A letter to my 20-year-old self


Me in 1981This is me in the fall of 1981 at my parents’ home in Connecticut. What would I tell her, if I could sit down with this girl now?

First of all, rad haircut! Good for you for cutting off all your hair, moving to New York City, and wearing vintage! Have your colors done soon… beige doesn’t work for you.

I’m proud of you. You are far braver than you know right now, and you are going to continue taking risks that you can’t imagine. You have a steely core inside you. You will make mistakes, but you are going to get to age 51 with virtually no regrets. That’s pretty incredible.

Good for you for becoming friends with your first openly gay person, Raul Martinez, letting him show you how to dress, and being brave enough to go to Akira Kurasawa movies with him. He will open you up to so many things that your narrow upbringing told you to fear.

Good for you for moving to New York City and transferring colleges three times to get it right.Me in December 1981

You’re going to have an incredible life. Learn how to meditate and be present so you don’t miss it.

Stop worrying. Stop worrying so much about what people think about you.

Stop trying to be so nice. You’re the girl who threw a birthday party in a 400-square-foot apartment and made birthday brownies for a girl who didn’t even show up for her party. Be as nice to yourself as you are to the people around you.

Embrace your creativity, as evidenced by this crazy-incredible shirt you made, an apricot puffy shirt long before Seinfeld went on the air.

Your life will begin to make sense after a while. Stand by your decisions, so you don’t have any regrets. Own your mistakes. Follow your gut instincts, and enjoy the ride.

See you in 31 years.

What would you tell YOUR 20-year-old self?

Today’s post is part of our mission to help you rebuild your health through food and lifestyle choices. Look for posts on Mondays featuring gluten-free, sugar-free recipes made with healthy plant-based ingredients, Wednesday essays, and Friday giveaways (when available).


  1. says

    Learning not to be so “nice” is such a hard lesson for women to learn, and I’m sorry you had to learn it through a girl who didn’t even show up for the party you threw her. Thanks for sharing this. I love your puffy shirt!

    • says

      Thanks Walker. I think that sweater might have been one I raided from my mom’s storage closet… she had a lot of great sweaters she’d kept from the 50s that I wore back them.

  2. says

    Rad haircut indeed. Totally relate to “be nice to yourself” and “follow your gut instincts.” Sometimes I had a hard time hearing my gut instincts. But I was never wrong when I listened to them.

  3. says

    I love your hair. And the poufy shirt.

    I don’t really regret any of the times I made brave decisions. Even if they ended up being mistakes at least I can look back and feel good that I did SOMETHING. I think a real life of regret would be filled with thoughts about all the things you didn’t do, not the things you have done.

    Thanks for joining us. It’s lovely having you be a part of GenFab.

    • says

      Thanks Chloe. I have gotten so much out of the group. I really appreciate it. I too can say that I have no regrets… because I clearly needed to learn those lessons required by going through something painful.

  4. says

    What a wonderful, thought-provoking post! And a great insight that has so many of us thinking as we read it…how many of us have passed through another 20, 30 or more years from that birthday, and wished we could have told our young selves to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks? Or frankly, just appreciate ourselves for who we were then? And by the way, that shirt is fabulous! If I had been your friend then, I would have begged you to let me borrow it, even though beige was not my colour either :)

  5. says

    I just love this post! And love that rad haircut (you are so adorable!). 😀 I often wish I could go back and talk to my 20 year-old self. Problem is, of course, that even if I did, the 20 year-old wouldn’t believe me anyway!

    • says

      Yes, well, I’m not sure she would have listened to me either… and we all have to make our mistakes to grow and learn what our path is. I actually have very few regrets at age 51.

  6. says

    What a great post – I really enjoyed reading it, and I think it’s a great exercise for all of us to look back and see all that we’ve done with our lives.

  7. says

    This is so cool! I’ll have to wait a couple decades before I can do one of these though…all I can say to 20 year old me is (DON’T STOP WORKING OUT! YOU’LL NEVER GET BACK IN THE HABIT AND ALMOST-23 YEAR OLD YOU HAS GAINED 10 LBS!) 😛

  8. says

    You have amazing style! Love the puffy shirt. Also, 7 Samurai is one of the best movies ever.

    So envious of the hair. Flame. I hoped for a redheaded kid, but I’ll have to color my own hair if I want a ginger around here.

  9. says

    I had a similar experience to your birthday party no-show. *sigh* Totally agree about being too dang nice. I’m glad to have gotten over that…mostly.
    You are so right about beige not being your friend. Your hair was adorable!

    • says

      Thanks Robin. I’m sure there were many more times I tried to “be nice” and it wasn’t appreciated. I worked on that for years! Beige was SO not my friend. Thank goodness I “had my colors done” fairly soon after this and started wearing the right colors. :)