Recently, I joined an online writer’s group offering the challenge to write 500 words a day for 31 days. Each day, you receive an email with a topic, theme, inspiration or suggestion for you to base your day’s writing on. Members join together on the group’s Facebook page to empathize, support and generally encourage one another – I’m finding it to be very helpful. Day 7’s challenge was to offer guidance to your younger self about life and lessons you have learned from it. I don’t know if it is because the Big 50 is starting to loom ever closer – only 2 years left – or the realization that my daughters are closer to adolescence than toddlerhood, but something about the challenge hit close to home.
Looking back over the years, I’m frankly amazed that I’m still alive – I’ve done some really stupid shit. I’m also convinced that while every experience and lesson may not have been “good” upon first glance, there is a rhyme and a reason for everything. The Laws of Physics cannot be ignored – I guess that’s why they are laws! For every Action there is an equal, opposite Reaction and learning how to handle both is a hard won skill. I am old enough to realize that I still haven’t got the hang of it, but young enough to assume that I will.
I decided that I would offer advice to my naive 21 year old self, just graduated from college and about to embark upon the greatest challenge of my young life – moving (alone) to start a new life and a new job far away from my comfort zone, in the great city of London.
Newton’s 1st Law of Motion: states that in order for the motion of an object to change, a force must act upon it. This concept is generally called inertia.
Congratulations, younger self! You have taken the first of the many huge leaps of faith that will ultimately bring you to the place I, your future self, currently reside. Against the so-called advice of people who did not have your best interests at heart, you decided to do the thing that scared you the most – moving to one of the biggest cities in the world and starting a job at one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country. Despite the fact that your new home is a small room in a house shared with strangers, and in a dodgy neighborhood, you have bravely taken the first steps of adulthood. Yes, it is terrifying and yes, you will be scared and intimidated, but not for long. The grit and determination that got you to university in the first place and out of the cycle of poverty and mediocrity that had been your previous existence, will be brought to bear again. Your sheer bloody-mindedness will prove to be a valuable tool. Never underestimate the power of success to silence the naysayers.
Newton’s Law of Gravity: The principle that two bodies exert a gravitational attractiveness for one another that increases as their masses increase and as the distance between them decreases.
Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, I thought that I would offer a few words about getting out there in the dating pool again. It will take a while, but guys will start feeling your “gravitational pull” once you have settled into your new life. You will find the period of singledom to be incredibly liberating once you discard the reservations of your past and try new things – take trips, join groups, etc. You will find that there is something very attractive about a woman who doesn’t need a man to validate her. However, not all men are created equally. Appearances can be deceptive; the prettiest rose may have the sharpest thorns. The initial euphoria of romance can obscure dark motives – what may seem to be sweet attentiveness can disguise subtle manipulation. Don’t forget the last part of the law – the greater the distance, the lesser the force of attraction. Tread carefully!
Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion: states that any time a force acts from one object to another, there is an equal force acting back to the original.
It will be useful for you to remember, younger self, that for every step forward you go in your life, there will be forces that will try to push you back. Sometimes they will be individuals – toxic people who validate themselves by belittling others – there are people like this in all walks of life. Sometimes circumstances will seem impossible to overcome no matter how long you try, but never fear, you will. For all the negativity in the world, the opposite will eventually appear, sometimes in the form of friends, sometimes in the form of opportunities, and sometimes through sheer luck. You will find it necessary to burn bridges in order to build new ones, but then you have always known that. Sentimentality is over-rated. You will find that pragmatism, self-reliance, and the ability to see several moves ahead, will help you to get through some difficult episodes. Remember, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
And so, young self, I bid you adieu! Before I go, allow me to leave you with a final thought. You will never feel older than you do now. Yes, the years will pass and your body will slowly begin breaking down – there is very little you can do about this. No matter how well you eat and how much exercise you do, your physical body will age – time and bad workout practices take their toll (I know it’s boring but don’t forget to stretch, dammit! Your knees will thank you later). However, your brain, imagination and attitude will remain the same as they are now, but they will gleam with the polish of experience and hindsight, and be gilded with the knowledge that you succeeded – you escaped.