I’ve seen those memes about what would you tell your younger self if you could talk to her now, and the answer for me is never simple. My younger self went nineteen to the dozen, either working and going to school full time, or working and single-parenting, or working two jobs. Hard to get anything of substance across to somebody traveling at warp speed, but bills do not pay themselves.
I do though, occasionally talk to my daughter, a millennial still thrashing through an undergraduate curriculum as she nears age thirty (oh, so old!). She’s also working and going to school, also riding horses, also doing battle with nagging mental and physical health issues. She gets daunted.
Who doesn’t? When we talk, I try to reassure her that these busy, overwhelming, difficult years will come in handy. She won’t know when, she won’t necessarily see it coming, but the hours she spent volunteering at an animal shelter in Denver, the voice lessons she took, the marathons she’s run (two, and many halfs), are all building equity toward happiness and effectiveness later in life.
I earned a degree in music history. My father despaired of my making my living playing piano, though I did just that all through college. After college, I closed the lid of the piano, and thought I was done with music. Thirty years later, I was writing The Virtuoso, and using my music history degree like a boss.
I rode horses as a kid, then put away my childish things. When I was staring at serious burnout in my mid-thirties, the horses brought me back to life.
To get my music history degree, I had to take twelve credits of German, but hadn’t had to use German for more than 35 years. There I was in Scotland a couple years ago, at Culloden Battlefield, grabbing lunch in the snackshop. An older woman gestured to the table I was standing near. “Ist es frei?” she asked. “Ja, es ist frei,” I replied. “Sitzen sie sich, bitte.” (Is this [table] free? Yes, it’s free, please do sit yourself down.)
That little exchange made me so happy!
Life comes together, I would tell my younger self. Treasures you forgot you stuffed in your pockets will come in handy down the road, and that will be big fun. Dots connect in wonderful and unexpected ways, skills realign to create new opportunities. I tell my daughter: It’s all yours to keep. No course, no race, no casual convo in the King Souper is wasted. You’re piling up riches that will pay interest you can’t foresee.
Romance novels nod in the direction of this sentiment when the closing scenes hark back to the opening lines, or use a setting that’s shared with the first kiss or the big black moment. It all comes together, and in a happy way.
What treasure did you pick up along the way that came in handy long after you thought the warranty had expired? Or is there something in your pocket you haven’t quite found a use for, but are glad you picked up?
To one commenter, I’ll send a signed Windham Brides bundle: The Trouble With Dukes, Too Scot to Handle, No Other Duke Will Do.