I don’t know if I have any.

For one, I am 35 – very nearly 36 – and I consistently feel as if I’m fresh out of college. Despite my increasingly creaking joints, utter lack of social life, and the blatant aging evident to me every time I work with my high school kids, I still think of myself as young and hip and cool and just starting out.

Two: I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I work in nonprofit, sure. But that’s more where my resume has landed me than what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a jack of all trades and master of none. I can do a lot of things fairly well, but nothing exceptionally well.

Three: I have a too-active imagination. In my head, I’m witty and fun and pretty and active with friends who love me and family who relies on me. In reality, I’d much rather stay in my house than face the fact that I’m not any of those things.

Four: I constantly seek external approval and feel almost ashamed when I get it. I think it’s the strange version of Catholic guilt my mother passed along to me. I’m supposed to be perfectly happy to be laboring and giving as if no one were watching to approve. While, at the same time, I can’t do anything wrong because what if someone is watching? It’s a dichotomy I’ve never quite grasped.

My only true gift seems to be the ability to be content. For some reason, I am blessed – or cursed – with the ability to block out the pounding self-doubt with the white noise of little things. I may be fat, but my extra-padded torso makes a warm and cozy spot on which my 7-month-old niece can curl up and go to sleep. I may not be very responsible with money, but I was able to offer $13 to a woman who was caught short in the grocery line the other day. I may not have a legion of friends, but my sister – with whom I’ve strived to become friends – now calls me just to chat.

So … most these things seem to add up to being reasons why I am probably not very qualified to offer advice to my younger self. But mostly, I’m not sure I’m done being my younger self. I still have so much learning to do.

This is Shelley, 35, and just making do in Iowa.

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