Dear Younger Me,
I have been thinking about writing this letter for a while know. Writing this has been on my heart and in my mind – pushing me forward, telling me to sit down and put pen to paper and write it. Yet, the words, the content of the letter, have remained vague in my mind, as though I am trying to look through a window on an early winter morning when the frost is still there. I can see colors, the sunlight, feel the brisk, fresh air through the glass, yet my vision is blurred by the frost.
Sometimes, you have to take action to gain clarity. Open the window. Walk outside. Write the letter.
Dear Younger Me,
There is so much I really want to tell you, but even if I could stand by your side for a few, precious minutes, I would not. I would not tell you how to avoid the hardships and heartbreak, even though my heart would ache to see you go through it all again.
I would not tell you which decision was right or wrong. I would not give you advice on how to succeed. I would not counsel you on how to cope or console you in times of loss, sadness, frustration or loneliness.
I would not tell you that the struggles and burnout of medical training, and a career in medicine, will change you in ways you never expected.
I would not change your path. I would simply stand with you, in the moment, and smile.
Because it is not about changing the past decisions of my life. Those decisions, those mistakes, those successes, those failures and those struggles, all made me who I am today. They forged wisdom, skills and scars that are the foundation for who I will be tomorrow. Writing a letter to my younger self with advice seems like an act of regret, and I will not regret who I am.
Dear OLDER me,
You have been brave. The road has not been smooth. There have been major setbacks and failures. At times you have been lost, and others laser-focused. You have had great success and achieved things you once were not sure were possible – such as getting accepted into medical school, building a family while in residency and fellowship, creating a career that others said was not possible. You have taught others, inspired others and literally saved lives. You have made the world a better place, even if you cannot not see it.
But, let me give you some advice.
You will fail. Again and again. You may burnout. A patient will die.
Learn from these experiences, but do not stop. Do not bury yourself in shame and regret – no good ever comes from those two.
You will question whether you are enough. Good enough, smart enough, brave enough.
You are. You ALWAYS are enough.
You will disappoint others, and it is ok. Disappointing others will always be easier to live with than disappointing yourself.
It is never too late. Never too late to change. To evolve. To pursue a passion. To learn. To teach.
It is never too late to LIVE.
And that is the greatest advice I can give to you, my older self. Do not forget to live fully. Have FUN. Take the vacation. Buy the shoes. Change the world.
Live in each day and each moment with presence and intent. The next moment is never guaranteed, so live with passion and purpose. Enjoy the bumpy ride.
Finally, share your life, your story. Be a mentor, a friend, a confidante, a sponsor. This is how to inspire others to change the world, just as others have inspired you.
Much love and grace,