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April 24, 2012

BEAM: DeLorean dilemma: What I know now

FLOYD COUNTY — In the May “How to get better with age” edition of O Magazine, the publication’s namesake, founder and editorial director, Oprah, wrote a letter to her former 25-year-old self. She also assembled several pages worth of wisdom from stars, writers and other talented folk about what life lessons they might impart to their younger selves.

Since most every article printed in O either elicits tears, self-revelations or unapologetic urges to change the world, I knew that this exercise had a grander purpose. One that my brain, hooked on Jerry Springer and gossip mags, could not comprehend.

So I checked out the psychological implications of these letters on my favorite self-diagnosing medical tool, the Internet. Low and behold, the search revealed numerous such notes to former selves written under the guise of understanding and forgiving the past.

I’m all about guises. Given my overly creative Facebook profile, one might say I’ve even perfected the façade. Plus, considering the expense of seeing a psychologist, I thought this might be a cheaper, albeit less medicated, method to work out these and some other issues.

For instance, why do I always want to whip cute perky cheerleaders with their pom-poms while chanting the dirty version of “The Roof is On Fire?” And is this animosity really that illogical, given some of those gals’ bratty attitudes and ear-drum busting cheers? I chalked this repressed longing up to me wanting to better the world by settling a score one bad cheerleader at a time and continued with the matter at hand.

Tired of sitting in front of my computer, my mind began to wander. Writing a letter to your younger self is harder than it appears. First, I questioned the physics behind the notion. What if, by chance, the correspondence actually is delivered to my former self? What would that do to the space-time continuum?

We’ve all seen “Back to the Future.” I have no DeLorean with a flux capacitor. The future existence of my kids could be in question. Do I want to take that chance on a day they’re actually behaving?

Then I remembered that when I was 25, I never listened to anything my elders said, probably not even a future me. Like many young adults, I had all the answers. Problem solved. No alternative reality needed.

Having difficulty, I turned to my friends on Facebook. The ones who think I’m super awesome because of all the lies …  I mean the aggressive marketing campaign ... that I’ve fed them on my wall. I asked them what advice they would give to their former selves. Below, I’ve posted some of the replies.

• Relax and enjoy the ride! Mistakes are OK.

• Do not let anyone deny your dreams and goals, especially those closest to you.

• Wear sunscreen and forgive more easily.

• You are beautiful.

• Stay out of the tanning bed!

• If it feels wrong, it is wrong.

• This thing called “Facebook” will come along soon. Be careful, it can be very addicting.

• Be careful of this chick in Hawaii that likes to curse out old guys in grocery stores and tempt you with stalking the stars of “Lost.” She’s trouble. (Yes, my friend Karen is a smart alec.)

And so now I begin to write, not a letter, but tips to my 25-year-old self on how to navigate this journey we call life. “Be true to yourself” comes to mind. Never let someone else’s thoughts or actions determine who you truly are. Stop apologizing so much. Being without a boyfriend doesn’t make you alone. Thank God for all the good things in life, as well as the lessons you’ve learned by surviving the bad. Try not to hate. Spend time with your friends. Our life here on earth is short. Cherish each moment.

So, after my writing exercise, do I feel reborn and alive and free of the past? Not really. In fact, I begin to realize even at age 37, I don’t listen to the advice I just gave my younger self. It’s a do as I say, not as I do scenario. Am I really any wiser now than the skinny abrasive girl I was back then?

Obviously, the only way to find out is to compose a letter to my future self. Maybe the 50-year-old Amanda will see how much she has grown and matured over the years. Until then, I’ll just implement the above guidance. Who knows? Maybe the past can heal the present. At the very least, it might save me from shouting at a cheerleader. Ugh. Pom-poms.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at hoosiermandyblog@gmail.com or visit her blog at HoosierMandy.com.

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