‘Love Letters’ is a Petal + Sass blog feature that regularly asks a group of diverse women in their 20’s and 30’s about their experiences with health, sex, emotional wellness, body image, college, careers – and what they wish they had known themselves as teenagers. Visit the ‘Love Letters’ To My Former Self page to learn more about the contributors.
Question Posed: When you’re a teenager, you are often asked ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?’ What did you picture your life to be ’10 years from now’ when you were a teen, and did it go the way you planned? What do those ’10 years’ from teenhood to adulthood really consist of?
Miss Peony: Ha! I definitely thought I was going to be Dr. Wong from Law and Order SUV. I wanted to work for the FBI doing criminal profiling. Unfortunately, that is not the direction my life went in. Because psychology is such a popular major, it has an introductory course meant to weed out folks who won’t be a good fit. I found it boring beyond belief and just could not get into it. The class seemed not at all related to Dr. Wong’s day-to-day on the show. So. I changed my major to English, which was my favorite subject in high school, and just immersed myself in literature and analytical writing. I focused on what I loved doing and figured the rest would follow.
Okay so that’s an easy answer. I definitely worried about what I would be after college. I thought high school teacher, elementary school teacher, college professor… There were a lot of maybes. I took some classes related to those interests hoping to find a passion, but none materialized. In the end, I just kind of followed the money. I went to a grad school that covered tuition + paid a stipend and worked part time remotely in marketing, combining my writing skill with the technological aptitude. Eventually, that job went full time, and… here we are! 10 years later.
Miss Hydrangea: This is so crazy, but I thought I would have gone to college in Virginia for writing/literature and be married to my high school boyfriend and have three kids. I also saw myself being a stay at home mom and maybe have a career as a journalist or movie producer…
10 years (plus) out– I had a plan and I was determined to follow it, but life (as it so often does) throws curve balls. I am so far from that plan, it’s almost laughable. I think for the most part I am making peace with that. Ten years out I have suffered the losses of childhood friends through death and distance, and I have had amazing successes. I do struggle with what I thought my life would be and what it is. For the most part, I think it’s okay.. sure I wish I had a little more money, but I have an amazing family, a career that I love (most of the time), and I am realizing that it’s a lot easier to live in the moment and not worry too much about a big plan for my life. As long as I have good friends and my family, things will work out.
Miss Magnolia: I knew that I wanted to be in the medical field, but wasn’t sure how when I was in high school. I pictured my life 10 years out being in a city somewhere, taking subways, having a cool purse like a weekend bag, and finally perfecting my make up game and being busy.
My current life sort of reflects that, except the make up part; I’ll never learn how to do it right. I also imagined that I would travel more, which I didn’t really. I think the teen years into adult-ness consist of experiences and the dedication to the dream or idea of what you “think” will happen. Give yourself the space for things to unfold and occur how they’re supposed to, not necessarily how you planned. I’ve learned that being an adult allows for the adjustment of dreams.
Miss Bluebells: This question always used to blow my mind. I just couldn’t really fathom being any older than I was. High school is pretty all consuming in the moment, it’s bizarre to think you’ll be living another life with different main characters in your world. ’10 years from now’ always seemed so abstract.
I think I always imagined the prototype; that I’d have some great career and be married and starting to have kids by at least 28 “because you don’t want to be too old when you have children.” This seems crazy to me now. Adolescence is so prolonged, particularly if you continue your education after college. Even career-wise, by 28 you are still just kind of dipping your toes in the water of a lot of different jobs that you never previously imagined you’d do, just hoping to make enough money to pay off rent, loans, and nights out.
My main advice would be to be open to all types of scenarios and opportunities. I always figured that whatever you majored in during college, that’s what you’d be- the very thing you expected to be when you chose that major. So, so wrong. Even if you pursue grad school (which is advisable in this economy) you often just use that as a qualifying credential to do a million different careers paths, not necessarily related to your field of interest. As you get older, you kind of learn that you ‘take what you can.’ It’s admirable when you can pursue your real passion, and it either takes a willingness to be totally starving and dogged to get there, or conversely, totally privileged with a huge financial support system to get there. I’m still kind of waiting to see “what I’ll be when I grow up.”
Miss Rosebud: When I was 16, I was sure I would be married by 26. That is as sure as I’ve ever been about my future. I got pretty close. I was engaged by 26. I was also pretty confident that I would live in NYC, and that also came to pass.
I wish that I had that kind of certainty and purpose now! “Being married” is all well and good, but it isn’t the most interesting or ambitious end game. I’ve always been pretty murky about my career goals, and don’t have particularly adventurous hobbies. Sure, I like “travel,” and even probably get a bit more gritty than most in my travel adventures, but I wish that I had more singular and specific interests. Like, “In 10 years from NOW, I’ll own an ice picking tour company in Switzerland.” I think our generation likes to be unique and passionate, so it can be disconcerting to realize that your hobbies are actually cooking, hiking, and taking a nice family vacation a few times a year.