Reflection: A letter to my 22-year-old self

It’s the first week of January, still. So I’m allowed to be all reflective and thoughtful, right? In that spirit, I was recently thinking about what I was doing 10 years ago and how much I’ve changed since then. It’s a good time to look back, learn from, and grow forward.

Dear 22-year-old self,

In the spirit of the Internet, I’m writing to you from the future! Right now, you’ve begun the Interim semester of your senior year of college. You’re currently taking an English grammar class. You had to FIGHT to get into, because it’s that awesome of a grammar class. In six months, you’re going to move to Chicago. But you already know this. What you don’t know is that this year is the beginning of a very beautiful and difficult time in your life. A lot happens. But 10 years is a long time, so a lot should. When it’s over, you will emerge a beautifully strong woman, but a very different woman from the young girl you are right now.

If I could give you any advice or prepare you for what’s about to happen, these are the big ones.

On Love

1. Love will change everything about you. In a few weeks, you’re going to fall in love with one of your friends. Hard. Not including your Dad, this will be the second man whose influence will change how you think about yourself. Right down to your name. This man won’t call you by your nickname, Tammy, he will only call you by your given name, Tamaryn. And he will ask you, in a very Walt Disney to Annette Funicello kind of way, “Why would you ever use a common name like Tammy when you’re anything but?” From that point on, you introduce yourself as Tamaryn. (Your Dad will still call you Tammykins though, even after you’re 30.)

2. Love will break you. This man is going to break your heart. It’s going to take a long time for you to understand why this was a good thing. That he didn’t mean to hurt you and that it was for the right reasons. And no. There’s nothing you could have done to change the outcome.

3. Your Family is going to mean everything to you.  They’ll be the only ones who can help you glue yourself back together again.

4. You’re going to make a lot of bad decisions. A lot.  Like playing it safe, with pretty much everything. Your 20s are for risk taking. Unfortunately, you’re not going to many. You’re going to move back to your parents’ home after Chicago.  Instead of moving to New York, you’re going to take the safe corporate job right after. And eventually, you’re going to buy a condo in your home town. Because home is safe.

5. Don’t over analyze everything. But you will. And it’s going to take you a while to figure out knowing the answers to everything in life, unlike in school, doesn’t win you any points.

6. You will compare every man you date, from here on out, to him. You will seek out and date guys completely different just to try that on. You will date guys a lot like him, because maybe that’s what works. And eventually, you’ll figure out why Mr. Right was, and more importantly, why he wasn’t.

7. He’ll get married. Not to you. This one takes you by surprise. But the biggest thing that will surprise you is that you’ll be happy for him. You’re even going to like his wife.

8. You’ll fall in love again.  By the time number 7 happens, you’ll have met someone to love.

9. You’re still not married. I wish I could tell you that in 10 years you’ll be married too. Because at 22, that’s what you really, really want. But you won’t be.

10. This new person is going to leave you too. And just like before, this man will leave for all the right reasons. But you won’t follow him. Because…

11. You’ll have learned how to lead.

On Your Health

1. Foot surgery was a good decision. Genetics were not kind to your feet. At 22, you have the bunions of a 60-year-old.  After these surgeries, you’re most likely going to live the rest of your life with two, two-inch titanium screws in both feet. (They’re still there 10 years later.) And it’s going to be awesome. You’re going to be able to wear 4-inch heels for 9 hours and not cry. You’re going to take up karate and running.

2. Love the body you have?  Then stop taking birth control and start drinking organic milk. Because your body will never be the same. A few years from graduation, regardless of how many karate classes you go to, you’re going to gain 45 pounds in one month. Your stomach is going to stop working. You’re going to feel dizzy and sick. Like your body is toxic. You’re going to be the heaviest you’ve ever been. You’ll wear like one pair of pants for an entire year.

3. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. You’ll be so dizzy and sick at times that you’ll call your mom at 4am crying because you’re afraid your head will quite literally explode. You’ll start to lose hearing in your right ear, and you’ll hear ringing. You’re going to start mixing up words when you type or write and slur them when you talk. And when you think that you can’t possibly feel any more gross or sick, your hair is going to start to fall out.

4. You’re going to be tested for everything. From Meniere’s disease, a brain tumor or MS or an aneurysm, to a malfunctioning thyroid, lupus and hell, even for a gluten allergy because it’s trendy.

5. You’re not going to have any of them. Thank God!

6. Listen to your mom. Don’t slouch. You’ve had scoliosis since your were 10. You’ve heard all your life that there’s nothing doctors can do for it. And so you’ve ignored it. You will spend 40 to 60 hours a week in front of a computer. Not a good combo.

On Wellness

1. You’ll go through a really long hermit phase. Because you won’t have the energy to do anything, your brain will feel like it’s on fire, you’re afraid you sound drunk, and your stomach will hurt so bad that all you’ll do is sleep. You will be miserable. You’ll be depressed. And it will suck.

2. It’ll be ok. You’re not going to trade one single stretch mark, or consequence, that happens as a result. Because out of this will spawn some really, really amazing things.

3. You take control of your own health. You keep a health journal. You start tracking everything from what you ate, how you felt, how many sit ups you did (or didn’t) do. You’ll track your headaches, dizziness, when you’re mixing up your words, when there’s ringing in your ears, energy levels, moods, your “that time of the month”, and how much hair you’re losing. You’ll do this obsessively. As in, you’re going to count every hair that comes off your head in the shower, on the pillow, and in the brush and keep a damn spreadsheet.

3. You’ll become Veronica Mars, Nancy Drew, and Batgirl. You’ll be on a mission to figure this out. And you will.

On Finding Answers

1. Your hormones will be out of control. Think roller coaster from hell. Between birth control, a high diet with a lot of hormone infused milk products (see no. 11), and a natural sensitivity you never knew you had, your body is going to think it’s going through menopause. And it’s going to take a while, but after you cut out a large chunk of artificial hormones, synthetic chemicals in your skincare and makeup, and a bunch of other stuff, you’re going to feel a lot better.

2.  Take Iron and Vitamin D.  Maybe it’s related to everything else, but your iron stores are going to drop so low you’re basically anemic. Your hemoglobin is going to test fine on every test. No one is going to think you need iron. But in fact, your ferritin levels (when you finally see the right doctor to get this tested) are going to be abysmal. This is why you were losing your hair. This is why your mom kept saying, “You’re so pale. Have you seen the sun at all? Are you feeling okay?” This is why all you wanted to do was sleep. This is partially why you’re dizzy, why you can’t concentrate, and why you feel out of breath all the time. Once you start taking iron (and later vitamin D) and almost everything will be back to normal.

3. Start seeing a chiropractor sooner. He will fix everything else. You ignored your spine and everything was out of whack. The “airplane bubble” and ringing in your ears, and any left over migraines will disappear once you start working to realign everything.

On Finding Your Voice

1. You start to write a book. While you were at the hight of feeling sick and being a sloth, you get a really great idea for a story. It will pull you out of your hermit phase.

2. It’s not finished. Life will get in the way and you’ll set it down for other projects.

3. You start your own company. It seemed like a good idea. You didn’t know how to be healthy in a cube. You knew you needed balance in your life. You needed to take a risk.

4. It’s a huge risk. Huge. The riskiest thing you’ve ever done.

5. You will struggle with it. You jumped in without a plan and you didn’t know how to swim. If you had a plan, you might have thought twice about starting a company when it’s an economic recession. You learn that “winging it” is not a strategy.

6. You’ll make sacrifices.

7. You’ll work harder than you’ve ever worked before.

8. You’ll figure it out. You will actually grow your business, work with some really awesome people and clients, and create some seriously awesome work that you’re proud of.

9. You adopt a dog. This little guy changes you. He’s the best present you’ve ever given yourself. He’ll teaches you all the stuff you didn’t know you had in you…like patience.

10. Finish your book. Once all the things you were afraid of and that kept you from finishing are out of the way. Come back to this. The story is still a really good one.

11. Go back to school. You’re going to do a semester of GVSUs MBA program. It’s going to be hard because you’ll be juggling a ton. You will learn a valuable lesson…

12. You can do a lot. But you can’t do everything all at once.

13. You’ve got this. The next 10 are going to be really amazing.

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