Who’s that girl?

Great. Now I’m going to have Annie Lennox’s voice running through my mind all day.

I noticed that O, the Oprah Magazine has been running a “letters to my younger self” feature, no doubt influenced by books like Ellyn Spragin’s What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self and other similar ways us Baby Boomers have found to record the journey of our lives.

That, and my newly found passion for a Facebook page called Vintage Toronto, where I seek out photos of what the city I moved to as a teen and came of age in looked like 30 years ago, has left me thinking about my 20-something self.

I was 27 before I actually settled down, got one job that pulled in sufficient funds to live reasonably well (even though I was still stringing for a couple of papers because there was always that something that we needed that our salaries couldn’t cover) and found the person who finally wasn’t Miss Take. At that point, I believe I started growing towards the person I am now. So I’d be addressing my letter to the early-20s me.

Thing is, I barely remember what she was like. And I’m not sure I’d have anything to say to her.

In my early 20s, I wrote for papers and magazines that either don’t exist today or hardly anyone’s heard of them. I fought every good fight. I voted as far left on the spectrum as was possible and thought make-up and nice clothes were tricks a misogynistic patriarchal world played on women with low self-esteem. I read obscure poets and literary journals and shunned anything that reeked of materialism (at least outwardly). I couldn’t have cared less what kind of hovel I lived it. After all, it was merely a place to change my not carefully picked out clothes. The real world was out there…in the street. I don’t think I had heroes. I was too cool for that.

Today I write for one of these largest corporations in the country and don’t feel an ounce of social shame every two weeks when they put a comfortable sum in my bank account. In my “spare” time, I consult for a fashionable design and branding firm that specializes in retail marketing. Shopping. Stores. Commerce. The sales people at Sephora practically know me by name. I redecorate. I like to do laundry. I read Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Dwell and Canadian Gardening. I would have thought Martha Stewart was a capitalist swine in my 20s; in my maturity I muttered much about the unfairness of her jail term and consider her one of my business heroines. I used to like chip wagons and Chinese takeout. Now I’m more excited about farmer’s markets and making pies from the raspberries I grow. And I really like the time I get to spend at home. My quiet, private country home—that’s miles from any real street.

Did I sell out? Or did I just decide that life didn’t always need to be a struggle.

A lot of friends who are my age make jokes about the aching bones and colonoscopy preps and graying hairs that come with the passing of years. Still, there’s a hint of relief in this kind of talk—and the sense that not wanting to be young again means we got it right the first time.

So if I even recognized my younger self if she passed me on the street, what could I possibly have to say to the willful, quite directionless and insulated creature I was a few decades ago? It would include advice not to take everything so seriously; to come to the conclusion early that real tragedies are few and far between; that no, I really don’t know everything and yes, time does heal a great deal. But that’s about it.

But I have a funny feeling she wouldn’t want to talk to me at all.


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