A Letter to My 70-Year-Old Self
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the choices in my 20’s and 30’s have led me to where I land now in my 40’s. I work with my clients on handling the intended and unintended consequences of choices. Today I spent almost a half hour with a client on this topic alone.
Which got me wondering again how aware I was of the intended and unintended consequences of my own choices. Especially 20 years ago.
Back then, how aware was I of the impact of my choices on my 40 year old self?
In short, not very.
Was I putting intention and purpose into my choices?
I didn’t even know what that meant.
I didn’t think much about things that felt inconsequential. Things like staying late one night after a graduate class because I was too tired to make the hour drive and needed some caffeine. I only thought of that decision being smart for my safety. The consequences for that decision only led me to consider about two hours ahead in my life. But it ended in me having a conversation with a fellow student that culminated in a valued 20-year friendship.
I also didn’t think about big ones like choosing to move to LA to try out TV pilot season and landing my Disney commercial series and falling in love with acting all over again. I dreamed big about the long term possibilities of becoming a movie star but I didn’t foresee how this would strain family relationships and how it would set me back emotionally when I had to make the decision to leave my passion and joy’s work in order to provide a more stable life for my young son and myself. I also didn’t realize that the boldness of that choice turned out to be a catalyst for many exciting and bold decisions ahead and help me realize that dreaming big was part of my DNA and would bring me to another bold decision this year.
Both examples changed my life. One I just needed to load up on my bubbly addiction to the sweet nectar of Coca Cola (which I am giving up for Lent. Which may kill me but I’m doing it. I survived giving up salt so I can do this. Right?).
The other–a big decision – was I drove off with my mother and toddler son in the car and drove from San Antonio to LA. There couldn’t have any more purpose in that. I really thought that one out. Or at least I thought I did.
Big and small. Throw away choices and big, took 2 –months- to –decide choices. Sliding doors. Where do they all lead us?
Did I know where the choices fit into my life trajectory?
Did I realize I was following the breadcrumbs of my life that would lead me to this moment? Sitting in a coffeehouse in Kentucky writing to you?
No. I didn’t. I hadn’t jumped into meditation and become a student of purpose and life intention. I was worldly but naïve. I was wide eyed and thought I understood how the world worked. I knew what I knew. Now I know more.
I didn’t think much about the Juliana years ahead of me. I thought of what my life would LOOK like at 46. On paper. I didn’t think about WHO I would be, how I would feel, and how I may change depending on my choices. I was in the moment and at most in my 5-year plan.
I’ve always been a planner. I thrive in structure that is mobile and with intention. I like knowing where I am headed and love having room with how to get there. I like the twists and turns. Well, mostly.
I see them as breadcrumbs on the path to me. My 70 year old me.
So I’ve been thinking about her today. My 70-year-old self. And I decided to write her a letter with things I need to say and intention I need to give myself as I continue towards her. Because I want to take care of her. That 70 year old me.
Dear Juliana—( Or is it hey you, hey us???)
Let me start off by saying, I’m sorry for that night at Sticky Rice when I drank way way WAY too much tequila. It was fun until that last shot…..And, well, you are welcome for learning from that experience and never drinking tequila again.
I am also sorry for every time I was on a flight in my 30’s and had that CERTAIN sixth sense feeling that the plane was going to crash and with each bumpy turbulent moment I caused an incredible amount of stress inside of me. Your future body. And would even laugh and say that that flight shaved a few years off of my life. Because we never crashed. And did it? Did that stupid, self-inflicted stress hurt your life at 70?
Turns out my sixth sense was just fear after all. Would you shake your head at me now looking back on all those flights or will you be focusing more on how much I overcame it in my late 30’s and now fly like a champ?
I have so many instances that I bet at 70 you look at me and think “Bless her heart”. I worried too much. I stressed over silly things. I said no to things I should have said yes to. I looked back too much instead of staying in the moment or dreaming ahead. I’m sorry I lost those moments that could have been filled with gratitude and peace. Can you forgive me?
Today I am aware. As aware as I can be with what I’ve known.
I’ve grown. I’m doing my best to change.
I’m sitting here trying to image what you look like. My 70 year old me. Do you have my mother’s hands? Is your hair still curly?
I’m trying to image how you feel. Are you at peace? Are you satisfied with your life? Do you feel 55 and have tons of spunk and thrill for the years ahead or are you in the twilight years?
I wonder who is in your life. Are you surrounded by a beloved, kids and grandkids? Are you vibrant? Are you active and connected with lovely people?
What is your contribution to the world? Are you still working within the field of sexuality or have you passed the torch with satisfaction? Have you completed The Super Jewels Project, formed a new philanthropic global organization or are your contributions more local with your church and family/friends?
Does your college group still get together laughing and throwing toga parties like 20 year olds? (I really hope so on this one.)
Your beautiful daughter will be 28. Your son will almost be the age then that I am now. What will life have brought that amazing man? Will you have given that precious daughter enough of your youthful side to make it count? I pray the seeds of my parenting have bloomed and help them flourish. And I really hope they haven’t had too many therapy appointments because of me…
I’m sitting here at 46. Thinking of you. Grieving how some of my life has felt and celebrating how some of it has turned out. I marvel at my life mostly. I want to look ahead. I’m excited thinking of the possibilities of the next 20.
I also pray I am one of the lucky ones who gets to live another 20 years. Morbid? No. Fact. I pray I have taken care of you enough that you are healthy mentally and physically.
At 30, I would not have predicted most of the details of my life. And I realize I wasn’t aware of how most of it would feel too. I want to focus on not only how my family thrives, how my romantic and friendship relationships will look like, how my career will grow but on how it will all FEEL.
I want to take control of how I will approach and flex to my life and stop letting things happen to me or have others decide for me.
I want to focus on resiliency. Healing. Fun. Growth. Hope.
I want to trust myself. I want to think of you. Often. I want to invest in you. I want to choose for you.
As I look into approaching the next 24 years to get to you…I want to commit to you.
To commit to treating my body smartly. To be active. To still take risks. To eat consciously. To keep my brain stimulated.
I want to be choosy. Very choosy of whom I surround myself with and how I spend my time. I want a balance of fun, serenity, connection and contribution. I want to give you 24 years of contentment.
Contentment with who I am. Who I love and am love by. What I’ve accomplished. What I’ve given to others. What I’ve experienced.
I’m trying. Every day I am trying to be better. To love you. To remember you. To know that every choice I make is leading me to you. And I pray most of my choices are positive and bring me memories and connections and moments that you can look back on with pride and peace and happiness.
My history includes a lot of people pleasing, focusing on others and wanting to change the world. And forgetting to change me. To figure out what pleases me. To learn and unapologetically but with a kind demeanor ask for what I need.
But I know I won’t get it all right. I pray you can forgive my failings. I pray you can sit in perspective of who I am today with a sly smile on your face.
I asked my mother if she thought of future self when she was my age. It was such a neat conversation to have with her. I’m trying very hard to hold on to those moments with her and my father. I’ve had too many friends lose a parent already. I know how that loss looks. I know what I will be missing and I know my 70-year-old self may not have my parents and I will grieve that loss deeply and often.
I want you to have pride in the positive impact I’ve made in the world. I want you to have pride that I made efforts to make the world a better place. For you. For others. For the generations after. I hope the change has been important. Even if for just one person. I hope you are still on fire to make change and impact in the world. I’m so curious if it will still be within sexuality or if it will shift a bit?
I hope you are close to your two children and grandchildren and been an active and pivotal part of their lives. But let them live the journeys they were meant to have without holding them back. I hope you and your sister are still calling each other daily and crying and laughing and giving each other grief. I hope you and your nieces are tight and they tell you all the things that don’t tell their mother. But then you go around and tell her anyone making her swear to not tell them!
I hope you’ve loved and been loved. Epically. With commitment and tenderness. A great love. Soulful. Healing. Hallowed.
I hope you are having great sex –with a wonderful man who lights up your soul and with yourself unabashedly. I hope you still have an active self-pleasure life. Unabashedly.
I hope you have traveled more and more and continued to grow beautiful relationships across the world.
I hope I’ve given you many memories of stillness. Connectedness. To yourself. To God. To the collective conscious.
I hope I’ve seen the beautiful lights of aurora borealis.
I hope I spoke in Iceland. Did retreats in Bali. Created courses and wrote books that made others’ lives better.
I hope for you. I’m planning as much as I can for you. I’m also releasing that plan for you.
Before I end….I have a few questions for you—
Did giving up my beloved Coca Cola REALLY make a difference for you? Because that battle is hard fought my friend… (I want to hear it was a game changer to make it worth it because giving that up SUCKS!)
Did I pay attention enough to making memories with and asking questions of my parents to cherish when they left us ?
Was I a good enough parent to my dear ones?
Should I take this summer off, run to Door County and write that book and find wonder in the sunsets and water?
Do you forgive my mistakes?
Do you love yourself deeply at last? Do you know who you truly are and love her ?
My naïve, young, hopeful 46-year-old self as one last bit of presumptuous wisdom to impart. Make a list today. At 70, what more do you want to experience? Write it down. Do them. (Okay it may be too late to learn snowboarding…..) Eat ice cream for breakfast and take your grandson on that ridiculously expensive trip just for the memory together, stay in pajamas all day and tend to that garden and sit in the beauty of the blooms. Feel young. Feel wise. Feel finite. Feel free.
And know this. I’m learning to love you. Deeply Every day. Loving YOU. ME. I’m working hard on this. For me now. For you later. I’m planting seeds that I pray are blooming now in your part of our journey.
With every ounce of love I can shoot forward to you…. Juliana
P.S. (A response from 70 year old Juliana to 46 year old Juliana…..For God’s sake you write too much. Over think things. Overcomplicate it. It is simple…be happy Juliana. Have purpose. Say yes. Live. And most importantly…love.
What would YOU write to your future self? What are your hopes, needs for forgives, questions, and dreams? What do you need to commit to in order to provide the best life for your future self? Would love to read your thoughts.
warmly, x oh, Dr. Juliana