Millennials are a called a lot of things. We’re educated, but unemployed. We love our wine and whiskey. We’re fiscally irresponsible for blowing our savings on travel and experiences. We’re motivated and driven to succeed, but we laugh at stupid memes. We’re also a generation entrenched in nostalgia. We love throwbacks and “remembering when” because the rapid development in technology constantly shifted society throughout our formative years. This causes us to become reflective, introspective.
This trend doesn’t just go for us mere mortals either. It extends all the way to celebrities.
This look into the past and celebration of our formative years — however ugly they may be — has caused the Internet to flood our inboxes and social media platforms with popstars, CEOs, writers, and athletes giving their former selves advice.
The advice ranges from don’t get too hung up on dating, make sure you take care of yourself, don’t listen to the haters, don’t stress about everyone being a critic, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be in charge because you’re a girl.
While some of this advice — particularly the one about not letting gender dictate what you’re capable of — is sound, this is one millennial trend that I simply cannot get behind.
Sure, I am overtly sentimental. I love looking back on my life with fondness, but I also look back and cringe. There is so much that happened (particularly in my adolescence) that I would really rather forget. I’ve been through ups and downs just like everybody else, but I don’t dwell on it.
Trust me, I can understand the allure. We have all made mistakes, things we wish we could change or take back or skip altogether. We look back on the former versions of ourselves and think, “Why did I do that? You shouldn’t have skipped that! Why were you so focused on that rather than this?”
It’s easy to want to hop into a time machine and fix what went wrong or change something for the better in one way or another. But personally, I think that attitude can potentially have a negative impact on your life.
Of course, there are things that I wish I could go back and change. I wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying that I was the “DUFF” (designated ugly fat friend) among all of my Barbie doll friends. I would have learned how to apply my eyeliner without looking like a mess. I would have learned to not be a snob about my music, to be less ashamed of and more open about my depression and anxiety.
That doesn’t mean I have to sit and think about it all of the time. In fact, it wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I had even thought of what I would say to my younger self.
If you think about it, going back and telling yourself to do this instead or to change that would do more than change the situation; it would change who you are now and how you react to things altogether.
It would change your perspective, change where you are in life, the people who are in your life. It would change a great deal of who you are and what you’ve experienced because of that moment in time — no matter how much you may regret your behavior in that moment.
A great deal of the popular “advice to my younger self” open letters focus on love. The website DearYoungMe.com is dedicated entirely to posting anonymously about the advice you would give yourself on love. I am an absolute romantic, and I can understand why people would want to fix the mistakes they made in previous relationships. Maybe they would change how they or their partner was treated in a relationship, or stand for something they had ignored.
But the entire point of dating is to make these mistakes. Love is a very tricky subject. It’s not always perfect like in the movies. It doesn’t always sweep you off of your feet. You won’t always “marry your best friend” (sorry, but I’d prefer to have girl talk over wine and face masks with someone other than my boyfriend). But that’s the beauty of dating.
We can’t find the person with whom we want to spend the rest of our lives without our past experiences teaching us what we don’t want.
We’re supposed to learn from what has happened and make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself the next time we open our hearts to someone. If I hadn’t been in bad situations, I wouldn’t have given myself the time to breathe before getting into the relationship I’m in now.
That’s the point of growing up: you’re meant to grow. If you don’t survive trials and tribulations — from understanding the importance of maintaining friendships or learning that success is a process and not immediate — you won’t know how to deal with certain situations. You won’t know what you’re capable of because you won’t have struggled to overcome something.
You have to learn in order to grow — and without growth, what are you really even doing with your time?
Because of what I’ve been through (as unpleasant as some moments may have been), I understand the power of empathy and knowledge. I know that you can’t judge a book by its cover. I know it’s okay for me to be feeling myself even if some idiot doesn’t. I know there will be highs and lows, happiness and sadness, heartbreak and heart fluttering.
You need to experience everything you do in order to become the person that you are and will continue to evolve into. Looking back on life and hoping to change something is futile.
Until you find yourself as a companion in the TARDIS or you invent time travel, wondering what could have happened won’t make a difference in who you are today.
If you’re going to look back, look back on how far you’ve come. See the person you’ve developed into.
Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not so good — but the best we can hope for is to learn from the past and apply it to our future.
Embrace the wisdom you’ve been given by your younger self. Life keeps moving forward, and so do you.