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Essay

Dear 23-Year-Old Grace: Let’s Write Letters To Our Younger Selves

by Grace Bonney

Last week I mentioned that I only had a few spots left in our Design*Sponge calendar before we closed up shop. I asked what YOU wanted to hear about — or if you had any questions left that you wanted answered before I retired my blogging hat for good. And you had SO many good ideas (thank you!). I’ve answered a few already, but today I wanted to try one of the ideas a few people suggested and see if you all would join me, too?

Several of you suggested that you’d like to hear what I would tell my younger self and what a letter to that younger self might look like. My first thought was, “Oh lord, I would not have listened to anyone at that age.” But my second thought was, I would love to hear what other people would say. So, if you’re game, would you share YOUR letter to your younger self with us here today? You can post it in full in the comment section below or post a link to it on your blog or social media page. I would love to know what we would all tell ourselves looking back 10, 15, 20, or 50+ years. Thanks for sharing. Here is mine. xo, Grace

Dear 23-Year-Old Grace,

Hey, it’s me. Hold on, let me shift into a style you’ll recognize.

hi, it’s me, grace. right now you’re really into writing in all-lowercase letters because you think it looks cool and it will set you apart. please let me save you (and your readers) from years of tough reading — may i please suggest you consider embracing capitalization?

Whew, that’s better. First off, I know you probably won’t listen to any of this. You’re young, angrier than you want to be (but don’t yet understand why), and are out to prove everyone wrong that said you couldn’t do what you want to do. You’re fueled by a scathing senior fine art critique and a professor who told you that you weren’t an artist. But I want you to know that that’s okay. You aren’t an artist (at least not as far as I know now). But that’s okay! You are creative and you love being around artists. And you’ll be able to be a part of the creative community in ways you haven’t imagined yet, and that is something to be excited and hopeful about. But pay closer attention to that anger and the way you’re fueled by proving people wrong. It can be a dangerous weapon and the victim is almost always yourself. Start opening up to someone as soon as you can. Figuring out why you have that anger is crucial to healing and growing up.

The next 15 years of your life are going to be a roller coaster. You’re going to know joy and success and happiness in ways you didn’t know possible. You’re also going to know pain and shame and guilt in ways you didn’t know possible. You will learn that perfectionism is not a worthy pursuit (it was never possible anyway).

You’re going to develop a very thick skin. That will hurt at first, like all callouses do. But it will be a valuable thing for you to have. It will let you have conversations you need to have and will let you take chances that are necessary to evolve. You’ll fight that evolution for a while, but give up that fight as soon as you can. It’s one battle that’s good to lose.

I know your attention span is already starting to wane, so I’ll leave you with this. You are okay just the way you are. But never give up wanting to know better and do better. You love learning, and that will serve you well. Own your best and worst decisions. They’re a part of you. Do the same for the people in your life. You’re going to make mistakes — a lot of them. It’s okay to say you’re sorry. But don’t say it when you’re asking for what you need. Speaking up and standing up for yourself will become more and more important. But learn to listen as much as you speak, it’s an important skill and will let you grow closer to people. You need more of that.

Always leave room for yourself to grow, fall down, get back up and don’t forget to ask for help. It’s okay to soften your edges and let people in. You like being alone, but you’ll learn that having friends (and pets) will make you happier than you’ve ever been. Finally, you don’t need to “win” anything to matter. You don’t need to be “busy” to matter. You matter already.

Love, 38-Year-Old Grace

Photo by Paul Jun for Creative Mornings

 

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Comments

  • Love the letter, love the blog 4ever, and love the pics. My 7 year old son has T1D and I especially appreciate the picture of you wearing your CGM; one of many details that have brought me delight on Design Sponge.

  • Love thyself…best advice ever. You have added to my joy over the years watching you grow from adorable “bean sprout” to lovely young lady to a fascinating women. Great job, Grace. Aunt Midge

  • Hey Grace, I’m 24 years old and a designer in the making, I can relate to this so much right now and haha I can’t tell you how much this helps. I’m so glad I kinda read through the whole thing, I’m like super impatient when it comes to reading posts, I dont know what made me read through this completely ( Might be cause I could relate so much to your younger self) That be me now lol

    Thanks :)

  • One thing I know I would say to myself right off the bat is– just DO the traveling you want to do NOW. For some reason, I thought travel was something that you had to do with people. And so I rarely ever traveled because I never got invited on trips and my family never travels. The solo trips I’ve taken in the last year have been incredible for me and I’m looking forward to making it a regular part of my future years!

  • Hi Grace, I haven’t ever written to my younger self, but I have been writing to my future self on the site FutureMe for many years. Since I usually forget what I’ve written myself, seeing the email in my inbox five years later has always made my stomach jump with excitement to see where I was at vs where I’m at now. Writing to yourself from the crossroads you’re at today will be fascinating to read years later.
    I want to thank you for continuous provocative design conversations, numerous fantastic AHA moments, delight from the many guides over the years (always loved the Xmas and shopping guides), and pure unadulterated joy from reading Designsponge. I will really miss your voice and vision, as it has become a part of my life over the years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent links to my partner, my friends and my family, saying you have to read/look at this, third one down, look at the color of that gorgeous wall/ check out that bedroom / maybe we do that in our kitchen. I have watched your changes like everyone else on the site and I can only say I’m moved, and proud of you, for pulling this off as well as you did all these years. Stay well, revel in your creativity, and it would be a privilege, if you’re willing, to share your design thoughts with the larger community in the future. Bon Voyage to the next chapter!

  • Oh, this cracked my heart open.
    I supposed I would tell myself that dropping out of college at 23 is not the end of my life. That there are very few mistakes one makes at 23 that define your whole life and getting depression and dropping out of college is not that. Continue to be ambitious and make friends and love hard. It all will work out in the end.

  • Thank you. Just know that you have one of the two blogs that I have followed forever (at least 10 years). And the other is a food blog. Your voice, aesthetic, and truth are a lovely beam of sunshine in an otherwise chaotic world. Wishes for a safe and soft landing on your next path.

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