This was me. Twenty years ago, or thereabouts. My friend was taking pictures of me, believe it or not, to use as an 8X10 for acting. It’s funny how we delude ourselves. No doubt I was cute but maybe I was waitress material – certainly I’d never make it as an actress not then or now. I got a clue not long after this pic was taken and pursued other things. But looking at this picture, I have so many things I wish I could tell that girl. The first I would tell her: don’t sweat the small stuff. Really, it’s all about the big picture. Worrying about little things is such a grand time suck. I think, unfortunately, I still worry about the little things but I’m getting better at that. To this girl I would said “stop fucking around with your life, you dumb shit. Go to college, study something useful like law or medicine. Be a teacher. Have a decent salary, health benefits and retirement. It isn’t only about love, attention and having fun. In fact, it isn’t really about that at all, unless you have time after all of the necessary stuff is done.”

I might also say, “spring for a real haircut.” So much of my young life was shaped by bad haircuts I did myself – and this is no exception. Check out the way the bangs fringe out; no hairdresser would do that to a person.

The second thing I would harp on is not to sweat the looks. I spent so much time worrying that I wasn’t pretty enough. Guess what? I wasn’t. And so? It really didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now; being perfect doesn’t fix your life. I think it was Christiane Northrup who said that when you are 40 you will wish you had the body you used to complain about. I would have so enjoyed my young body more if I’d known that youth is a passing thing. It doesn’t pass in a bad way but it passes. It’s replaced by wisdom, which I honestly wouldn’t trade for anything. I feel comfort in my own wisdom and I like my brain. I like the information I’ve collected in it over the years. I still am grateful for my curiosity and tenacity where my brain is concerned. I wouldn’t really trade a single step or misstep; I feel like, in many ways, I’ve had the time of my life. I’m just saying that if I could go back in time I’d tell that girl, in no uncertain terms, to enjoy it all. Every unwrinkled inch. I’d also tell her that she is probably not going to be one of those people who gets marriedand lives with a husband for decades. It was never in the cards so maybe put men on the backburner and focus on what matters. Be selfish. And if it is a husband she really wants (she didn’t) then learn to compromise more. Learn to accept people as they are, warts and all, because Prince Charming, frankly, is all booked and doesn’t envision having any openings like ever.

I would tell her that of all of the great things she will ever do having her own child is right at the top of that list. There has never been any joy or thing or event that has topped it. But I would tell her that doing it alone, without financial support, will hurt the two of you in large and small ways.  Plan ahead.

Other than that, I would like to meet that girl and see what she was like, what she wore (I think I remember, sadly, and I may still have that tank top), how she laughed and what her dreams her. I know she was a flurry.

As I lecture my own daughter about growing up, as I watch her emerge from the cocoon of childhood and into the dreaded phase of puberty, I have to remember to not hold on so tight. I have to remember that she isn’t me; she won’t be who I was and she won’t make the same mistakes. She’ll make mistakes, though. Big ones and small ones. I really want to be there for all of it but I know that I will have to let go eventually. That’s the not-so-fun part. But it is her life and she’ll have to have it, one way or another.