A recent Twitter discussion with someone who knew me IRL (“in real life,” how hip am I?) many, many, many…actually more years ago than I care to admit…reminded me of my long lost dream job. Music was my passion in those days and since Plan A of becoming a rock star was clearly not happening, I started dreaming of Plan B to achieve the life I wanted – to write for Rolling Stone magazine, meeting my idols and seeing my name in print. So I went away to college, determined to major in journalism and embark on my fabulous journey.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the life I wanted. It turned into the life I have, which is something entirely different.
Advice to My Younger Self
Now, I’m not going to sugarcoat this by telling you my life changed because my voyage of self-discovery simply pointed me a different way. The truth is, I made some awful decisions that set me adrift. There was pain. There was sadness. There was the realization that I had let the life I wanted get away.
This is the point where you start thinking things like “if only I’d done this differently.” I’ve ruminated on the popular internet trope of writing a letter of advice to your younger self. My initial attempt would likely be something like this:
“Dear Younger Me,
We have a problem. You’re spending so much time thinking about guys and parties and guys and your friends and guys and drinking and guys and…well, you know. The life we wanted is slipping away from us. But you can change it. Don’t go to that Super Bowl party. Don’t hang out at that fraternity. And whatever you do, don’t marry that ‘college sweetheart’ of yours. Trust me on this one. He’s no sweetheart. Hit the books, get into journalism school and make our dream happen. You got this.
Love, Older Me”
Yep, I’d write that letter. Although honestly, that only covers the mistakes I made in college. I could write a whole volume to the late-twenties version of me who decided the best way to get over a nasty divorce is to party even harder than her college counterpart.
But then, the more I think about it the more I realize each of those steps and missteps led me exactly where I am today.
The Life I Have
After a bumpy college experience and a painful divorce I came home to Tampa to figure out what to do next. My Rolling Stone dream was gone, but I can thank my younger self for sticking it out and finishing a degree in English literature right here at the University of South Florida. From there, I got a job in the marketing department of a local TV station, where I made friends who are now, after all these years, more like family. I went to another local station, then to media relations in a government agency. It wasn’t the professional life I wanted, but as it turns out, it was pretty darn good.
Of course, the best part of the life I have is my family. At the TV station that stood in for my dream job, I met the guy I married 11 years ago this month. We weathered a few storms of our own before becoming the proud parents of our miracle boy. I’ve been blessed to be able to stay home with our son during these important formative years. We go to Walt Disney World, we cheer on our favorite sports teams and we’ve pretty much made it our mission to try every new place to eat in the Tampa Bay area. It’s not glamorous, but I love it just the same.
While it’s tempting to wonder how different things might be if my younger self had made better choices, I think the letter I’d send to her (me) would be more like this:
“Dear Younger Me,
Don’t change a thing. It’s going to hurt. A lot. But know this: you’ll get through it, you’ll be stronger for it, and in the end, the life we have is worth it.”
Love, Older Me”
The life I wanted was glitz and glamour, hobnobbing with rock stars and seeing my name in a famous magazine. The life I have is something else. And I wouldn’t trade it for all the rock stars in Hollywood.