Flickr Photo by William Arthur Fine Stationery

Dear Priya-at-Fifteen,

I can barely remember who you are anymore. But from what I do recall, there was much anxiety and uncertainty. You are going to accomplish great things in the next fifteen years that will shape who you will become. I’m happy to report that it’s all for the best! But I want to share what I know now that I wished I had known at your age.

  1. You’re amazing. I say this first because you need to know you are special and few have told you so far. You love life, NYC and your friends. You’re idealistic and you will stay this way despite all your fears of “the real world.” No matter how tough mom and dad are, they are proud of what you will accomplish. You are brilliant, gorgeous and as L— would say, “You’re a package.”
  2. Boys are stupid. Guys are going to be your biggest distraction for the next twelve years. You will fall in love and have your heart broken repeatedly. There is no regret because love will force you to grow and you will appreciate life in ways you would not have had otherwise. But don’t waste your time waiting for anyone. The guys worth waiting for are the ones smart enough to never let you go.  Unfortunately, you won’t meet any worthwhile men until your late twenties (because that’s the earliest they will grow up!). If they let you go, move on early and often!
  3. Focus on you. Again, you’re going to get so distracted by boys, wasting precious time deciphering them when you should have been figuring out your future. Be honest with yourself and BE SELFISH when deciding what college you will attend. You ended up going to college and grad school tuition-free, that’s no minor achievement. But I don’t believe those institutions gave me the quality of education I needed and you knew that at the time. Education is important so give it more weight than you currently are. Take some business and finance courses, too.
  4. Listen to your gut. You know those ideas you get that you think are random and come out of left field? EXPLORE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM! Now is the time to do so. Ignore dad’s discouragement. I promise you, he’s secretly hoping you DO defy him. That’s how he’ll know you’re 100% sure about what you want to do. Unfortunately, you don’t actually defy him until your mid-twenties. It goes well, but will leave you wishing you had done it earlier. So explore marine biology, forensic science, creative writing, public advocacy and anything else. Make the mistakes now so you can excel faster.
  5. Define “success” for yourself. You know how dad keeps harping about job security and you think he’s being overly cautious? Funny story: the economy tanks in 2007 and unemployment rises to over 9%. Your resume is stellar but your lack of work experience keeps you from getting a satisfying career started. Meanwhile, all your high school friends have become lawyers, doctors and financial analysts leaving you feeling like a failure. But they have eating disorders, chronic insomnia and are still emotionally dependent on their parents. Success is more than just your job and income. You only get one chance at life. You will travel a lot, have so many beautiful experiences and some that will test who you are – but you’ll like what it reveals. You are going to take so much pride in your strength to do the right thing under pressure and no one can ever take that away from you. You’ve got some revolutionary ideas and I want you to take confidence in them no matter how many crazy looks you get. By the way? Stop spending too much time with the friends who keep giving you crazy looks. They will hold you back.
  6. Stop taking Dad so seriously. I know, right? I saved it for last worried you would have chucked this letter out sooner. He’s been intimidating your entire life but you have no idea how the years will change power dynamics between you. Realize that 99% of what he says stems from his own anxiety and not you. He is not going to die anytime soon, he’s just anxious he will. He’s got specific plans for your future because he is not familiar with much else and it’s important to him that you have security. That doesn’t mean your ideas and plans aren’t any good. In fact, you will make choices based on his discouragement that you will regret.  It’s okay if he yells, yell back. You’d be surprised how wrong he can be.  Listen to your gut.

Waiting for you in 2012,


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