I was reading a great book the other day called Quiet by Susan Cain, and near the end of the book, a man named David Weiss, a drummer and music journalist, told a story that really resonated with me.
He was a nerdy kid who didn’t fit in, but he now lives in New York City with his wife and son, and is by all intents and purposes, thriving. According to the story in the book, his life really changed when he started playing the drums. He says that drums became his muse, his Yoda. Sure, they kept him from getting kicked out of parties by jocks “twice his size. But soon, it became something much deeper:”
“I suddenly realized this was a form of creative expression, and it totally blew my mind,” [he says], “I was fifteen. That’s when I became committed to sticking with it. My entire life changed because of my drums, and it hasn’t stopped, to this day.”
What’s most striking to me about David’s story – and the reason behind this blog post – is the paragraph that came after it:
“David still remembers acutely what it was like to be his nine-year-old self. “I feel like I’m in touch with that person today,” he says. “Whenever I’m doing something that I think is cool, like if I’m in New York City in a room full of people, interviewing Alicia Keys or something, I send a message back to that person and let him know that everything turned out OK. I feel like when I was nine, I was receiving that signal from the future, which is one of the things that gave me the strength to hang in there. I was able to create this loop between who I am now and who I was then.”
In this way, it was almost as if from a very young age, David lived his life with this sense of knowing – knowing that he was making the right decisions, even when the decisions he was making weren’t necessarily the norm, or even well received or supported by his parents (he chose to be a musician over being an engineer or a lawyer or a doctor or insert-parents-dreams-here, enough to make any parents’ heart stop, as I learned when I told my parents I wanted to go to acting school. In the end, I ended up going to law school, dropping out, getting a certificate in PR, working for lululemon, and then going to culinary school. Now I live in LA, am a chef and writer, and mother. Go figure!). But it’s almost as if he heard the voice from his future self with as much conviction as if that voice was a real live person sitting right next to him.
I stared up from my book and off into space as I finished reading that paragraph and thought, “What would my future self say to me now? And when I was younger, what messages would I have received from my future self, which is who I am right now?”
A friend of mine’s son is graduating from college in a few weeks, and he asked all of his friends to give his son a message, something they wish they could have told their twenty two year old selves. He told us not to personalize it for his son, but rather, to speak the message literally as if we were talking to ourselves, reminding us that we all basically have the same fears and desires, despite what we may think (and despite how different our lives appear to be).
So I wrote the following paragraph, which is essentially the message I, future self, would have wanted to tell my younger self, nine, fifteen, twenty two or otherwise:
At twenty two, I wish I had given myself a break. If my future self could talk to my twenty two year old self [or my seven year old self, for that matter], it would say, “Lighten up! Stop taking life so seriously! Stop worrying about what you’re going to be when you grow up and just live your life. It’s all going to work out, not because of some airy fairy bull shit and The Secret way of thinking, but because you don’t operate any other way. It will all work out because you won’t accept anything less than that. So trust that, enjoy your life, make good decisions, but forgive yourself when you make sketchy ones, and especially when you make good ones that actually turn out to be bad ones. Take naps. Do things every day that make your heart skip a beat, whether it’s playing video games or going hiking or running or biking or even building legos! Treat others with respect, and always lead with your heart. Oh, and say yes to yourself as often as possible. Saying yes to other people almost always means saying no to yourself, and that will take a toll on you. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks. Now is the time to take them. Now is the only time any of us has, so if your heart is calling you to do something, just do it.”
And if my future self (say, me at sixty?) could talk to me right now, it would say this:
“Lighten up! Stop taking life so seriously! Stop worrying that you’re not what you thought you were going to be when you grew up, because what you are is so so much better than what you had imagined. Everything worked out, Lauren! And it worked out because you worked hard, you honored your passions, you listened to your inner wisdom, you chose the path that spoke to you, and not the one that looked good on paper. I implore you to trust. Trust the universe. Trust the process. Stop trying to control it. The more you try to control it, the harder it will be to step into your flow. Let the wave carry you – stop trying to swim against it. The fallacy is that you think that in swimming against the wave that you have some semblance of control, when if reality, letting the wave take you is where the freedom really is.
Keep meditating when you feel the urge to rush. Keep taking naps when you’re list of things to do feels too long – nap anyway. If you let it, you will rush your way through life, get to the end, and regret that you didn’t slow down and enjoy all of it. You’ll make a lot of good decisions, and some bad ones, but they will all work out anyway. Keep doing things everyday that make your heart skip a beat, especially laying by the pool in the hot shade of the sun, reading books, and trying new things with your husband and family (except maybe not skydiving. That’s not your thing. Never has been. Never will be).
Keep treating others with respect, and by gosh, keep leading with your heart. It is much, much smarter than your very noisy head. Keep saying yes to yourself most of the time, and no to others when it means saying no to yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks. Now is the time to take them. Now is the only time any of us has, so if your heart is calling you to do something, just do it. It’s how you got here today.”
If you could send a message to your younger self, what would it be?
And if you could receive a message from your future self, what would it be?