What Would You Tell Your 18-Year-Old Self?

“Letters to My 18-Year-Old Self” are pretty popular lately (or maybe always?). I’ve seen them on blogs, in journals, in online newspapers and magazines, even in seminars and workshops, but I’ve given little consideration to the topic. Of course, I’ve wondered every now and then if I should have done some things differently, but I’ve never written a note to my younger self–until three weeks ago when Love Notes 25 kicked off with the prompt:

Write the words you would tell your 18-year-old self.

My assigned partner, Janet T, is new to the Love Notes community. She is a “mom to two beautiful daughters” in their 20’s, so she has probably had some recent practice with the prompt. She wrote her note in a card bearing a gold embossed mermaid silhouette:

Whatever gives you happiness–let that inspire you in your daily life. The things you love make you who you are and don’t let anyone influence you wrongly.

Have courage and be kind.

“Purple Tulips.” Watercolor postcard by Christine B.

My most prolific penfriend, Christine, created the beautiful purple tulip [above] in honor of my sister Lori [and me] and wrote a six-item list:

  1. Bad things happen.
  2. Find people to trust and love as much as you can
  3. Make your voice heard
  4. Vote!
  5. Laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh
  6. Don’t hold your breath

There are many, many things I’d say to my 18-year-old self, much of it far too personal to share in a blog post or a note [to anyone outside myself], so I sent a list of things I find myself saying to my students over and over again–not so much a “letter to my 18-year-old self,” but little bits of counsel that I found (or should have found) useful:

Card designed by Hessa, age 9, Abu-Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Children’s Art Project, MD Anderson Cancer Center. [A gift from Christine].

These sorts of exercises can be fun as long as we avoid falling into the pit of regret and the type of thinking that our lives would be so much better if we had present knowledge then. Our 18-year-old selves were just that. 18. Young. Inexperienced. Insecure. Overly confident. Full of life, contradictions, crazy ideas, and impossibilities.

Despite all the craziness of youth, I wouldn’t change a thing. My life wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but my 18-year-old self made many solid decisions and did more than a few things well. As for the things I didn’t get quite right, mistakes are inevitable and we learn so much more from our missteps than from our successes.

If you’re 18 or thereabout, maybe, you’ll find some usefulness in the lists above. If you’d like a more “focused” list, check out runner and professional coach Steve Magness’ post: Advice for the Young and Driven: A letter to my 18-year-old self.

If you’re waaaay past 18, like I am, what would you say to your 18-year-old self?  Comment below.

 

A Written Word: The Purple Sky

You touched me and suddenly I was a lilac [purple] sky

Halsey [Ashley Frangipane], “Colors”

I’m pretty sure I learned to love the color purple and Prince–His Purple Majesty–from my sister Lori, so when I received a perfectly purple card and note from Bianca (another Love Notes pal), I smiled from ear to ear.

Bianca wrote that she sees Lori “as the purple, lilac sky–watching you, speaking to you, while guiding stars and pushing dreams your way.”

I love the element of fancy in the message. Now, how can I not  think of Lori every time I see a purple sky?

“He Comes Walking”

During my prayer and meditation period this morning, I ran across a Sheila Walsh quote printed in my Women of Faith Study Bible, a couple of pages away from the psalm I was studying. I am moved to share it here:

When emotions beat against our souls like wave after wave in the worst of a storm, there is nowhere to turn but to Christ. As I sit for a while and think about Him, I hear the loneliest words in the world: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). On that brutal tree Christ embraced total isolation so that you and I never have to be alone. I am learning that doesn’t mean that life will be free of pain; it means that in the midst of the darkest night, He comes walking. Along the bleakest hospital corridors, He comes walking. When you think the world has left you all alone, listen closely. He comes walking. –Sheila Walsh

It is natural for us to feel alone when we’re struggling with everything that comes against us, when we’re desperately seeking answers that make sense. Rest assured. Things are not as hellish as they seem. We are not alone. Christ our Strength is walking with us, standing us upright, carrying us through.

I hope Walsh’s words rest deep within your soul. I hope when you are in the darkest places of human loneliness–where it seems no one knows or understands–you will remember Christ. He is well acquainted with human suffering. His light penetrates. His love and comfort reach even there.

He comes walking…

Color Harmony: Can There Be Harmony on One Side of the Wheel?

Icy cold temperatures kept me indoors quite a bit over the last few weeks, and since I’d rather explore and experiment with my camera outdoors, I delayed work on Dogwood’s Week 3 prompt when I looked at the forecast and saw that this week promises warmer weather.

I managed to complete the Week 2 prompt more than a week ago. Somewhat.

The prompt, “Color Harmony,” under the “composition” category, called for photographers to:

Get out your color wheel. Do opposites attract? Can there be harmony with opposite colors? Does the Hulk wear purple pants? Mix warm and cool colors.

I had a number of things working against me. The weather (rainy and/or cold), meetings, and the beginning of a new semester conspired to limit my time and energy for photographic creativity. Here’s what I managed:

[Shot with my Canon].  I like the silhouette of the the house and trees in this photo of the sunset sky as the evening clouds began to roll in, but I’m not pleased with the composition.  At the moment of the shot, I was focused on the sky and getting out of the cold! I should have changed my position a bit to get the right balance. Few things can compete with the beauty of a naturally painted sky–and this one offers a nice blend of pink to orange to yellow masking the blue day sky.

I snapped this one on my iPhone while racing through Walmart. I’m not a fan of fake flowers, but the pink and purple “silk” flowers on display drew my attention. Why? Pink and purple, of course! I edited the photo because I couldn’t tolerate the fact that they were so obviously fake.  Now, they have a reason to look “unreal.”  The conundrum here was trying to determine if the photo captures “warm” and “cool” colors. Purple and pink are straddlers. The pink feels a bit warmer than cool to me; the purple a bit cooler than warm. What do you think?

Lastly, another one snapped on my phone. These are my mom’s forever sunflowers. I forgive them for being fake because they are so realistic that many people think they’re the real thing. Furthermore, I accept sunflowers in all forms.  😉

Do they meet the challenge? I’m not convinced there were enough opposite or warm and cool colors to create interest.

I’ll keep working on “color harmony”–when the weather warms a bit.


Week 1: Vision: Looking Ahead

Motivation on a Monday: I Hope You Smile

I received a bright purple postcard recently, and without flipping it to the message side, I knew immediately who had sent it–Jacki, my purple-loving Love Notes pal who lives on the other side of the pond.

She wrote a nice, long quote on the back, perfect for sharing on a Monday.

One day it just clicks. You realize what’s important and what isn’t. You learn to care less about what other people think of you and more about what you think of yourself. You realize how far you’ve come and you remember when you thought things were such a mess that you would never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you’ve fought to become.

I hope that you can smile when you look in the mirror today “because you are truly proud of yourself” and truly in love with the person staring back at you.

If you’re not there yet, wrap yourself in a little purple love, knowing you’ll get there some day.

Purple and the Language of Flowers

What’s just as heartwarming as “found” hearts?  Purple blossoms in the mail, of course! My postcard pal, Jacki W., makes sure that I find purple flowers in my mailbox regularly.  Jacki, a Love Notes and Global HeART participant, loves purple just as much as I do. Here are some of the gorgeous postcards she sent recently.

Wisteria Climbing: Potent Symbol of New Life

There is so much to love about this postcard! The way the wisteria adorns the house, the windows and doors. The garden beneath. The quaint home itself. Just a lovely scene.

According to Flower Meaning, the botanist who recorded details of the flower named it in honor of a fellow scientist, Dr. Wistar.

This flower is native to Asia, so naturally many of its meanings come from Chinese and Japanese culture. In China, this flower is commonly featured in art and plays involving marriage. Many people exchange the flowers as a good luck charm when planning a wedding. Since the vines and trees bloom in spring and early summer, it’s a potent symbol of new life. This is why modern florists recommend it for both baby showers and business openings. A well-trimmed wisteria bonsai offers perfection in a tiny package, tapping into the meaning of devotion.  –From Flower Meaning.

Anemone: Windflower and Magic Fairies

There are few things as beautiful as a flower that stands alone.  This image needs nothing more than the beautiful purple blossoms–no background at all. If I remember correctly, I squealed when I received this one.

The stories about anemones make the flower even more endearing:

The name anemone comes from the Greek word for “windflower.” According to Greek mythology, the anemone sprang from Aphrodite’s tears as she mourned the death of Adonis.

Thought to bring luck and protect against evil, legend has it that when the anemone closes its petals, it’s a signal that rain is approaching.

Still other mythology connects the anemone to magical fairies, who were believed to sleep under the petals after they closed at sunset. Perhaps it’s because of this magical and prophetic tales that today in the language of flowers, anemones represent anticipation.  –from Teleflora.

Hyacinth: Constancy and Sincerity

Isn’t this deep purple simply breathtaking?

Legend has it the origin of hyacinth, the highly fragrant, bell-shaped flower, can be traced back to a young Greek boy named Hyakinthos. As the story goes, two gods – Apollo the sun god, and Zephyr the god of the west wind – adored Hyakinthos and competed for his attention. One day, while Apollo was teaching Hyakinthos the art of throwing a discus, Zephyr, in a jealous rage, blew the discus back, killing Hyakinthos with a strike to the head. Apollo named the flower that grew from Hyakinthos’s blood hyacinth.

Symbolizing sport or play in the language of flowers, hyacinth represent constancy, while blue hyacinth expresses sincerity.  –From Teleflora

We select particular flowers for our loved ones because they carry a sentiment we can sometimes communicate only through the gift, especially when we are miles apart.  So Jacki’s postcard selections convey powerful messages of well wishes, visions for my life, and a statement about the character of our friendship.  Jacki has been a constant postcard pal and her cards always brighten my spirits. [Thank you, Jacki!]

I’m determined to transform my home office space into a purple space, and in that space I will have a wall filled with purple postcards. Until then, they’ll adorn the purple walls of my office at work.

Throw It Like Confetti!

There’s something about confetti that makes us all happy, giddy even. The laughter is infectious and we spread it around without even thinking about it.  That’s how we should practice kindness.

Today’s post features a kindness postcard crafted by a “newish” penfriend, Connie F. of South Carolina.

“Confetti” by Connie F.

“Throw kindness around like confetti.”

I giggled with glee when I retrieved this postcard from my post office box. The confetti is so cheering!  Notice the purple and pink flying hearts? Connie sees hearts everywhere (there’s proof in her Instagram feed). And though she says the inspiration for the winged hearts was the line from Jewel’s “Hands” (see Monday’s post), the hearts carry another message: When we freely exercise kindness, we are giving love wings and tossing it “like confetti” throughout the world.

Isn’t that what kindness is all about?

Be sure to throw some kindness around this weekend. Your small part has exponential potential to heal the world.