Photo by Linda Cronin
Although this probably breaks some sort of woman rule, I’m not really a huge Oprah fan. But I did recently purchase the May issue of O magazine, as the Internet was abuzz about a letter to her younger self that Winfrey penned for the issue.
I’ve been wanting to write something similar for months, but have struggled to find the right focus and the right words. So I hoped reading Oprah’s letter would serve as some inspiration. And guess what, it did. So I present a letter to my younger self.
It’s October 2001 and in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When you find yourself sitting on a bed of rocks near the foot of a waterfall you think to yourself, “Who would have thought that a little black girl from the wrong side of the tracks in Birmingham, Alabama would ever have the chance to do such a thing?” But you have this chance because you are lucky enough to be part of a graduate school preparation program that allowed you to travel all over the country attending conferences and presenting your research on women’s health magazines. Wait. I take that back. Luck has nothing to do with it. You have these opportunities because you’re smart, you work hard and you pray harder. And you deserve them.
Even though you’re only 20, these blessings aren’t lost on you. You take nothing for granted. You are grateful for every moment. But you are still a bit distracted during this trip. Things have been rocky with the boyfriend for months and you’re at your wits end about how to salvage the relationship. I wish I could be there to whisper in your ear “Let him go.” I wish I could tell you that the next summer you’re going to meet the love of your life, that you’ll meet someone who loves your big hair and your big dreams.
I also wish I could tell you to listen to Katie, the women’s studies major in your grad school prep program. She’s a staunch feminist always seeking to expose the evils of sexism and preaching equal rights for women. You roll your eyes when she talks, unaware that you’ll be in a pro-woman pulpit of your own in a couple of years. You say things like, “I’m all about girl power, but I won’t start calling myself a feminist until they stop hating men.” Guess what babe, you’re a feminist; you just don’t know it yet. And feminism has nothing to do with hating men. But you’ll learn all this soon enough.
None of the graduate schools you’re applying to are in New York and you’re wondering if this is a mistake. Since you were 15 your plan has been to get to the Big Apple as soon as possible so that you can one day work for Essence magazine. But even at 20 you’ve already learned that things don’t always turn out how we plan. But you’ve also learned how to bloom where you’re planted and it is this knowledge, this wisdom that will allow you to create a beautiful and fulfilling life no matter where you are.
If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you tell her?