If you are a fan of country music, you may have heard that song by Brad Paisley, “Letter to Me.” In it, he sings about what he would say if he could write a letter to his younger self. When I hear that song on the radio, I wonder: If I could write a letter to my younger self, what would I say?
There were countless times in my youth when guidance from my older, wiser self would have come in handy. When I would have appreciated knowing that everything was going to turn out OK, despite how badly I felt or how scared I was. Oftentimes, it would have been helpful to know in advance if certain decisions I was weighing were going to be the wrong ones, and just how painful it would be to face the consequences.
If I could write a letter to my younger self, I would address it to myself at age 16. My advice would run the gamut; how I should not let being shy hold me back, the importance of friendship and authentic living, the necessity of considering different career opportunities and seeking out real-world work experience through internships and jobs, and the importance of moral courage. I would explain to myself why building a network of people who could help me grow personally and professionally was a smart investment of my time. I would advise myself not to get so caught up in planning my future that I forgot to enjoy my present, and remind myself that I had inherent value to the world.
These were all things I needed to hear when I was 16 years old. Obviously, I was not able to receive words of wisdom from my future self in the form of letters (or if I was, I missed them entirely!). But had I sought out a mentor, someone whose experiences had taught them more life lessons than I had yet learned, who could have guided me and helped me navigate life, I might have learned some of these things a little earlier than I did. Having a mentor who could share their perspective, help me discover new opportunities, and grow as a person would likely have made my transition into college significantly smoother.
Today, I would encourage my high school self to seek out a mentor so that I’d have had a broader perspective as a high school student. So that I could have a person in my life I trusted who could give me candid advice, and have my best interests in mind. Humans are not meant to go through life alone. We need each other to learn and grow. There is always something to learn from everyone you meet and every situation in which you find yourself. A mentor could be a trusted presence throughout your life and open your mind to things that you didn’t even realize you didn’t know.