Letter to My Younger Self

Today is a very special day for me. It’s my 10th anniversary as a parent! Yes, today is my son’s 10th birthday. In honor of my (er, uh… his) special day, I wanted to share a letter written to “my younger self,” just days before my son was born.

personal story

On his 10th birthday, I share a tribute to the special young man that is my eldest child. My only son. My hero.

Last October, I had the privilege of attending a writing retreat hosted by Ellyn Spragins, author of the New York Times best-selling book, “What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self.” Ellyn lost her mother suddenly at age 32. Immediately afterwards, she was faced with many challenges. Ellyn soon realized her mother dealt with many of the same problems. She longed to know what her mother would say about those situations, having the benefit of hindsight.

That longing prompted the thought, “What would I tell my younger self about my previous challenges?” And, so, the concept of Ellyn’s book was born! It is a compilation of letters written by celebrities to their younger selves. Perhaps you are familiar with the book. Or, maybe you know about the Brad Paisley song inspired by her project, “Letter to Me.”

Ironically, the retreat was three days long, but the following letter flowed right off my pen, exactly as it is below, in 15 minutes. I NEVER write *anything* that fast! Nor do I *ever* write without making dozens of revisions and edits. Clearly, these words were longing to find their way onto paper.

My Letter to My Younger Self

BACKGROUND – Three days before I was scheduled to be induced with my first child, I horked my pregnant self into the corner of the couch, pulled out a journal, and attempted to drain the all-consuming anxiety out of myself. I was 28 and married to a wonderful man. I had just graduated from grad school and left my 7-year career as a teacher. I wanted to be an entrepreneur in the field of education. Back at age 16, when picking out colleges, I immediately ruled out one of my parents preferred choices because it didn’t offer an “elementary education” degree.

My mom was always very encouraging of my personal ambitions. So, it was only out of support that she questioned my decision. “Are you sure you want to go into education? You’d be very good in business.” I responded, “Yeah, but someday, I’ll find a way to blend my interest in business with my passion for education.”

At the time I thought I would own a Montessori school. I never could have imagined the internet or opportunities opened by advancing technology. 12 years later, I had trudged through all my formal education and seven loooooong years in the classroom.

Meanwhile, I had uncovered a few secrets to make learning easier…much easier! These secrets flipped me from a struggling student to a 4.0 in college. They made my life easy and they laid a path of confidence that was foreign but exhilarating. I “moonlighted” my way through college and my teaching career, teaching these “secrets” in after-school study skills classes. The classes were a big hit and very fulfilling!

But, my “day job” was suffocating. To put it nicely, I did not have great leadership in my school. It was like putting my soul in a vice and cranking hard. Day after day. Seven years felt like an eternity. I was totally miserable. Now, it was time for me to make “study skills” a full-time gig.

But, just after I celebrated my last day in the classroom and turned in my resignation, I was hit with a big surprise. I was pregnant. I felt like my life would be over. I wouldn’t have the freedom to go to McDonald’s for a Diet Coke by myself! How would I even pay the bills, or follow my dream of building a study skills business? I was riddled with anxiety.

Dear Sue,

No one else could possibly convince you of this right now, but you are going to be perfectly fine. You are about to give birth to a beautiful baby boy who will set your heart on fire! Only, the fire will take a few months to ignite.

You are going to get your Diet Cokes from time-to-time. Not only that, but you are going to travel all over the country… and even to Paris and South Africa! All while your children are young. You will do this because God has blessed you with four grandparents and a loving husband who will love this baby like crazy, too. And, they’ll be pretty cool with you going after your dream.

You’ll have tight months, but you’ll always make it. But, the most important thing you need to know is that you have no idea what you are building. You think your ambition is about making a living as an entrepreneur, while helping students find a better way to navigate school.

What you don’t know is that you’ll cross that goal off your list before your little boy turns five. And that will be good. But, on a February night, just two days before he turns 7, you will be struck with a much bigger insight. Your little man is going to struggle in school with ADHD and dyslexia.

You will watch him struggle through kindergarten and first grade and his inner light will be extinguished. This will shock and horrify you. And you will realize that your mission is to change the system, not the students. Because no institution should be allowed to put out the inner fire of a child. And then you will realize this little baby is not a roadblock on your journey; he’s your most important catalyst!

With love, A Proud Mama

Happy 10th birthday to my hero!


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