Letter to My Younger Self – Elyse Zapolski

The blog post you wait all month for is here-PR current and future pros reflecting on their careers and lives in “letter to my younger self.” This month we feature Elyse Zapolski, resident 834 project coordinator.

Self-reflection isn’t easy. I recall many conversations with my dad growing up in which he would tell me things like “Someday you’ll feel like I do.” And “I’m just trying to help you avoid the mistakes that I made.” To which I would respond with loud sighs and eye rolls, because I was obviously crushing it and needed no advice from someone older and wiser than myself. Fast-forward to present day and I’m essentially a replica of my dad (maybe a little bit shorter).
In all seriousness, if I would’ve been asked to write this post even just a year ago, I’m not sure that I could have done it. I’ve just recently hit a point in my adult life where I can identify a clear division between younger me and older me. Being in your 20’s is a strange road map, navigating from adolescence to pretend adulthood to real adulthood, and I think I’m finally hitting that latter stage.
Younger Elyse (we’re talking the 19-22 range) was a juxtaposition of wild-child, young attitudes and neurotic, worrywart tendencies. A veritable mess, as many early-twenty-somethings are.
So what would I tell this younger, fractured version of myself if I were able to travel back in time?
Worry less, do more.
I think we’ve all probably heard that some anxiety is good, for performance or to drive us forward, etc. But there is a threshold. I would tell young Elyse that there is only so much good that worrying can do for you. You’re going to hit a point where it becomes more self-destructive and paralyzing than useful. That sort of analysis paralysis is what held me back from doing more to professionally network or get out and enjoy social activities in my early-20’s. I was so consumed by the thought of screwing up or taking the wrong path, that a lot of the time I chose to do nothing. I chose to sit it out and watch from the sidelines, which is infuriating when I look back on it now. So cap that worry and sign up for a class or go to an event. Everything will work out.
Slow down.
This is something that I still work on every day, but that I wish I would’ve started thinking about sooner. I remember the first time I really started thinking about this, which wasn’t actually all that long ago. I’ve always been concerned with doing more and being more in order to get myself to this elusive “end point” of success. There are two things that I have either recently overheard or read that I would love to share with my younger self: 1.) “Time takes time.” and 2.) “Success is a lifestyle, not a destination.” Because I spent much of my early-20’s rushing to get to a nonexistent end goal, I didn’t take the time to slow down and revel in the successes of the moment. I would tell my younger self to work on being more present.
Be nice to yourself.
Let yourself screw up. Expect it to happen, let it happen, reflect on it. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t think that you’re the only one who has ever blundered. Chances are that many people have screwed up in the particular way that you did, and probably even worse than you did. It happens. I was extremely hard on myself and nothing good ever came from that. Eventually I realized that becoming good at anything takes a ton of practice and time. It’s not going to happen instantaneously and it’s ridiculous to think that you would do anything perfectly the first time. I can’t even imagine what it would’ve done for me if I could’ve been just a little bit more forgiving with myself early in my career.
To wrap this up, young Elyse, you’re strong and capable, so stop worrying so much, take time to celebrate what’s going well, and have the flexibility and understanding to let yourself make mistakes (and learn from them). You got this!
P.S. Stop giving yourself bangs. It’s never going to work out for you.
Elyse and Dog

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