I first encountered this idea of writing myself a letter from my 80-year-old self when I underwent a self-directed course called The Artist’s Way, the brainchild of Julia Cameron (one of my favorite creatives). It helped me imagine a wiser, more mature, more experienced self and what he would tell me if he could give me pieces of advice right now. My blogger friend Trisha Velarmino wrote a similar one, though from a different perspective.
You are not reckless for quitting your job. You are not reckless for being impractical. And you are definitely not reckless for traveling, when the world tells you to stay in the office. What you are is brave. What you are is visionary. What you are is crazy, and crazy people change the world. Let your life be a statement of creativity, of wisdom, of true freedom. 8-5 jobs work for others, and you respect that, but you also understand that it’s just one of the million ways that people find their callings as they meet the world’s hunger in its numerous shapes and colors.
You are impractical, and that will offend people. Fear not! For you can’t possibly please everyone when you start a revolution. Your fearlessness is what makes you incredible, and it plants courage in the heart of people so they, too, can stand up for a bigger cause. Soon you will realize that, if something does not involve risks, it’s probably not worth it.
Walk every chance you get. When you turn 100, your joints will crave the chairs and the bed. I’m 80 now and still strong and limber, but I wish I could walk more. While you’re young, be slow and be like a sponge. Notice the blueness of the sky. Pick up rocks when you walk. Delight in the citrus sparkle of the sun’s rays slanting through the rows of pine trees.
Climb more mountains and marvel at the beauty of the great outdoors. Walk more trails and feel the texture of the ground with your feet. Let the bird songs be your music and the crackling of the leaves be its harmony. You understand better than anyone else the feeling of overcoming challenges, the burning of your calf muscles as you put one foot forward. Climb so you can see more sunrises and sunsets. Climb because the effort that you put will intensify the beauty that awaits you.
Learn more languages, and discover the beauty of foreign words. Talk to strangers on the train. When you make mistakes, they will laugh. Laugh with them and you will gain a friend. Go to Morocco and order a coffee spiked with orange blossom water, but do it in Arabic (or French, if you want to sound sexy). Walk the chaotic streets of India, and notice the signs in Hindi or Marathi. Spend a night with a Norwegian in Norway and be amazed at the Northern Lights – no English words allowed.
When you’re not moving from one place to another, cook your own food more often. You have a very healthy relationship with food, and I applaud you for that. It amazes be that, as a young millenial, you thrive in spices and in deep flavors. Your fondness for chemistry is the bedrock of your innovative cooking. The world needs to taste your meals, so offer a bowl of aromatic curry to a newfound friend. Whip up a cup of warm eggnog for your hosts.
And when you eat, chew your food well. Take as much time savoring what’s on your plate. You make me proud for not watching TV while eating. But I’m sure you make yourself even prouder. Eat for cultural experiences. Eat for a wider flavor spectrum. Eat for pleasure. Eat over heartfelt conversations. Real healthful food does not need health claims on its label. Clean whole foods with emphasis on variety are all you need. Eat meat once in a while, but only as a side dish. Don’t obsess about health. Celebrate food!
Remind your parents to eat well. Teach them how to make your personal spice mix, so they can have a glimpse of your cooking even when you’re away. Encourage them to commit to your family tradition of eating out at least once a week, to try new things and expand their culinary repertoire. That, after all, was one of the principal reasons for your open-minded heart, for your adventurous spirit, for your colorful imagination.
Learn to apologize when you offend someone, not because you’re bending your principles, but because you understand the feeling of being hurt. Explain if you must, but don’t overexplain. It’s not your responsibility to make others like you. You shouldn’t apologize for who you are. Declare your love for Taylor Swift. Tell the world that you dance crazily in your bedroom. Let people know that you like walking alone – your thoughts being your sole company. But never be ashamed of these things.
Keep in touch with your friends. As you travel further, you’ll meet new people, and new people will meet you. You will leave them first and, sometimes, they will leave you first. Call them. Write them a message. Send them a postcard. Remind them that you treasure the chill evening at the beach and the sunburn you got from trekking a volcano at midday. Travel is not just about novelty; it’s also about deepening existing relationships.
I know you are strong and you have a terrific soul, but learn to know when to seek help. You are independent, but no one fully is. Your battle is not yours alone. You have your family, your friends, and a community of supporters and brave souls who celebrate you and your success.
Travel not for Instagram posts. Travel for depth. Travel because it’s the right thing to do. I will be with you when you tread the Silk Road or the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route you so covet. When you visit Machu Picchu next year, opt for the longer road by not taking the public transport. Follow the rail tracks, instead, and be surprised by the number of people who do the same. Trust me, you’ll fall in love with them, and they’ll be your friends forever.
Don’t avoid regrets, because you can’t. For every decision, there are several possible choices. Even if you choose the best one, not choosing the others will break your heart – and that’s okay! Take a deep breath and remind yourself why you’re fighting in the first place. The only true regret is to regret the same thing over and over again without learning from your pain.
Don’t lose the child in you – the one that embraces the open skies, that stares at the complex shapes of snowflakes, that sniffs peppermint oil on cloudy days, that unapologetically relishes the sensuality of chocolate. You are a child only once, and you are a child always. Continue seeking beautiful things, because there’s no shortage of beauty once it becomes a state of mind. Find inspiration in the mundane. Notice the world around you. Be. Fully. Alive. Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, and the Eiffel Tower are all breathtaking, but also is the frost blanketing the leaves. Or the scent of freshly ground coffee beans. Or the first ring of the alarm clock that reminds you you’ve made it through another day.
If you could contact your Older Self, what would you ask him/her? What would he/she tell you? Let’s exchange ideas below!