Letter to myself – aged 17

I have been thinking of my parents a lot lately, especially when I was writing my last two blog posts. Reflecting on what skills I learned from my parents, I realised that I didn’t appreciate it at that age. I was a bit of a handful for my parents, rebelling against their strict rules. I was able to rebuild my relationship with them in time, but I really wish I’d listened to their advice more.

This isn’t an original idea – I have seen other people write letters to their younger selves. Oprah wrote a powerful one and asked 17 well-known people to write letters as well – they’re on her website. There’s even a Grammy-award winning song by Brad Paisley:

If I could write a letter to me
And send it back in time to myself at seventeen

After reflecting on the things I wish I knew when I was 17, I decided to write a similar letter to myself:

A photo of the author, Christina Henry, aged 17
Me at aged 17

My Letter to Myself, Aged 17

Dear Christina,

I am writing to tell you that you need to appreciate your parents more. They really love you and only want what’s best for you. Their rules are there to protect you, even if they are strict and old-fashioned.

Learn as much as you can from your mum. She’s a beautiful person who gives her whole life to you – appreciate her, because she won’t be there when you really need her. She’ll be at your wedding, but 4 months later she’ll pass away from cancer. You will miss her for the rest of your life but you’ll be so grateful that you learnt a lot about cooking and homemaking from her. You’ll draw on your memories of your mother when you have your own children, and you’ll appreciate the advice she give you in her last few weeks about bringing up children. Memories like that will be treasures.

You will grow to appreciate your father, but not until you have your own children. Then you’ll realise how hard it is to give them a private education, holidays overseas and a nice house. You’ll come to terms with the type of man he is and that he was very much a product of the times when men were chauvinistic and had little to do with child rearing. You may never want to rely on a man, and you will always be strong willed and independent. You’ll eventually be on much better terms with him, but it’s not until his deathbed that he’ll tell you you’re a good daughter.

Don’t drink too much alcohol. It doesn’t agree with your body, and will play havoc with your mood and mental state. It won’t help at all when you’re grieving. You’ll make some pretty awful decisions under the influence, for which you’ll be regretful. Definitely don’t take drugs because the affect they have on family members will be devastating. Keep an eye on your sister – her spiral downwards in mental health will eventually have a diagnosis but not for 10 years. Step in and get her help when she has her first psychotic episode – she needs medical attention so don’t hold back from seeking it.

Learn to walk away from people and situations before they start affecting your mental and physical health. You will try to help so many people who will hate you for it, and it won’t be until years later that you learn boundaries. Find help with being assertive and only let people into your life who are authentic and care for your well-being. Even if that means having fewer friends – quality is better than quantity.

The author with her best friend Paula, aged 17
Me with my best friend Paula, aged 17

Don’t try to be a people pleaser. People will walk all over you until you learn to listen to your own inner voice and stand up for what is right. Don’t ever be a doormat. Your shyness will hold you back, and it will become so bad you’ll develop social anxiety. Seek help for it because there is treatment that will help. There will be one person who is strong enough to help you and will always have your back – you won’t meet him till you’re in your 40’s but when you do, there’ll be an instant connection and you’ll know you’re with the right person. Life won’t always be easy, but he’s the one you’ll be able to grow old with.

Protect your back. Back pain will be the defining feature of your later years. Nursing is a wonderful career which you will love, but it will take a toll on your health. Don’t stay in a job that causes too much stress. It’s not worth it and there’s better jobs out there.

Appreciate your healthy body. Look after it and don’t take it for granted. You’re in for a lifetime of health related issues so appreciate your youthful body. Get your teeth fixed while you’re young – your confidence and self esteem will improve. Investigate your migraines and palpitations – the underlying cause will shock you but you’ll be on a better pathway towards a healthier you. Watch out for weight gain – you’ll discover that more of a plant based diet is the answer to maintaining your weight and well-being.

Travel as much as you can when you’re young. The world will change so much and your health will limit how much you can travel.

The author aged 17 - she looks so shy and insecure in this photo
Myself at 17 – I look so shy and insecure

I don’t need to tell you that motherhood will be the most rewarding role you’ll have in life. You already know you will be a mother, even if it takes you years to have children. You will guide them in the way you wish your parents had guided you – with strong communication, mutual respect, and appreciation of the unique creative people they are. They will give you so much joy and fulfillment.

Don’t ever stop writing and reading. It will give you untold joy and satisfaction. You’ll always want to learn something new, and you’ll throw yourself into new projects with passion – don’t ever stop doing that!

Above all, keep believing that there’s a higher reason for all of this. We’re spiritual beings in human form and our goal is to learn as much as we can in our lifetime. Your life will throw you many curve-balls, and at times you’ll struggle with the weight of so much burden on your shoulders, but you’ll always get through each challenge. Care for yourself, make sure you take time out for yourself. Enjoy your life,

Love Christina, aged 53

No Regrets

I don’t regret much – my life has been a learning curve and I’ve probably dealt with more situations than some people. Some I’ve dealt with well, many not so well. I’ve learnt to accept myself with all the traits, good and bad, that I have. Some inherited, some learnt as I’ve traveled through life. I enjoyed writing this letter to myself as an exercise in self reflection.

What would you tell yourself at 17? Please comment below.

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17 Comments

  1. Very introspective, Christina. There are some “do-overs” that I would like. And, I miss my parents like crazy. I know I didn’t appreciate them as much as I should have.

    1. Thankyou so much for your feedback Nancy. I miss my parents too. I’m the same age as my mum when she died and I can see how much she missed out on. I wouldn’t want my sons going through losing their mum so I want to be around for a long time! Regards, Christina

  2. Thank you for linking to the Oprah post. I will check it out and no doubt enjoy it as I did your post and letter to a younger you. My parents were very strict, too. And I married too many times trying to find my happiness and confidence in relationships that turned out to be dysfunctional and destructive.
    I am so sorry you lost your mama just when you needed her most. My mother is still living but the past 9 years have been horrendous at times. My father died 8 years ago and we have come to realize what he must have dealt with for the 60+ years of their marriage.
    Hindsight is 20-20. I regret only a few things in my life. But some of those I wouldn’t wish away because it would mean I wouldn’t have my beautiful daughters. Wouldn’t have met the husband I am sure I was meant to have.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. It sounds like we may have had similar upbringings in some aspects. I married the wrong person the first time – I picked someone just like my dad, go figure! But, like you, I don’t regret it because I have my 2 sons. My second husband is lovely too. All the best, thank you for reading, regards Christina

  3. Loved all the retro photos – and the sage advice. There’s a lot we learn from age and experience and our 17 year old selves wouldn’t believe most of it! I have very few regrets from my teens and I’m grateful that I didn’t have the opportunity to get into too much strife. I look back at it fondly now but wouldn’t swap back to that age for more than a day or so.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

    1. Thanks for your feedback Leanne. I agree, I wouldn’t want to go back to my teenage years either. I was so awkward and geeky! I think we get better as we age, although our bodies don’t bounce back from injury as quickly. Regards, Christina

  4. Hi Christina, what a lovely letter to yourself. Thank you for sharing it. The advice I’d give myself would be to not give myself so freely to those who don’t deserve it. Observe people before letting them into your life. I would have saved myself a lot of pain if I’d had, and followed, that advice. But, in the end, I’m in a good place now so if all that bad past was a path to the present, then I wouldn’t change anything. Best wishes and take care. 🙂 x

    1. Hi Cheryl, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I agree, my boundaries were not strong when I was young and I allowed many people to take advantage of that. But as you say, those people taught me many life lessons and I wouldn’t be at this point in life without them. Thanks so much for your feedback, regards Christina Henry

  5. Hi Christina, your letter to your 17 year old self was full of honesty and love. Isn’t it funny when we look back and realise we should have appreciated things and people more than we did? I’ve done a similar letter most years for my birthday and love looking back at my younger self. Visiting from #mlstl

    1. Hi Deb, it was a lovely exercise in self-reflection. I’ve come so far since then and learned many life lessons. No regrets, even though I had some huge challenges along the way. Thanks for your feedback, regards Christina

  6. HI Christina hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? However, we can’t change the past and we need to look to our future and appreciate each day. I love your letter to yourself. Like you, I lost my Mum when she was 63 and my Dad at 66 both from cancer. It isn’t until you are an adult and have children of your own that you can truly understand what it is to be a parent. Thank you for sharing such a touching letter and for being part of our #MLSTL community. xx

    1. Hi Sue, yes it’s true, we can’t go back and change things. I don’t think I would because even the bad times helped me to grow and become who I am today. I agree that we appreciate our parents when we become parents ourselves. We see them as real people and can understand why they did what they did. Thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it, regards Christina

  7. Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it very difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? Appreciate it

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