Dear 20-Year Old Me

by Chloe Jeffreys · 90 comments

in Women in Midlife

There’s a new book coming out based on a blog where people write letters to their teen selves called Dear Teen Me. I seriously considered writing to my teen self, but I’m pretty sure my Teen-Me-then won’t listen to the Old-Me-now anymore than she was willing to listen to any of the other Old-Them-thens who tried to talk some sense into her.

So, I decided I’d time-travel back to where it might do the most good.

Dear 20-year old Chloe,

Sweetheart, you’ve really done amazing so far considering that our teenaged self’s only goal was getting the hell out of our parents’ house. I think 17-year old us did as well as could be expected given the circumstances, and we both owe her a deep debt of gratitude for having the c0jones it took getting out.

Your decision to live with the Frenchman has been brilliant! He’s much better than our previous roommate. You remember him? The one who stayed up all night making homemade bullets?

The Frenchman has provided you with a finishing school education I doubt you could have gotten from homemade-bullet guy.

You’ve learned so much about the finer things in life–wine pairing, good table manners, eating steak RARE, and engaging in fascinating small talk while looking very, very pretty. These skills will serve you well the rest of your life.

But you are about to make our first real mistake, and it is going to be a doozy. You won’t realize how HUGE a mistake until it is much too late, and the rest of us will be left wondering for the rest of our life, “WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?

No, this isn’t about you trying to figure out if you’re a lesbian. You’re not, but go ahead and give that a try. Trust, me, your problem isn’t men. It’s you.

After you break-up with the Frenchman–sorry, but it’s coming soon, and it’s going to be ugly—you’ll have the option of living in the house in Mission Beach or moving in with this older man who will appear as though he were a knight on a white horse.

For God’s sake, DON’T GET ON THAT HORSE!

This one decision sets your feet on a path that will lead you into so much heartache. And the 50-year old me will be left scratching my head wondering why you made this decision. Your rent at the beach house will be impossibly cheap, and you’ll have a job where you can afford it. You don’t need to get on that horse!

The only remotely plausible excuse I can come up with is Princess Diana. But just because Diana is your age and marrying a guy a decade older than her doesn’t mean it is a good idea for you. Look, it isn’t going to go well for her, and it sure as shit isn’t going to go well for you.

Yes, you do look stunning in your dress, but…

…your marriage to this “knight in shining armor” will last a measly six months, and in the end you run off with a drug dealer and almost get yourself killed!

Look, you will make it to the other side. But you’ll be left scarred, and you’ll hate yourself for a very long time.

You will gain wisdom.

Wisdom is something people say they want, but if they understood the price they’d pick apples instead.

Thanks to you, I’ll have wisdom in spades.

Aside from almost getting yourself killed, and doing things that are against your morals, you are going to regret tanning more than anything else. Except cocaine. Take a good look at those big, plump boobs of yours and kiss them good-bye because cocaine is going to take them from you and you won’t see them again unless milk is spurting from them.

You will be right about jelly shoes, Amway, and est. You’ll be wrong about E.T. People are going to LOVE E.T. (?????)

You won’t be an actress or a dancer, but you will be a terrific mother. And you will find love.

You make peace with your mother, but not with your father.

I can’t tell you that by 50 we have it all worked out, because we don’t. In fact, in some ways I feel as confused as you do. Right about now I wish our 70-year old self would show up and tell us how it all turns out.

Love, 50-year old Chloe

 **********************************

This post is part of a bloghop for a group of midlife bloggers called Generation Fabulous (GenFab for short). If you are a member of GenFab please link up your post here. If you are a midlife blogger and are not a member of GenFab feel free to email me and ask about joining.

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{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Mari @Bookworm with a View November 11, 2012 at 6:54 pm

These letters are SO honest. Thank you for GenFab, I don’t know about you but it seems that one day (in my 40′s) I woke up with life wisdom. It just happened one day. I remember hearing women say they love who they are in their midlife and I never ‘got it’. Now I do!

Thank you for sharing such a personal story. You inspire me.
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Nancy/Nerthus November 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Chloe, I was stupid too. Many of us were. When I wrote to my 20 year old self I could never have imagined that someone who knew me then (fortunately blackmail here would go in both directions) would reply and say it was one the the best things I’ve written to put on my site. It made me realize that when I was 20, on that day of the year, I was about to lose the best friend I had ever had. Inverse butterfly effect, is real in some other universe. I just know it. Thanks for doing this Chloe!
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 10:13 am

Oh my. I’ve long wondered if someday someone from the past will find me here. It thrills me and scares me at the same time.

I am glad you joined in and found this exercise meaningful. I know I sure did.
Chloe Jeffreys recently posted..Dear 20-Year Old MeMy Profile

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By Word of Mouth Musings November 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Oh how I heart you … and we should go to a conference on memoir writing, and wear pj’s and drink port …
My reading for the weekend is right here on this page, all these wonderful posts!
By Word of Mouth Musings recently posted..What is a blog? Or Breathe? I couldn’t decide … it is that kind of life …My Profile

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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 10:07 am

Let’s. Just tell me when and where and I’m there. I would love to go to a conference like that. I’d love to go anywhere with you and just hang out.
Chloe Jeffreys recently posted..Dear 20-Year Old MeMy Profile

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Abbie Gale November 9, 2012 at 3:22 am

This was such a terrific read for me while drinking my coffee. I may have to try this as I turn 40 next month. You have lived an incredible life! Lessons. I try to be grateful, but like you, I could have done without a few of the experiences. :) I really enjoyed. I also feel your pain about not having the time with your mother.
Abbie Gale at All that makes you…

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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 10:06 am

Hey Abbie! Nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

40 was scary for me, but the truth is that I LOVED my 40s. I finally started to appreciate the body I have instead of the body I thought I should have, and I learned to really enjoy my sexuality during that decade. May it be as fruitful for you.
Chloe Jeffreys recently posted..Dear 20-Year Old MeMy Profile

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Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll) November 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Terrific piece. Love this: “Thanks to you, I’ll have wisdom in spades.” So true that our older selves get something from the mistakes our younger selves made. Even if it was harrowing to live through.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 10:04 am

Everything I have I owe to the me’s that came before. All of their mistakes and successes make up who I am today. And who we are today makes the us we’ll be someday. It is sort of fascinating to think about life this way.

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Grandma Kc November 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm

You and Lisa have both given me something to really think about. Your post was excellent and made me really think about what would I tell 20 year old me (besides stay in school and don’t listen to your mother!). There must be much more…
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 10:02 am

This was a cathartic writing experience for me. What was profound was reading the other posts and realizing that the advice there still applies today.

1. Don’t get yourself stuck out of fear.
2. Treat yourself kindly. You’re doing the best you can.
3. Believe in yourself. You can be more than you think.

Today, at 50, I needed to hear those things.
Chloe Jeffreys recently posted..Dear 20-Year Old MeMy Profile

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Amy November 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I’ve been thinking all day and can’t find much to say to my 20 year old self. I’m thinking I have blocked something in my head.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 10:00 am

Amy, that sounds likely. I found this writing assignment much harder than I thought it would be.

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mindy trotta November 6, 2012 at 7:59 am

You are such an honest writer, Chloe. You dig down so deep and expose everything. That is so admirable.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 10:00 am

Admirable, or crazy. I haven’t yet decided.

But thank you!

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Jane Gassner November 6, 2012 at 12:23 am

Ummmm, cocaine and boobs? Explain, please. My drug of choice was always alcohol…
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:59 am

Weight loss. Lose weight, lose boobs. It’s that’s simple. And sad. They came back for a visit during pregnancy and lactating, but never took up permanent residence on my chest again.

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Janie Emaus November 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm

I’ve loved reading all these posts. In fact, I’ve just sent a novel on this topic to an editor I met at a conference in July. No matter how many times, I send stuff out, it’s still a nerve wracking experience. But I can handle it better now at this age than at twenty.

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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:59 am

I can’t wait to see it!

We do handle things better in many ways at this age. I think perspective is important and sorely lacking when we’re young. But oh how painful it is to get perspective.

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Vikki Claflin November 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm

What a wonderful read! This should be a “homework” (“lifework”?) assignment for all of us after 50. What an amazing letter to leave for your children and grandchildren. Love it!
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:58 am

Vikki, it turned out to be much more cathartic than I anticipated. I didn’t start to tell my children my story until they were adults because I wanted them to have the innocence of youth. But a time comes when we need to know the truth about our parents. That’s almost as important as really facing the truth about ourselves. And what I’ve found is that my mother’s truth, and her mother’s truth, and so on, do have something to do with my truth.

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Carpool Goddess November 5, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I agree, you need to write a book! It’s amazing what we have to go through to become who we are.

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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:56 am

What is amazing is that I still have all my teeth!! I really thank God for that. And modern dentistry.

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Amiyrah November 5, 2012 at 7:50 pm

This was beyond amazing, Chloe. And I agree, you need to write your memoirs, stat.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:55 am

You are sweet, my dear. That’s nice to hear. Isn’t it terrible that I’d rather have made all those mistakes than to have had a boring story?

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Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs November 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Love those photos nearly as much as I love your honesty. And wit. And acceptance that being a terrific mother does indeed make up for so many of the other things we never got to be. Great post from our fearless leader. Love it!
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:54 am

To paraphrase Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web, “My children are my magnum opus.” Nothing else I’ve done really compares.
Chloe Jeffreys recently posted..Dear 20-Year Old MeMy Profile

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Ann Dunnewold November 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Ditto on the call for your memoirs, Chloe! Bring it on. You had a way more fascinating life than I have had.

And next I think you need to give us some of that wise, sexy, educated writing on how cocaine flattens breasts.
Ann Dunnewold recently posted..To me, at twenty, with loveMy Profile

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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:53 am

My life is a psychologist’s dream. And I remember lots of it and take responsibility for most of it, too. I’ve always found that therapists like it when you can at least see how in some way you’ve contributed to your own misery. LOL.

As far as the cocaine? Weight loss. If you lose 30lbs, as I did, your boobs will go. Good bye boobs. The worst part is that they never came back to stay.

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Jane Gassner (@MidLifeBloggers) November 5, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Okay, I think I did what I was supposed to. Did I?

Note to 20 year old self, you will never stop worrying about doing things right–even as you will remain incapable of achieving that.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:47 am

You are linked in to us, but I don’t see us linked in to you. If you want to change that then email me. I think I can help you fix that.
Chloe Jeffreys recently posted..Dear 20-Year Old MeMy Profile

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Robin November 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Woman! You have seen some incredibly interesting days. I hate that so many of them were tremendously difficult, but I love who you are. Your influence in my life is valuable. I love you!
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:46 am

There so many good times. I was so happy in that picture. I really thought it was perfect. We never really know how life is going to turn out. Some of the decisions we make that we think are the best turn to crap, and sometimes our worst decision lead us in the right directions.
Chloe Jeffreys recently posted..Dear 20-Year Old MeMy Profile

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Haralee November 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Great honesty.
I wonder if we had instant videos on our phones then like we do now would we review more carefully what we do? Would we look at our own home movies or those of our friends and hear ourselves too?

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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:43 am

Oh my! I feel for kids today leaving the digital footprint behind them the way they do. I think everyone should get a digital reset at 25. You get to change your name and expunge your Facebook account.

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Lois November 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Chloe, I LOVE this letter. You are an inspiration in so many ways. xo

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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:42 am

Thank Lois. I want to think that it all has some meaning.

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audrey van petegem November 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Your 17 and 20 year old self would be very proud of you!
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

I think other than the fact that they would be aghast that I let myself gain 62lbs when I was pregnant thus leaving us with unsightly stretchmarks that they’d be pretty happy with the way things have turned out.

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Jo Heroux November 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Just love reading your stories of your past. There are lessons to be learned and you have learned. You live life to the max and you give a great deal every day, really, what more is there?
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

Jo, we only live life once, right? Why pussyfoot around? But then I know you know all about that.

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karen November 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm

What a great letter…you’ve come a long way baby…and you do look great in the dress!

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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

Thank you! It has always bothered me that the photographer didn’t fix my veil before taking that shot. It would be perfect otherwise. It was a beautiful wedding. Too bad the marriage didn’t last.

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Jenn November 5, 2012 at 11:57 am

What a great post. If only we could really do this– but then it makes me wonder how much would change in the domino effect of life and would we be who we are today?

I recently did a similar post–on my regular blog–but I still wanted to participate. I put up a Dear-20 something me on my fiction blog–but most of it is based in fact…however some details were added. I had fun doing it!!

Here is the link to that piece: http://theshortstorygal.blogspot.com/2012/11/dear-20-year-old-me.html

Cheers, Jenn
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

Jenn, your post was excellent and I commented. I was left wanting to know more.

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Karen November 5, 2012 at 11:34 am

I admire your honesty and how you have turned your life around. Wonderful letter. Thank you for sharing.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:36 am

Hey Karen!

I think it wasn’t so much as that I turned my life around as that I finally hit a brick wall. That hurt!
Chloe Jeffreys recently posted..Dear 20-Year Old MeMy Profile

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Anne (@notasupermom) November 5, 2012 at 10:45 am

I love the you that you are now, and she was made by the you that you were then.
Regret nothing!
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:34 am

Thank you! It is what it is, isn’t it? Regrets are worthless.

In addition to providing me with wads of wisdom, she also gave me blog fodder to last a lifetime.

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BigLittleWolf November 5, 2012 at 10:45 am

So much life, Chloe… We really do seem to need to learn our lessons the hard way. Perhaps it’s what gets us where we are, though it would be great if the road were a bit less bumpy…

(Princess Diana. You made me smile.)
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:33 am

Why the hell is that??? Why can’t we learn lessons from watching other people make mistakes? I know I never do.

You gotta love Princess Diana. She looked so lovely in her dress on her wedding day. Who could have guessed that marrying a Prince would turn out worse than running off with a drug dealer?

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Sharon Greenthal November 5, 2012 at 10:27 am

For all of the things I would have liked to have done differently, my children would not be here if anything had been changed – and that makes all I went through worth it.
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Melissa Lawler November 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I agree!
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

This is true. If I hadn’t made the choices I made then they would not be here. And they are so worth it all to me.

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Laura Lee Carter aka the Midlife Crisis Queen November 5, 2012 at 10:14 am

Chloe:
The more I read these posts, the more I think our 20-year-old boyfriends might have benefited the most from reading them! – LLC
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

I wonder what a group of men’s letters to their 20-year old selves would look like. Now I’m very curious.

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Melissa Lawler November 5, 2012 at 9:47 am

It’s just too bad that our 20 year old selves can’t hear us. :(
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

That’s the truth!!

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Karen November 5, 2012 at 9:45 am

Oh, wow. Such a relief to find that my dopey 20-year-old choices were pretty much par for the youthful course. And yet, we grow. Being human is pretty awesome, when you think about it.
Thanks for this, Chloe!
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:28 am

The fact that we make silly (or even dangerous choices) when we’re young didn’t distress me in the least…

…until I had young adult children.

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Lynn November 5, 2012 at 9:37 am

Oh but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. Great read, Ms. Chloe.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:27 am

THAT is the perfect song to go with this post. You nailed it.

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Helene November 5, 2012 at 9:32 am

I agree with Marci. Your memoir must be written.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

…and published after everyone I know is dead.

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Ginger Kay November 5, 2012 at 9:28 am

I always learn something from your posts, Chloe. I had no idea cocaine flattened breasts. I am, however, well acquainted with the fact that 20 year olds make ridiculous decisions that impact the rest of their lives. Youth is wasted on the young, isn’t it?
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

Cocaine leads to weight loss. If you lose 30lbs, which I did, then something as to go.

Youth is wasted on the young. This is soooo true.

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Jennifer Comet Wagner November 5, 2012 at 9:12 am

Loved this. Your story was as good or better than any of the letters in the Dear Teen Me book.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:25 am

Thank you. Now I can allow myself to read that book. I was holding off until I wrote this so I wouldn’t be tempted to copy anyone.
Chloe Jeffreys recently posted..Dear 20-Year Old MeMy Profile

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Mary Anne November 5, 2012 at 9:10 am

Oh this is soooo goood! Getting inspired!

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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:24 am

I’m glad!
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Marci Rich November 5, 2012 at 9:08 am

Chloe, please write your memoirs. We so desperately need to read about your interesting life, despite its being fueled with Jell-o salads and Spam in the early years. You have much to teach us. Loved your letter to 20-year-old Chloe.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 10, 2012 at 9:24 am

Thanks, Marci. Maybe I should do that someday. My choices as a young lady are a cautionary tale. Too bad nobody ever really wants to listen to the wisdom of old ladies.
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