It was 1997. Oh how twenty years flies! I was sitting in my sophomore honors English class at Hillcrest High School. We had just been instructed by Ms. Sandy Clark to write a letter to ourselves to be opened ten years later. We were told to write about our dreams and ambitions and about our family, friends and how we currently viewed life.
“Dear Andrea…” the letter to myself began. “You will probably be almost the exact same person when you open this letter, because after all how much can one person change?”
Oh, dear. You poor, naive past version of me, I thought. You had so much to learn.
I recently came across that letter for the first time since I wrote it. It was buried in a box of belongings my mom had stored away for me. She rid her house of that boxed clutter last time I visited and it was memory lane going through all those forgotten treasures. I’m not sure I ever read the letter in 2007. But… hello 2017! What a find!
That first sentence to myself had me cringing and laughing, albeit uncomfortably.
“…after all how much can one person change?”
Those words haunted me. Oh, how it would have been so nice to have a letter from my future self back then. To tell myself… that I would change. That I must change. And that change is good, even when it hurts. And that if I didn’t change, then heaven help us all.
I painfully remember the type of person I was back in those high school years. I was shy. I was awkward. I was scared to death of being pushed out of my comfort zone. I feared someone I didn’t know talking to me, or being called on in class or heaven forbid… having to call someone I didn’t know (or probably even did know) on the telephone. I am pretty sure it’s called social anxiety these days, but back then I thought it was just part of growing up.
Thankfully, I pushed through those growing pains and shed most of that awkwardness and anxiety over the years. In fact, some of the dreams I envisioned for myself in 1997… like graduating from college and being a TV news reporter, they actually came to fruition. But boy did a lot of changes have to happen in order to make it a reality.
But because of those changes I made in myself, I graduated from college in broadcast journalism, worked my butt off as a news reporter (talk about going out of my comfort zone) and then as a press secretary in the United States Senate. I was a spokesperson for two United States senators. As a high schooler, I think that thought alone would have made me pee my pants.
People who knew me growing up were often surprised to hear what I was doing for a career, and that I lived so far from home. That shy, home-bound kid from Sandy, Utah, who got nervous making phone calls, had indeed changed.
I am now a wife and mother and the changes those two things alone have brought into my life are noteworthy accomplishments right there.
I don’t know how I pushed through all that social anxiety and shyness over the years, but I’m pretty sure it hurt a little and I likely shed tears. But what if I hadn’t? What if I hadn’t pushed myself? What if I hadn’t changed at all, like my 1997 self thought?
I can’t even imagine how many experiences I would have missed. I would have missed out on life. At least anything good in life.
Now… push me out of my comfort zone all you want. I kind of like it.
Am I socially awkward still? Probably. But I’ve changed enough that I’m comfortable enough with myself to not really care about those things anymore.
So, for all you high schoolers who are getting ready to graduate and move on with life, here’s what I wish I could have told my high school self. Maybe you can learn something from it too.
Dear 1997 Andrea,
In ten or twenty years, you won’t be the same person. Of course you will always be you, but you will be a better version of you.
It’s hard to imagine life outside of high school, isn’t it? It seems so distant and untouchable, like the end will never come. Yet, it will come quickly, just like every other phase of your life. Live each phase like it’s going to happen in a blink of an eye. Because that’s how it will feel. And when life after high school comes, roll with it.
Push yourself. Embrace change. Enjoy change. Crave change. It will make you stronger, better, smarter, kinder, and more thoughtful. Change will even make your dreams come true–those dreams you’ve dreamed for yourself in high school, yep, they can come true. But you might have to go through a lot of change to make it all happen: emotionally, mentally and physically–like moving away from home for instance, sometimes far away from home. Don’t be afraid to do that.
Change will make you a better student, a better friend, a better daughter, sister, cousin, neighbor. Everything. It will make you a better everything. A better spouse and parent. A better leader. The type of leader our world needs desperately. Because not only will you change. But the world is going to change. The world’s hardships, morals, political dilemmas, crisis, they will all keep escalating.
The world 20 years from now will hardly be recognizable to you. Sure, there are problems in 1997. But in 2017… the thought alone of the problems people in our world face will make you fall to your knees and pray to God like you’ve never prayed before. You need to change. You must change. Your future self needs it. Your future family will need it. The world needs people willing to change for the better.
Don’t be afraid of change. It will make you a better version of yourself, one that you can be proud of in the future. Trust me on this one.
The 2017 Andrea
But I guess that’s all part of growing up, right? We have to figure it out and learn as we go. I suppose that’s what drives so much change in the first place.
So, congratulations to all you high school graduates. In another twenty years, I hope there’s another better version of us all out there somewhere. Let’s embrace the change. It will make us the better version of ourselves we were meant to be. The world is depending on us.
Former news reporter and Capitol Hill press guru, wife, mom, and pastry addict.