You’ve come a long way baby: 20 things I’d tell you now

babygracecropped thumb Youve come a long way baby: 20 things Id tell you now 20 things you need to know - Hey you, standing over there looking tough and cute the way little girls often do, it’s me, well you – in about 36 years. Some things haven’t changed much. With the exception of the ribbon, your hair looked a lot like that this morning, and that stance, you still got that. You often have that same ‘four parts curiosity, one part ‘what the hell are you looking at”  look on your face even at this age – And the legs…well, like I said, some things haven’t changed much.

I wish I could protect you from, and prepare you for all that lies ahead, but I can’t. No one can really. But what I can do is share some things that only I’ll be able to. Some people think the past, present and future are all happening at once, so who knows. I know you won’t understand everything I’m saying, but take notes, you’ll need them.

  1. Some of the people in your life will disappoint you, lie to you, hurt you. Some of them are just stupid. Others are just evil. Forgive them all, stupid and evil alike, and move on. Remember what they did and learn from it. Don’t hold what they’ve done to you against anyone else.
  2. That thing you want to do with your hair in the eighties. Don’t. You leave dozens of grease spots up and down the east coast because of it, and Chris Rock will mock it mercilessly in a documentary he releases in 2009.
  3. Try to get that eating thing under control early – believe me, you’ll be fighting that battle for years. In the meantime, live your life and do the things you want to do, regardless of what the scale says.
  4. You’re going to have several really great ideas for businesses. Instead of talking yourself out of it, just do it. You are smarter, stronger and more resilient than you know.
  5. You know how they said it would be too difficult to be a successful, black, female journalist? Oprah’s like the richest person on the planet now. Seriously. Don’t listen to them.
  6. Learn early to worry less about what people think about you. The truth is, people spend a lot less time thinking about you than you know.
  7. Back in college, that cute guy that kinda looked like Tom Hanks liked you. Do NOT look at him like he’s crazy when he wants to work on “the project” at your house. That old dude on the other hand is just a freak. Stay away from him.
  8. Those two annoying, screaming things that invaded your “only child” sanctuary will become your best friends and biggest supporters.
  9. When people show you who they are, please, please, PLEASE believe them. It will save you years of heartache.
  10. Relationships aren’t always easy, but they shouldn’t always be hard. If you spend most of your time wondering if it’s worth it, it’s not.
  11. When you go to light that grill in ‘91, take a couple quick steps back. Blonde eyelashes and eyebrows are not a good look on you.
  12. Credit cards are not free money. Stop using them to make yourself feel better. In the end you’ll only feel worse and be broke.
  13. The stock market crashes on October 19, 1987 and again on September 16, 2008. If you have anymore money in the future than I did, move it!
  14. On September 11, 2001 the world changes forever.
  15. Do you know who Barack Obama is? You will in 2008.
  16. That thing you’re crying your eyes out about at ages 14-16, 18, 23 and 25, in a couple of months you won’t even remember what all the drama was about.
  17. He’s not coming back. Don’t wait for him. Don’t wait for that other one either.
  18. Do you even know where Italy is? Well, in about 30 years, you spend two weeks there and it’s even more beautiful than you ever imagined. One day you’re going to live there. (If Three 6 Mafia…)
  19. All that time you spend waiting for Mr. Right, don’t. Instead, use the time to make sure you’re  not Ms. Wrong.
  20. You’ve come a long way baby, and you’ve got a long way to go.

If you could send a message to your past self, what would it be, and what age would you send it to? Send a picture of and a message to your past self, to contribute@womenatforty.com and we’ll feature it on the site.

  • HereandNow

    Wow, I loved this. :)

  • Name

    Great list! In keeping with #6, I'd tell myself that the kid you ignored because you thought she was geeky and uncool turned out to be an incredibly interesting person and you should give her a chance because the “cool” people you're trying to impress a) won't be and b) aren't worth it. Also, “forgive yourself.”

  • womenatforty

    Thanks! Great additions. I agree completely. It's funny too, caus' I think a lot of adults could use that advice even today.

  • racheldachel

    Great idea!

    1. Older brothers, although loud, sweaty and annoying, will protect your honor, pave the way for you with your parents and one day become the men of whom you are more proud than you can express.

    2. When your grandparents smother you with kisses and hugs and fawn all over you… When your maternal grandmother crochets sweaters, scarves and blankets for you and your paternal grandmother teaches you to bake coconut cakes and takes you shopping at Bamberger's… When your grandpa takes you fishing on the Vineyard and your Pop introduces you to the music of Miles Davis, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck… When they tell you the stories fo your familial history and remind you how important it is to act with integrity and the value of your reputation—CHERISH those moments! You'll find those moments comforting for the rest of your life and you will be eternally grateful for having had the privilege of knowing such interesting and honorable people.

    3. Define yourself; don't let others do it for you. I assure you that in 10, 15, 20 years and beyond, you won't really care who thinks you aren't black enough or that you talk too properly or that you must be stuck-up because you don't want to go to the party. In your 30s, you will not remember their names—until they request to friend you on Facebook and you end up having to de-friend them or put them on privacy lock-down because they are entirely too interested in the minutia of your life.

    4. Enjoy carefree summers on Fire Island or the Vineyard while you can! Soon, between global warming, UV rays and obnoxious tourists, the summer sanctuary of your childhood will become a very, very different place. Enjoy digging for sand crabs and poking jellyfish with a stick as they will become stories of legend you will tell your children, nieces and nephews.

    5. Know the difference between friends and acquaintances. Acquaintances are people you know, you speak to regularly and you hang out with occasionally. Friends are people who know you—warts and all. You might speak to them regularly, but even if you don't, you pick up where you left off as though no time has passed. Every truly great time in your life included or was the result of one of your true friends. Oh—VERY important: relatives can be some of your best friends ever.

    6. Trust your heart. When you get a bad feeling and something doesn't sit well with you, go with it. Walk away knowing that your instincts are correct. Also, trust your heart when you walk into a room and meet someone whose presence makes your heart flutter and gives you a sense of calm at the same time. Trust your heart and believe in love and the fact that you deserve someone wonderful, honest, intelligent, funny, strong, honorable and handsome to boot!

    7. Be more of afraid of “I wonder what would've happened if I had…?” than “Oh… So THAT'S what happens!” It's easier for me to know that I've made a mistake and learned from it than to constantly wonder what might have been.

    8. Beware Greeks bearing gifts—especially if the gift is an engagement ring and you know you have no business marrying this man and that the past several years together were made possible—in no small part—by plenty of ouzo and the bribery of his mother's baklava.

    9. Give yourself a break! As long as you are still breathing and walk and dig a whole, tomorrow is another opportunity to learn from, fix—or in some cases hide the mistakes you've already made.

    10. Do not believe that life in the year 2000 will be anything like “The Jetsons.” There will be no flying cars or robotic maids. The only moving sidewalks will be in airports and will largely be used to transport the laziest herds of sheeple from the Starbucks at Gate 3 to the Starbucks at Gate 5.

    11. Learn to laugh at yourself! If you cannot laugh at yourself then you really shouldn't be laughing at anyone else. Be solemn and serious when you have to be, but enjoy the rest of life!

    12. Remember your first kiss and your first real crush! Save stupid things like the Pink Panther shorts you stole from him or the tissue he gave you when he wiped the tears from your eyes as you parted and said “À bientôt!” Years later you will laugh hysterically when you find the tissue in a ZipLoc bag and he will be flattered when you meet again and have his long lost shorts.

    13. Surround yourself with brilliant, beautiful, spiritual, kind, loving and forgiving people. Other people are not worth your time and effort and these people will contribute to your life in immeasurable ways.

  • womenatforty

    Love it, love it, love it. You know I'm going to feature it right? Please send me a baby pic! I love so many of these, but #3,5,6 might be my faves. #8, replace Greek with “African” and it could be my story!

  • womenatforty

    Thanks! Keep checking back as more women add their own stories.

  • Pingback: You’ve come a long way baby: Rachel sends a message to her mini me… | Women at Forty

  • HereandNow

    Wow, I loved this. :)

  • Name

    Great list! In keeping with #6, I'd tell myself that the kid you ignored because you thought she was geeky and uncool turned out to be an incredibly interesting person and you should give her a chance because the “cool” people you're trying to impress a) won't be and b) aren't worth it. Also, “forgive yourself.”

  • womenatforty

    Thanks! Great additions. I agree completely. It's funny too, caus' I think a lot of adults could use that advice even today.

  • racheldachel

    Great idea!

    1. Older brothers, although loud, sweaty and annoying, will protect your honor, pave the way for you with your parents and one day become the men of whom you are more proud than you can express.

    2. When your grandparents smother you with kisses and hugs and fawn all over you… When your maternal grandmother crochets sweaters, scarves and blankets for you and your paternal grandmother teaches you to bake coconut cakes and takes you shopping at Bamberger's… When your grandpa takes you fishing on the Vineyard and your Pop introduces you to the music of Miles Davis, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck… When they tell you the stories fo your familial history and remind you how important it is to act with integrity and the value of your reputation—CHERISH those moments! You'll find those moments comforting for the rest of your life and you will be eternally grateful for having had the privilege of knowing such interesting and honorable people.

    3. Define yourself; don't let others do it for you. I assure you that in 10, 15, 20 years and beyond, you won't really care who thinks you aren't black enough or that you talk too properly or that you must be stuck-up because you don't want to go to the party. In your 30s, you will not remember their names—until they request to friend you on Facebook and you end up having to de-friend them or put them on privacy lock-down because they are entirely too interested in the minutia of your life.

    4. Enjoy carefree summers on Fire Island or the Vineyard while you can! Soon, between global warming, UV rays and obnoxious tourists, the summer sanctuary of your childhood will become a very, very different place. Enjoy digging for sand crabs and poking jellyfish with a stick as they will become stories of legend you will tell your children, nieces and nephews.

    5. Know the difference between friends and acquaintances. Acquaintances are people you know, you speak to regularly and you hang out with occasionally. Friends are people who know you—warts and all. You might speak to them regularly, but even if you don't, you pick up where you left off as though no time has passed. Every truly great time in your life included or was the result of one of your true friends. Oh—VERY important: relatives can be some of your best friends ever.

    6. Trust your heart. When you get a bad feeling and something doesn't sit well with you, go with it. Walk away knowing that your instincts are correct. Also, trust your heart when you walk into a room and meet someone whose presence makes your heart flutter and gives you a sense of calm at the same time. Trust your heart and believe in love and the fact that you deserve someone wonderful, honest, intelligent, funny, strong, honorable and handsome to boot!

    7. Be more of afraid of “I wonder what would've happened if I had…?” than “Oh… So THAT'S what happens!” It's easier for me to know that I've made a mistake and learned from it than to constantly wonder what might have been.

    8. Beware Greeks bearing gifts—especially if the gift is an engagement ring and you know you have no business marrying this man and that the past several years together were made possible—in no small part—by plenty of ouzo and the bribery of his mother's baklava.

    9. Give yourself a break! As long as you are still breathing and walk and dig a whole, tomorrow is another opportunity to learn from, fix—or in some cases hide the mistakes you've already made.

    10. Do not believe that life in the year 2000 will be anything like “The Jetsons.” There will be no flying cars or robotic maids. The only moving sidewalks will be in airports and will largely be used to transport the laziest herds of sheeple from the Starbucks at Gate 3 to the Starbucks at Gate 5.

    11. Learn to laugh at yourself! If you cannot laugh at yourself then you really shouldn't be laughing at anyone else. Be solemn and serious when you have to be, but enjoy the rest of life!

    12. Remember your first kiss and your first real crush! Save stupid things like the Pink Panther shorts you stole from him or the tissue he gave you when he wiped the tears from your eyes as you parted and said “À bientôt!” Years later you will laugh hysterically when you find the tissue in a ZipLoc bag and he will be flattered when you meet again and have his long lost shorts.

    13. Surround yourself with brilliant, beautiful, spiritual, kind, loving and forgiving people. Other people are not worth your time and effort and these people will contribute to your life in immeasurable ways.

  • womenatforty

    Love it, love it, love it. You know I'm going to feature it right? Please send me a baby pic! I love so many of these, but #3,5,6 might be my faves. #8, replace Greek with “African” and it could be my story!

  • womenatforty

    Thanks! Keep checking back as more women add their own stories.

  • blissconnection

    Nicely done. I love the concept in point number #3 – to do your thing no matter what the scale says. I have met thousands of women who put their lives on HOLD until they lost those last 10 lbs. One of my friends has been trying to lose those last 10 lbs for about the whole 20 years I have known her and it's so sad for me to watch. I just want to shake her and say SIEZE THE DAY. Today is all we know for sure. There is no guarantee you will be here tomorrow. And, yes, stop worrying about Mr. Right. A man or a husband is not the panacea. Work on making yourself happy and Ms. Right. Have the gratidute attitude and you will attract great people into your life.

  • Jacqueline D

    I love this Grace, thank you for sharing.

  • womenatforty

    Thanks JD – start your list of life lessons now and if you're as smart as I know you are, you won't wait till 40 to learn the lessons I did :)

  • womenatforty

    Thanks! I love your tag name **blissconnection** Nice!

  • womenatforty

    Thanks JD – start your list of life lessons now and if you're as smart as I know you are, you won't wait till 40 to learn the lessons I did :)

  • womenatforty

    Thanks! I love your tag name **blissconnection** Nice!

  • jd

    I want to write a letter to my past self.

  • Grace

    Do it JD – it’s a great exercise. And you don’t have to share it with anyone but yourself.