Please welcome today’s guest writer, Hayley Cox (‘14). Haley graduated with a double major in history and English. She has just finished a stint as an assistant language teacher at elementary and junior high school in Imabari, Ehime, Japan where she spent her weekends making plum wine, studying for the GRE, and biking around her rural island town.

If I could write a letter to a younger me, I’d tell her to slow down. I’d tell her life’s more than a checklist of milestones and highlights. Take time for you, take time for others, and don’t fear the “in between.” When you feel stuck in life, pause and reassess. Because life—real life—happens in that in between.

People grow old. Friends and families change. The bubble of student life gives way to the “real world.” You’ll pick up and restart more than once. You’re going to be dissatisfied with your life’s pace. But if you focus only on the future—the next “better” step—you’ll miss the people and the places around you and not realize it until it’s time to leave again.

If I could write a letter to a younger me, I’d tell her to hurry up. Stop waiting for life to hand you your dreams. Don’t waste time on books that don’t grow you and people who keep you still. Explore each city as you live in it. Forge deeper relationships with your casual friends who you wish were more. Pursue hobbies rather than settling for a list of vague interests. I’d tell her to appreciate how temporary work and life in each place are. I’d tell her “don’t let time outrun you.”

If I could write a letter to a younger me, I’d tell her to dial it down. Don’t walk over others to steal the spotlight. Don’t speak up when you have nothing to say, for in posturing your ignorance is shown. Learn to step back, learn to sit down. Be quiet, listen, and learn.

If I could write a letter to a younger me, I’d tell her to dial it up. When you’ve found your voice, use it. You’re smart; don’t be afraid to show it. Share knowledge, encourage dialogue, teach others what you know.

Engage in spontaneity. Don’t let your goals be dependent on others. Great memories will be made when you step out on your own and leave your sometimes-literal island on a ferry to a city yet undiscovered.

If I could write a letter to a younger me, I’d tell her she’s not perfect and that’s okay. You won’t always be the smartest person in the room. Someone will always write better, learn faster, speak more smoothly. Sometimes your ideas will be lacking, and your ambitions will fall short. But if you always give your best, no one can discredit your successes.

If I could write a letter to a younger me, I’d tell her to find balance. Worry can be good and some comfort zones don’t need to be stretched. But worry is often fruitless and change is often healthy. Learn discretion and don’t be afraid to put people’s advice to the test.

If I could write a letter to a younger me, I’d tell her to share her stories. I’d tell her how she’s going to travel the world. How she’ll befriend a young man at Starbucks who likes to practice his English every time he takes her order. I’d tell her about the good food and a second family she’ll find weekly with her seven Japanese grandmas. How she’ll experience welcoming kindness from the old lady at the deli counter who always sneaks in extra ground beef with a wink after she’s already printed the ticket.

I’d tell her about the joy. The joy found in her students, her sensei, and even her bank teller. I’d tell her she’ll find joy around the world, so make sure to write it down. For the times when she or someone else needs a reminder.

If I could write a letter to a younger me, I’d save a copy for the present me.

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