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Pam Frampton: A letter to my 19-year-old self

What would you tell your younger self if you could? —
What would you tell your younger self if you could? — 123RF Stock Photo

“If youth knew…” — Sigmund Freud

Evening walks often take me past a house backing onto a river. It has a basement apartment where I spent two years of my life.

It was the mid-’80s and my first taste of unfettered freedom after two years in residence at Memorial University and what seemed like an eternity growing up at home.

Children’s toys are strewn around the backyard now, not far from where 19-year-old me sat on the edge of the riverbank with a friend, licking sprinkles of salt off the backs of our hands, tossing back tequila shots and sucking on wedges of tart lemon on a hot summer evening.

Four girls shared that apartment and their lives — all the angst of young womanhood: romance and melodrama, run-ins with parents and prickly university profs, uncertainty about the future, the constant lament for lack of funds for our excursions to the Breezeway Bar.

We seemed to be in a perpetual state of waiting for something to happen —  even if it was something as tedious as the ding of the dryer signalling your best jeans were ready; you wriggled into the hot denim, checked to make sure your mascara wasn’t smudged and flung yourself out the door.

My world was small then: that apartment, the Arts Building and the library at MUN; the Breezeway and the Thomson Student Centre, with an occasional foray onto George Street.

Children’s toys are strewn around the backyard now, not far from where 19-year-old me sat on the edge of the riverbank with a friend, licking sprinkles of salt off the backs of our hands, tossing back tequila shots and sucking on wedges of tart lemon on a hot summer evening.

I remember my bedroom with its Genesis poster (the band, not the creation story), the crushed red velvet bedspread that had been used as a backdrop for our high school graduation photos, the plush Snoopy from my bed at home. Girlish things to accompany a teenager on the serpentine path to adulthood.

What would I tell her now, if I could? What would any of us tell our younger selves to try and protect them from harm, to save them from foolish mistakes and misdirection?

I’d say this: not being sure-footed about the future is how you should feel at 19. It’d be pretty boring if you carefully choreographed your life from start to finish and never deviated from the plan. Some of your most wondrous moments will be unexpected and unscripted. Relax.

I’d say that most people are good and that she has friends who will be there in 30 years, through all the plot twists to come. They won’t be there every day or every year, but they will be there when she needs them. And vice versa.

I’d say that unfortunately some people aren’t giving and caring, but instead are selfish, manipulative and critical, and that while a lifetime might seem infinite to you now, it is actually painfully short — too short to spend with people who run on bitterness and negativity.

I’d tell her the world is big and wide and beautiful, but that she will observe painful inequities between those who have much and those with very little, and that she should help where she can and speak up about injustice.

I’d tell her to take care of her money because it does not take care of itself.

I’d whisper “to thine own self be true” and tell her she didn’t need validation from anyone else; that her worth was not determined by how many “best friends” she had or by how much — or how little — money her parents had, or by how many times she was asked to dance, or by her gender.

I’d tell her that her love of books would stand her in good stead; that they would always be there and could take her to other places, other times when the world around her seemed dreary and unchanging.

I’d remind her that her parents won’t always be around, and to get to know them now, even as she strived to be independent.

I’d tell her if she wants to know life’s great truths to keep listening to the Beatles. And that while she may find that love is not quite all she needs, it’s a pretty wonderful thing.

Pam Frampton is a columnist whose work is published in The Western Star and The Telegram. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton

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