An Open Letter To My Younger Self: 15 Pieces Of Advice I’d Say To Teenage Me

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When I turned 28 years old, I wrote this letter to my younger self on my blog; specifically what advice I would give my teenage self. My life had completely flipped upside down by the time I turned 18 years old… and the younger me really could've used some reassurance. So much life happens, emotions are so high, and changes are so big as a teenager… it's easy (IMO) for adults to dismiss what a younger person has to say or is going through.

While I don't have just one piece of advice, I do have a lot of insights of what my 20s held for my from a career perspective and in relationships. I thought I would've written a book by now, but instead launched a podcast. I thought I'd have a totally different career, and instead am a blogger. And I'm grateful for every hardship I went through because it helped me become the woman I am today. I hope you find solace in these things I'd say to my past self. 

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After a decade of adulting, I feel like I learned a thing or two that would've provided my younger self with some comfort. I certainly had to grow up quicker than most, it still feels like I am a kid in so many ways, caught between the two worlds. Regardless though, I found a lot of meaning in the journey I've been on. From getting fired twice, to getting married, and facing all my fears with becoming pregnant and so much more. 

An Open Letter To My Younger Self: 15 Pieces Of Advice I'd Say To Teenage Me

the breakers graduation day
The day I graduated High School


1. Keep your eyes open and breathe.

These next few years are going to be hard. Harder than you can even imagine right now. As much as you want to hold your breath and close your eyes, keep them open and breathe. While this is the scariest time in your life, and will probably always be, feel it all. Witness it all. Soak in every ounce of joy and pain. Life is going to hit you over the head these next few years over and over again. When you think it can't get worse, it will. But it will be okay. You will be happy someday.

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2. Ground yourself in dignity and grace.

You won't know what this phrase means for about another five years. But when you do, it will be your anchor. Life will always happen, whether you're participating in it or not. You already know you have a propensity for making a bigger mess than you intended. So you have a choice. Keep dragging your feet, kicking and screaming, or you can become a woman of dignity and grace.

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3. Let go of expectations.

Let go of your standards and expectations of others now before it becomes even more painful than these last few years. People will always disappoint you if you don't. The greatest disappointments of your life haven't even happened yet, so brace yourself. Know you have everything you need in life within you. You don't need to rely on anyone. That's a luxury you won't always be afforded, but that's okay because you can handle this.

Know you have everything you need in life within you.Click To Tweet

4. You will always know how to make a buck.

Don't worry about money. Keep doing what you've been doing. Don't spend more than you have. Take that humbling job when you need to and enjoy it. Those jobs are always with the funnest people. You will constantly surprise yourself in your working life, so keep one foot in front of the other. The bills will get paid, so do what makes you happy.

[RELATED] 6 Money Lessons To Learn Before You're 30

5. Quit That Job

You've never been a quitter. Hear me when I say, quitting does not equal failure. It's advocating for yourself. It's self care and self love. Staying in that job you hate will only drive you crazier. You will question your self worth and doubt yourself. You will do more harm than good. What are you trying to prove?

[RELATED] Hate Your Job? 5 Bad Reasons To Stay

6. You will always be a drifter.

… and that's okay. Drifting from friend group to friend group in high school and college were not a phases. Those friendships shaped you. They defined you in an unimaginable way. It's going to be hard for you to let people in. You'll never find the friendships you dreamt about while watching Dawson's Creek, One Tree Hill, or Gossip Girl. You will become your own best friend. While having people is nice, and you will certainly need people at times, don't ever put more hope on a relationship than it being there for the season (read: #3).

7. You will need people.

I know that I just said you don't need to rely on anyone, but you will need to be supported by others. You will need more help than you know. That shoulder to cry on, that ride to the grocery store. You will need that laugh and those people who have your back through the turbulence. While they won't always be there, they will leave a lasting impact on you. A reminder that humanity still exists.

8. Listen. Listen. Listen.

Less than 10% of the American population have gone through what you did. You are about to meet some of the scariest and most interesting people of your life. Every single one of them has something to teach you. Forget where you came from and learn where they come from. Because we are all the same at the core. The injustices in our society will become more apparent than ever. Remember all their faces. Remember all their stories. Remember you are blessed when you're having a pity party. You will be free.

9. Never stop writing.

You've started and stopped for so many years. You'll keep starting and stopping for so many more years. But commit to it when the time is right. Be consistent with it. Don't wait any longer because the memories will fade. Piecemealing it together will get confusing. It's your history and it's what will be passed down. You don't have to write the next best book and your career doesn't have to make sense; but you do need to put it down somewhere.

rachel ritlop the confused millennial

10. Take care of your body.

Stop everything you are doing to it. Stop it now. You need to take care of yourself. You need to eat healthy well balanced meals and exercise. You need to find a way to connect to the skin you're in. It's the only way you will feel grounded again.

Find a way to connect to the skin you're in.Click To Tweet

11. Put your dukes down.

Stop fighting. You're too old for this now. You've been doing it for the last 18 years and you can't keep going this way. Let the anger go. It's only getting turnt inward. Look to your left, and to your right, who is left? You are only hurting yourself now. If you feel the anger rising, remember anger is a secondary emotion, it's easier to feel than the hurt underneath it. You can't shift blame, you need to feel the hurt and take responsibility for how you got there. Mend those fences before it's too late.


12. Let yourself relax.

Simultaneously, you've worked two jobs, joined two sports teams, and done harder coursework than most teenagers. You can't be the best at everything, you are not perfect. You can't control everything. Nor should you ever want to. Let yourself relax. You will get your first rejection letter when you apply to a doctoral program after graduating undergrad in only three years. That master's degree, you'll barely use so stop stressing about it. You will take the path that makes the least amount of sense and is the biggest disappointment to your family. But that's all okay. Because you will be happy… and you'll end up proving them wrong by making more money than you ever would've in your 9-5.

[RELATED] How To Deal With Major Life Transitions

13. Let your mother go.

The two of you have been through the unimaginable. But you haven't even seen the worst of it yet. You will be trauma bonded. You won't even know who the victim or the abuser is at points. But know that you are not the same. Discover where she ends and you begin. Listen to Roger when he tells you that you two are different. Believe him when he says you are better. See his hurt and don't do that to others. Break the cycle.

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14. Be Present

On the note of listening to Roger, be present with him. I know it's hard to get out of your own head right now, but he is sicker than you know. You only have one more year with him. You'll call him everyday this next year, multiple times a day. Enjoy those calls, be present on those calls. Listen to his stories, trust his wisdom. Write him a letter, you know how much he loves to get mail. He has shaped you for the better.

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15. Let love in.

You've always had good taste in boyfriends, don't lower those standards. You deserve the best, even when it won't feel like it these next few years. Listen to yourself and break up with that boy when it's not working any more. It will only cause you more pain to wait… and remember, quitting is a form of self care. Let yourself make that bad mistake, it was a choice you needed to explore.

When you see his face you will know. He is your partner in life. The one who will communicate with you better than anyone has ever in your life. The one that will support you through the darkness. He will push you to articulate what's happening internally. He will challenge you to be better and to take responsibility, to let go of expectations on others, and to take care of yourself. He will listen to you and try to understand you in a way that no one ever has.

rachel ritlop eric dresdale wedding

More than with men though, let love in for yourself. You will feel worthless, like an animal, like a monster during these next few years. Who am I kidding? You already feel this way. It will just be mirrored back to you in the most inhumane ways. Know that your angels are watching over you. You are not cursed and you will survive this all. You will have “blessings” but it will only be because you find the strength to do the right thing time and time again. Stay the course because things do get better. You will be happy.

If you enjoy this post, make sure to check out the discussion we had on my podcast, where we dive even deeper into this post!

Originally published 6/21/17; Updated 4/29/2020


124 thoughts on “An Open Letter To My Younger Self: 15 Pieces Of Advice I’d Say To Teenage Me”

  1. I have a daughter who will be 17 this year. These are all great pieces of inspired advice. I will be sharing this with her!

  2. Sharon Glascoe

    These are such great tips and inspiring words for the high school grads. Well done!

  3. Hannah Palamara

    I love all this advice! Its honestly still advice that I need to hear now. Thanks for sharing!

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