The Art of Mirriam Neal

//dear younger me

Dear Younger Me,

I don’t know where you are right now, or what you’re doing. You’re probably reading – or maybe I found you in that moment when you first wrote that first short story, a page and a half long. If so, congratulations, you’re never going to stop, you aren’t prepared, and you were born to keep on doing just that. (Except the stories will get longer. A lot longer.) I’m going to be honest – right now, you’re kind of stuck-up. It’s okay to relax. People aren’t beneath you, and life is actually pretty fun – most of the time. You’re also boy-crazy. Congratulations – you still are, at twenty-one, but said boys are fictional, and you’re writing them. Ease up on the real ones. You’re thirteen, and you don’t need a boyfriend. In fact, you’ll never need a boyfriend. What you need is to quit hoping you’ll find some kind of ‘spiritual fire’ every corner you turn. You need to put down The Two Towers (I know, it’s hard) and pick up the Bible. You pray a lot, but tossing out a dozen one-sentence prayers during the day isn’t enough. There are times you wish you were in public school, because it looks cool. Well, it isn’t – and it sure isn’t like what you see in Disney movies. (Disney movies also make being a terrible older sibling look great. They’re lying. It just makes you a jerk.)

Speaking of siblings – I know you hate yours. Your older brother picks on you, your younger sister gets away with everything, and you think life is unfair. You lie about things you didn’t do just because you’re framed so often (that’s no excuse.) I’m guessing you’re about twelve at the moment, which means your sister is ten and your brother sixteen. Guess what? Ten-year-olds and sixteen-year-olds are obnoxious. So are twelve-year-olds. You’re all obnoxious and you have a long way to go. (Eventually, they’ll be your best friends, these siblings.)

Start by fixing yourself. Look at your own flaws and deal with those before you even think about trying to fix people who annoy you – you’ll be busy with perfecting yourself for basically ever. You won’t have time to point fingers and if you ever do, remember that they have twice as many reasons to point fingers back. I’ve said all the sad truths about you, but there are also some pretty stellar things you need to keep doing. You need to keep making friends. Keep talking to people, keep walking into new places and coming out with an email address. You won’t even remember most of their names, but these people will give you the confidence to be yourself, and eventually you’ll give others the confidence to be themselves. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

crown

Don’t give up on your dreams. You’ll look at your art and know what a horrible mess it is, but that’s okay. Nobody is perfect at anything right from the get-go. Ironically, you’ll look at your writing and think it’s perfect. It isn’t. You won’t even begin to shape an acceptable story for three or more years, but you’ll love it. Don’t stop loving it. Keep doing it. When you wake up at three a.m. with a great idea, write it down. (I still haven’t forgiven you for not doing that a few of those times.) Keep being horse crazy. It’s about to get awesome, and you’re about to do things you’ve only dreamed of doing. I would say work harder at Algebra, but the truth is, once you complete Algebra, you don’t use it for years. And years. Spanish, however, you should probably pay more attention to. You have a natural flair for languages, and you could do really well with it if you wanted to. I know this covers a lot of ground, but there are a few specific points to make before I come to the end.

  • Life isn’t a competition. It isn’t about who is better, who is prettier, who is more talented. You don’t have to lie or pretend in order to be seen as ‘better.’ Everyone is going to finish this race whether you like it or not. What counts is that you run it well. The second you start to compare yourself to someone else is the second you become discontent.
  • Don’t be afraid to say what you think. Believe it or not, your opinion counts. It’s okay to speak up.
  • Don’t be afraid to love what you love (as long as it doesn’t clash with what God loves). Love it with open arms. Love it to pieces. Love it unabashedly. It’s in your nature to be passionate about things. It keeps you inspired and it gives you joy, and when you have joy, you can share it. Love what you love, and don’t listen to those who don’t know how to love like you do. The loss is theirs. Don’t make it yours, too.
  • It’s okay to cry. In fact, you’ll end up crying a lot, and you’ll feel much better afterwards. There’s nothing wrong with being soft. In fact, I advocate it. You’d be surprised at how soft strength is.
  • If something feels wrong, it probably is.
  • Just because you make a mistake doesn’t mean you are one. Just because you failed at something doesn’t mean you are a failure.
  • Try to leave people better than you found them. In the words of Maya Angelou, people will forget how you looked or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
  • You are allowed to change your mind.
  • Talking bad about others is a sneaky way of praising yourself. Don’t stoop to that level – you don’t fool anyone.
  • It takes seven positive words to negate an unkind one.
  • In order to change, change. (These words will change your life. And guess what? They were spoken by a Japanese rock bassist. Loving weird things will change your life for the better.)
  • Don’t change your convictions to please someone else. They won’t respect you for it, and neither will you.
  • If they don’t know you personally, don’t take it personally. Don’t rely on the praise of other people. Accept it graciously when it comes, but if you make it too important, you’ll shrivel up and die at the first sign of criticism.
  • People are either blessings or lessons, and either way, you need them.
  • Be a good influence on yourself. Being happy has nothing to do with outside circumstances; it isn’t about anyone else.
  • There is always more room to grow and more to learn. That’s exciting, isn’t it?

I’m writing this to you, my younger self, but you’ll need reminded of these things constantly, every day of your life. Change is hard and often painful, but it’s necessary. There is no improvement without change. Don’t be afraid of looking silly. You are silly. Everyone is silly, because everyone is human. Set a good example for yourself, and maybe you can be a good example for others. You want to be the kind of person other people can open up to and know they’re safe. You’ll trip and fall, but guess what? You don’t need to get up by yourself – others will be there to help you, and it’s okay to let them.

This was a long letter. You have a lot of improvements to make, younger me. What are you waiting for?

– Your Future Self

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email