, all those stories Gram is always telling you about her parents and grandparents? No, you won’t remember every word! I found Charity Mehitable Cram on Ancestry the other day and a light went off in my head, and I remembered her funny name. It still is funny, but I’d also love to have all those stories about our great-great grandmother that are forgotten. Write down those things too!
I guess I’ll finish with the thing I have said so many times to our kids and grandkids (I’ll let you be surprised) when they hit a wall. There is always tomorrow, and the troubles will pass. You can’t change anyone else, and you often can’t change a difficult situation, but you do have control over your own actions, and, importantly, control over how you react to it all.
Stay open and joyful, please stay away from the bathroom scales, and don’t spend too much time trying to straighten that hair!
P.S. By the way, I can tell you right now that flunking trigonometry will not matter to your future at all, but you’ll be glad of that touch-typing course in your junior year. You’ll use that every single day of your life.
©Dorothy Grover-Read 2022
My thanks to Dorothy for this wonderful response to the prompt and a great reminder that the majority of the events and people who we worried about when younger are now water under the bridge and we have thrived inspite of them.
About Dorothy Grover-Read
After spending years as a newspaper and radio reporter and magazine writer, I needed a change. So, my husband and I operated a small bed and breakfast inn in Southern Vermont for more years than I want to count, and as you can imagine, I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen, much of it looking for ways to save some of that time while still offering something memorable to my guests.
This also freed me to help produce local music concerts and festivals in our areas, including the popular Roots on the River Music Festival which finished it run in 2019. We have been blessed to have many wonderful singers and singer/songwriters stay at our humble inn, and a few who have performed here as well. Precious moments.
We were among the first Green Hotels in the state, and member of the Vermont Fresh Network. We are now open only for special events, cooking classes, and a little catering to keep things interesting. I write a food column for our local newspaper, focusing on local foods and products and our fabulous southern Vermont farms, seasonal and delicious.
Thanks for dropping in and it would be great if you could share Dorothy’s letter.. thanks Sally.