What Would You Tell Your 10-Years-Younger Self?

Awhile back, I read a question I just couldn’t get out of my mind.

Writing on DaySpring’s (in)courage blog, Renee Swope of Proverbs 31 Ministries was talking about getting to know other people by sharing our stories. Her closing list of “story-prompts” included this:

“If you could go back 10 years, and tell your 10-years-younger self something, what wisdom or advice would you share?”

10 years younger post (photo by Lilly)2

After much thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that, at this point in my life, telling my 10-years-younger self anything would be like giving advice to a caterpillar.

“Honey, things are about to get very dark for you. Very dark, and cramped too. You’ll probably have a hard time breathing from time to time. And this is going to last for what seems like forever. But when it’s over, it will be worth every second. Trust me.”

“Uh, OK, thanks for that,” the caterpillar might say, with absolutely no way to comprehend the metamorphosis that is about to rock her entire world.

I can relate, but it took me awhile to figure out why.

A few years ago, my daughter was struggling with math. Looking back, it wasn’t just math in general. It was the fact that the school had introduced new math curriculum with all kinds of wonky ways to do things, and, really, fourth grade isn’t the best time for that. It was the fact that we had moved recently and she was at a new school, which basically amounts to a whole new life for a nine-year-old girl.

It was the fact that her dad had been working out of town since January, and it was now September, and that was a very long time for her to be without her father at home full-time. It was the fact that her mother was nearing the end of a long journey through perimenopause, only at the time she didn’t know it.

In the midst of all that, math was a challenge. But in fifth grade, my daughter’s teacher told me something profound. Kids sometimes struggle mightily with a particular concept one year, she explained, and then the next year, it suddenly all makes sense to them. That’s because developmentally, they weren’t ready to learn it one year, but the next year, they are.

My daughter wasn’t doomed to an unproductive life because she didn’t comprehend fourth-grade math. She simply wasn’t developmentally able to understand some of the concepts just yet.

It’s like that in adult life, too, which might be why I’m having so much trouble with the 10-years-younger question.

A decade ago, I’d worked for several years as a journalist. I had written two books. I’d experienced infertility and become a mother via international adoption. I thought I pretty much had it all together.

I had no idea.

Was my attitude rooted in ignorance? Arrogance? Naïveté? Perhaps, but maybe it was also something else.

Maybe that’s just how life works.

Maybe something happens—when you turn 40, when you come out of a lengthy season in the wilderness, when your kids hit double digits or some other age that was pivotal in your own life, when most of the people in the obituaries are now younger than your own parents—that triggers some kind of processing reflex in your brain.

You see things differently. You see things that you couldn’t have seen before. It’s all just … different.

In the aftermath of infertility, I was so sure that the things I had learned, I had learned completely. Worry? Done with it. Trusting God? Check. Comparing myself and my situation to other people? Over it.

Turns out, I hadn’t quite completed my education. Not even close.

My beliefs about God haven’t changed, not really. They’ve grown, expanded, been molded by the deserts and valleys I’ve walked through since then. But they’re still basically the same.

I’m different, however. Because of those deserts and valleys, I know some things about myself that I didn’t know before. I didn’t realize how self-centered I was back then. I didn’t realize how little of what was going on around me I actually noticed. I especially didn’t know how much I didn’t know—about God, about life, about how to comfort and care for people.

I’m not wiser than I once thought I was. I know much less than I knew a decade ago, and I’m pretty sure that in 10 years, I will know even less than I do now.

But I am learning to keep my mouth shut.

So what would I tell my 10-years-younger self, or any other 10-years-younger friends? Not much, actually. I have no profound statements or Tweet-worthy proclamations to offer.

Rather, I would do what my older friends often did for me, and still do. I would listen. I would laugh with them. I would tell them they are doing a good job, and to hang in there. I would tell them I am proud of them and cite specific examples. I would tell them I remember what it’s like, and how hard it is.

Things change as we move along life’s path. Circumstances change, bodies change, hearts change. When we look back, we will see certain things differently than we do now. That’s how life works, whether we expect it or not.

But God does not change. No matter what happens—in me or around me—He, alone, is enough.

Now that I think about it, that’s what I’d tell my 10-years-younger self.

Just that.

Lois Flowers

P.S. I’m linking up today with Holly Barrett’s Testimony Tuesday and Holley Gerth’s Coffee for Your Heart. Come join us for more encouragement.

Photo by Lilly Flowers

12 Responses to What Would You Tell Your 10-Years-Younger Self?

  1. Renee Swope says:

    Lois, I love what you shared. Thank you for sending a link to inCourage to send to me. 🙂 Your words offer such a beautiful and hope-filled perspective. And my daughter is struggling in school so the timing was just perfect for me in that way too.!!

  2. 10 years ago my Mom had been gone for 2 years and I had been married a year. I think I would have told myself that missing Mom would get a little easier with time and so would married life. (That first year was the hard one!) I don’t know if that would have helped at the time!

  3. Marisa says:

    I love this. Maybe because I feel the same way. I have had a hard life, but had I not traveled this road I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t want to change that. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Tiffany says:

    For year now (but especially the last few months) I’ve been beating myself up over a choice I made 10 years ago. At Bible study tonight we talked about the exact topic I was wrestling with, and then I end up here on your blog. Ten minutes ago I would have told my 25 year-old self, “please wait until marriage – that ‘man’ isn’t worth the dark corners you will force yourself into for the better part of the next decade because you are so full of regret and shame and feel so unworthy of love” … and yet now I think maybe I wouldn’t be who I am today (in a good way) without the experiences of the last decade. Who knows what other mistakes I would have made if not that ONE. I think my 10-years-younger self just needs to be reminded that God always forgives, always loves, and always walks with you through dark places. — Thank you for your words!

  5. Suzanne says:

    Thank you for this. It is very good and also I needed to hear it.

  6. Lydia says:

    Very insightful, Lois! Thanks for sharing! And that is an excellent photo by Lilly! 🙂

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