conversations I would have with my younger self

What would I say, if I could, to my younger self?  You know, if we went for drinks at a Mexican joint, and I began a sentence with, “Okay, there’s something you should know…” what would follow?  It’s easy to tent a blanket of “Don’t take life so seriously” on it, but that’s like telling someone to “relax.”  The words are there, we hear them, but they don’t make us feel any differently.  It’s too easy.  It’s lazy advice.  Here’s what’s harder to say:

Keep a diary.  And when you write in it, try not to dot your i’s with hearts or fat little circles.  Try to write about something other than the opposite sex or the fights you have with friends.  I wish I knew, when I was younger, to write about the good in my friendships and family, to document the loving moments.  Write about your relationship with your cousins, with your grandfather, with your parents.  I need to take this advice now, too.

Nobody cares if you bite your nails.  No guy is going to notice what shoes you’re wearing, and if he does, he’s the wrong guy.

You actually look beautiful, and can leave the house, without makeup.

Learn how to keep track of your spending and realize no amount of shopping will give you real self-esteem.  Even the have-to-have handbag or shoes.  But, it’s okay to like nice things.  Don’t be too hard on yourself for buying into consumerism.  There are worse things.

Be kinder.  Try to treat people as if it’s your last interaction, but at the same time, care less, a lot less, about what other people think.  Read that again.  Stop caring what other people think.  How?  Understand that this is your life, not theirs, and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if things don’t work out the way you’d hoped.  At a certain point, you have to stop pointing fingers behind you toward your childhood. You cannot be walking around worried about what people will think of you.  At the end of the day, all that really matters is what YOU think of you.  Even if people say great things.  Horrible things.  Their opinion shouldn’t matter more than your own.

Don’t worry about appearing braggy or narcissistic.  It’s called having self-esteem, valuing yourself enough to think people might care about what you have to say.  Don’t be ashamed about anything because all our embarrassments are part of the human condition.

Don’t play music on your outgoing answering machine message.  I know you think it sounds good and everyone else does it.  Don’t.

[Tweet “Rich relationships are a product of who you are, not where you are.”]

You’ll make friendships anywhere you go, so stop worrying about the right places, schools, cities, apartment complexes, neighborhoods.

Whatever decision you’re worried about, right now, whether you should do this or that, however important it feels to you, just stop.  Look Up. Remember, when you’re feeling like crap, to just step away from it, for fifteen minutes and just try, TRY, to enjoy the view.  Yeah, the stars shine bright deep in the heart of Texas, but I’ve preached this before.  Now that I’m in, what I consider to be, the ‘burbs, I never think, “I wish I were living in the city.”  But when I lived in Manhattan, I always wished for stars, stairs, and a view.  So look up wherever you are and realize a world goes on outside your dramas. Really, all of it will pass, will be worked out.

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.  I’m not saying to discount the consequences of your actions, but try to worry less about choosing wrong.  We weigh ourselves down in it.  Second-guessing ourselves.  Don’t be afraid of making mistakes because, really, you learn so much when you risk.  So really, it’s never a mistake.  Unless it involves wearing the color orange or anything to do with a hat.  These are usually mistakes best to avoid.

Ditch negative people.  Don’t keep them around because you feel guilty.  Hold onto your strong female friends, even if you’ve had a pissy fight.  They’re really important.

I wouldn’t tell my younger self to listen more, or to be compassionate as well as passionate.  I think I knew those things then.  Yeah, yeah, live in the moment, in the now.  I already knew that.  Heard and knew the words.  That’s not something I needed to hear, and it’s still not.  I would have liked to have known that the truly big moments aren’t as important as the smaller quiet ones.  The sidelines matter more.  When traveling, I’m never impressed by the main attraction; I remember, more, the smaller moments, the little girl, when I was in Madrid, dressed in “her Sundays.”  She saw me watching her walk by as I sat on a bench.  She kept turning to look at me.  I remember those moments most.  “Keep paying attention to the smaller things,” I would say.  “That’s where the good stuff is.”

Don’t be so damn hard on yourself.  Yeah, you screwed up.  You’re not perfect, fine.  Learn from it.  But don’t punish yourself.  Be kind to you, even when you screw up.  You’ll bounce back eventually.  You’ll make up for it.

You are not fat.  You are within a healthy weight range.  As long as your doctor isn’t talking to you about health risks, you are not fat.  Even if your fat pants no longer fit.  Try, as hard as it is, to realize how good you look now.  Here’s what I’ve learned.  When I’m a size four, I’m usually miserable and anxious.  Then, at a size ten, I’m happy in my life (miserable that I cannot fit into my wardrobe, but actually happy in my life), but as happy as I am, I long to be the miserable size four again.  It’s lame-ass behavior.  Stop worrying about it.  Your weight issues aren’t going away, so just deal and learn to love yourself at whateverthehell size you are.  Just deal.

[Tweet “The man should love the woman just a smidge more.”]

The man should love the woman just a smidge more.  Many wise woman I know have told me this (after the fact).  I wish someone had said it to me once upon a time.  I would have listened.  Life is too short to learn everything the hard way.  At some point, it helps to listen.  Yes, you have to experience some things for yourself, but the things I’m saying here, and especially if I had a “back to the future moment,” and it was coming from ME, I absolutely would have listened and reacted… at least while it was top of mind.  I hope to look back on this one day and just add to it.  I hope to keep this list top of mind, too.  Especially the bit about writing about the good.  As for the man loving the woman more bit, I’ve been in relationships where I just *knew* I loved him more… and in relationships where I totally just *knew* he loved me a little more… I still loved him completely, but knew, I guess, that he adored me and would never do anything to screw things up.

Don’t cling to what you know.  Holy shit.  This would have saved me some therapy.  Push your boundaries, explore; don’t rely on the familiar.  Move.  Make new friends.  Go out alone, and don’t be afraid of what others think about it.  No one else is just like you, and you, just as you are, are important.  I wish I knew and believed that then.  Much more important that sunblock.  Okay, just as important, anyway.

Compliment people.  When people receive a compliment studies have shown that their blood pressure is actually lowered.  People are immediately set at ease.

Accept compliments graciously.  Don’t pull the old, “oh stop,” or “ew, no I don’t.”  Don’t roll your eyes.  Take it in, and really accept it.  Shake your head and respond with a heartfelt, “thank you.”

Get a pet.  You live longer and happier when you can care for it properly.  When you’re older, you tend to live longer if you have a pet.  It’s an activity; something is relying on you.  You matter, even when the kids are too busy.  They also lower your blood pressure.

When you feel blue, have a “self-esteem” music mix at the ready to lift your mood.  Then force yourself to take a walk, wear the anxiety tired.

Eat three meals a day.  Try not to snack.  I don’t care what you’ve heard about grazing and blood sugar.  You know you and the way you can’t stop once you start.  Stick to three hots.

Your life is not supposed to be a Mark Ruffalo film, but your life is, actually, like the movies. Make sure you’re the leading lady with moxie and not the side character. Dress rehearse and visualize as often as you need. It will only help you when it’s time to perform. The brain doesn’t know the difference between practice and reality. Let the music soar, and rise up, girl.

Pointing out how the fake MIT Sunscreen speech of Vonnegut did it better?  Better re-read the title and figure out the author is doing more than “internalizing things;” she’s tipping her proverbial hat. Not a case of sloppy seconds, thank you very much.  Again, try not to expect the worst from people.



  1. i think you should re-file this one under "genius". thank you for the well-written reminder stephanie. i really needed that today!

  2. Okay…another one for my fridge! This is truly beautiful. I think for the rest of the night I will be thinking about what I would tell my younger self.

    Wonderful thoughts, Stephanie. You just might be my "girl crush"…

  3. I like this piece. I always say that if I met the younger me now, I probably wouldn't like her. But now I see she just needed a bit of guidance. Oh if only we knew then what we know now.

  4. This is probably your most lucid post. And the advice is hard to follow, which just makes it all the better…

  5. This sounds a lot like the "Just wear sunscreen" speech that was really written by a Chicago Tribune reporter…all good advice…

  6. Erica, notice the title of this post. It has been rumored the 'Kurt Vonnegut MIT Sunscreen Speech.' And then there was the song… blah blah. I know. Thanks for pointing it out, though, for those who don't.

  7. my my! we're all a little jumpy about plagarism the last few weeks, aren't we? Rightly so, I guess, as sad as it is.

    Loved this post today. I was just thinking earlier about how the high school me was so self-concious and tentative and wanting so badly to fit in somewhere. Wonder if that ever fully goes away, no matter how often you tell yourself it doesn't really matter?

  8. "Rich relationships are a product of who you are, not where you are. You'll make friendships anywhere you go, so stop worrying about the right places, schools, cities, apartment complexes, neighborhoods."

    This line really hit home for me…for the last few years I've been living in a small town with not much going on and not many interesting people. I've had my life on hold, waiting until I can make the big move to Boston or New York or wherever else to settle in and make friends, I've been living in limbo for three years and it has sucked. I finally decided a couple of months ago to join a local athletic team, start a book club and stop living in the future. Now, as much as I still want to move to the city I am actually finally enjoying myself here and might be sad to leave my small, not so crappy anymore, town :)

    Thanks for the great post!!

  9. honey if you can write this well drunk you really are a writer.

  10. Anne, thank you for your post. I finally took my life off the hold I had on it for six years (and I'm only 26!), and I've never been happier. Thanks to you, too, Stephanie.

  11. About "the man should love the woman just a smidge more." I'm having trouble processing this one. If a woman has found the man of her dreams, who makes her incredibly happy and supports her in her career and measures up to what a real man should be… shouldn't she thank her lucky stars that she has been so blessed? At first glance, it seemed like you were advocating going out and finding a relationship that is a little less thrilling and a little more "…eh," just for the comfort of knowing you have the upper hand.

    1. I agree with Sarah – you’ve said this “man should love the woman more” stuff before, and I find it ridiculous. Love shouldn’t be something you measure and compare. Why settle for someone you love “less” than someone else, just so that you’re secure that they may love you “more.” How do you judge? If this is how you pick your mate, it’s a sad, sad way to live your life.

  12. "The man should love the woman just a smidge more".

    You really think so? This is something I'm grappling with at the moment. I would love to hear other people's opinions on this…

  13. Good work, Klein! I even tried to take the "Look Up" advice just now- I'm finishing my last hellish two weeks of law school. Sadly, looking out the window led my to a brick wall. Literally. But reminded me that wide open spaces are in my future, so that's a start.

    As for my younger self, I wish I would've known that when I was complaining about how I looked then (at 14, at 16, at 21, at 25), that in ten years I would wish I looked that good. I remind myself periodically now at 30 that in ten years at 40 (and after a baby or two I hope) I'll probably wish I looked as good as now. It helps. Really.

  14. are such an amazing writer, in any state, be it drunken or not. Your words could not be any truer. Having battled my weight all my adult life that part really struck a chord. I can remember back in high school being a size 9 and thinking I was a cow. I went through those years so self conscious missing out on so many opportunities because of that. I wish I could tell my younger self just how beautiful and normal I was. Words that I can tell myself now at 36 years old and a size 12. Finally…

  15. total rip off of the phony Kurt Vonneget MIT speech. Unless SK just "internalized it" and did not realize it.

  16. I have read you blog for a long time and never posted. This was such a great piece that I had to write. The thing about self-forgiveness was the most important to me.

  17. Trying to figure out if ditching the negative people would include ditching myself..
    Loved the advice.

  18. I've often thought about this. I also have often wondered what my younger self would say to me.

  19. That was positive …. and I really enjoyed it. Thanks, Stephanie.

  20. Sorry for posting twice, but I agree with the comment that the man should love the woman a "smidge" more. The reason being that the natural man is in constant conflict with his urge to, basically, nail as many chicks as possible. Loving the woman a "smidge" more at least gives her a fighting chance at him being monogomous. Just my experience. Would like to hear other opinions as well.

  21. pretty good stuff, Steph, except for "the man should love the woman just a smidge more." Whoever told you this was "true" was most likely not a man! While very few couples actually end up feeling like they love each equally, its not a bad goal to work toward. Toss out this one and you have a nice laundy list of items to help a younger woman.

  22. How about this one: “Give credit where credit is due”. Just last month Ellyn Spragins published her book “What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self”. She edited five of the letters that were published in O, The Oprah Magazine – you’re a faithful reader, aren’t you?
    Oh, and by the way, Vonnegut never gave that speech. It was Mary Schmich’s piece (Chicago Tribune).

  23. amen! great advice even to the present you … being kind and remembering the details are things that i have grown into, and not caring what others think as well. i have ditched the negative people that plagued my teens and early 20s … thank god! this is a great post, stephanie … even if fueled by a yummy sounding cocktail. :)

  24. Oh my God! Are you fucking kidding me?? People are complaining about this post?? You mean other people have written about this topic before? No kidding. Lots of people have written about lots of topics before. Does that mean no one should write about those topics anymore? Goodness me. I can't imagine what our literary world, let alone our democracy would be like if that were the case.

    Stephanie paid homage to the mock Vonnegut speech and the Chicago Tribune writer if you read the post's heading and her comment above. Jeesh. She happens to share her inner feelings about what she might tell her younger self and all you can say is, "It's been done." No shit. Your criticism has been done too. Done to death.

  25. Would you really have looked up and enjoyed the view just 'cause someone told you?

    I believe sometimes you just have to live through it all, no matter how many times someone tells/advises you.

  26. amen stephane. Texas definately agrees with you. We do love our mexican food, margarita's, and flip flops here. Much more relaxed than the North East where we come from. I'll be in Austin labor day weekend.

  27. I have just started reading your blog and I absolutely love it. Always makes my day ten times better! Keep doing your thing!

  28. And before someone says it, I am not trying to be negative. I love what you have written. I found myself agreeing with much of it. But it's all a learning process, I believe, as you go through life. It cannot be told, it must be experienced.

  29. You think nice when you're drunk :) My drunk posts are usually more akin to "my sheets are soft. soooooft"

  30. Wow! I skipped over the title, was looking for links to photos since you're photography is pretty great. Wasn't trying to start a ruckus! When something resonates with us I think we all apply it to our life in some way or fashion, which is certainly cool. Especially on your own personal blog!

  31. Thanks Stephanie: Long time reader, first time commenter. I really needed that today.

  32. You know this post is one that is going to be going around on email… it is perfect.

    Thanks :)

  33. Thank you so much for this drunk post :) I've been having a really rough couple of weeks, and I know that feeling of people giving weak advice. "Don't stress." is what I hear day in and day out. It doesn't help. Not constructive. So, fantastic post.

  34. I'm going through this same sort of thing. Not 'what I would tell a younger me' but 'how I can change that younger me'. Must be because I'm turning thirty this summer. So many things seem trivial. And I wish I hadn't spent the past 15 years worrying about them.

  35. First time I'm reading/commenting drunken myself. (Been a very long day…) Nice. Very nice. Cheers to you!

  36. I don't care where it came from.
    I am having trouble holding back the tears right now and I am certain it is because I would say so many of the same things to my younger self. I would say them to my daughters too, if I thought they would listen to MOM … maybe I will save this for them.
    As always, your words are so wise – and again, I don't care where they came from, I am just glad I read them here.

  37. To quote Ray Bradbury: Make a list of the most negative people in your life that prevent you from being the creative being you strive to be. Call them up, and tell them all to go to hell!" I love Ray Bradbury

  38. Hi Stephanie,

    I like this idea a lot. I wrote a letter to myself at age 20 and a letter to myself at age 44, and learned a lot from writing both letters. I found I was a lot more compassionate to my younger self, and a lot more fearful of the judgment of my future self, than I knew. My letters are here, if they interest you:

    I admire your honesty quite a lot. Of course I don't know you at all, but after reading for a couple of years I can say it seems like you've been getting happier, and getting easier on yourself. It's great to watch that journey; I feel lucky to be included. Good luck in your new life, remembering these lessons you share with the world.

  39. WOW Stephanie,

    I think this is my favorite post. Texas looks good on you!

    Wonderful, thoughtful and gracious. Now I am off to buy a watermelon and some Petron!


  40. Wow! I needed a reminder of that. I have written similar posts on my blog too. Its a topic people will always write about
    Great post!

  41. Why is it that the people who post the bitchiest comments seem to have the worst reading comprehension?

  42. I could cancel therapy next week. I won't. You've written the truth from your brain, heart and soul. I've printed two copies. One for the fridge sans spice rack magnets. The other? It's folded in my handwritten diary. Your words reflect mine and I'm reading aloud to therapy girl. Thanks for always inspiring.

  43. So many head nods here but my faves are 1)Don't be afraid of making mistakes, and 2)Ditch negative people. I like these particularly becuase I've only realized them recently. Oh, and 3) you and Sass are gonna meet? So I can finally shut up about this?

  44. Man, I sure wish my drunken typing was as eloquent as yours Stephanie!

    What a great read, Ms. Klein. I truly enjoyed that and will print it out and post it on my fridge like someone else mentioned. Sound advice, thank you!

    I hope you and The Suitor are settling in nicely in your new home, cannot wait to see more pictures!

  45. "The sidelines matter more."

    That was my favorite line. Beautiful.

  46. i liked this post a lot. it's good to be reminded of those little rules to live by, little moments to remember. i'm going through a lot this month with a move, and so many other things unrelated, but in the end i have a man who loves me, and a strong will. i especially liked the accepting compliments. i'm no good at that, but i will remember it next time!

  47. I’d tell teen me how GD cute and adorable and perfect in her body she is and not be bothered when I don’t believe me. And at 60 I’ll turn to my current self and say, “Self, GD you’re cute and adorable and actualized and have amazing orgasms at 44. Just like you are and do now.”

  48. i hope you don’t mind but i thought that this post was so what i needed to hear, so i posted a link on my facebook. thank you for the great food for thought!

  49. You’re right, Stephanie.
    I am beautiful.
    I’m not fat.
    There are bigger and better things in life than what I am facing with right now.
    The worries, problems, everything, will eventually pass.
    It’s something I try to remember, but in the midst of whats happening in the NOW, is easy to forget.
    I appreciate this letter; it’s just what I needed.

  50. Stephanie-you may or may not remember me, I sat next to you at a tiny comedy play (I think it was comedy? or maybe it was a 1-person act?). Anyway, it was somewhere around the high 20’s and 7th or 8th ave. I really don’t remember the details of the play because I was so consumed about sitting smack next to you asking myself is that her? Is that really her? No. Wait. Maybe. Yes? I wrote you an email the next day and you confirmed, indeed, it was you and I spent the next 2 wks kicking myself for not haven spoken to you at the play. You moved to TX very soon after that.
    Well, it’s been a while since I have read your blog. I am still in NYC and things here just don’t change, as ya know. Time just passes. You still inspire me to write whether or not I read your blog on a regular basis.
    I just wanted to say Thank You. Yet again, you inspired me. I needed this little read right here more than you. Funny, how I just opened up to the exact entry that I needed to hear.
    If you didn’t have a chance to tell yourself this in the past, know that you reminded someone else about life and how it should be lived.
    Bless you and hope you are doing well in TX

  51. Retrospect is always clearer. The ability to look back and think about what could have been done differently is a good way to recognize mistakes and learn from them. Mistake isn’t a good word. Mistakes are few and far between because most things that could have been done differently are just learning experiences. In my first year of college I have already realized lots of things I could have told my self just a few years ago. Don’t take your health for granted would be one of them. I especially relate to your advice about ditching negative people. Why bother? Life is too short.

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