Letter To My Younger Self – Rowan Leo

Young Ro looks at the camera.

Hey there, little me.

You’ve never really been one to ask for advice, just the one to give it, whether people ask for it or not. Well, guess what? That hasn’t changed. Sit down and listen up. It’s time for a taste of your own medicine.

1. It’s okay to be you.

What a weird thing to say, right? Right now, as you read this, you’re a cishet ultra conservative who still goes by Megan. Well, guess what? All that’s gonna change, and that’s okay. Sometimes you think you know something about yourself, but it’s not until you’re in a new environment that you realize that’s not really you—it’s just the parroted opinions of the people around you. Shut up for a second and actually listen to yourself and your own thoughts. It’ll help a lot, I promise.

Ro sits at a computer, laughing, as they hold a portable phone to their ear.

2. Stick with it.

People are going to put you down. They’re going to tell you that you suck at writing, at art, at singing, at talking, at making friends, at relationships, at a whole lot of things. Do you know what the best thing you can do is? Ignore them. Or, hell, keep doing what you’re doing out of spite. No one else gets to decide what you are and aren’t good at. 

3. Shut up for a second.

I can hear you now. “What do you mean? I’m the shy one. I don’t speak up!” Yeah, I know. You don’t talk, at least until you think you’re right about something, and then you never shut up. That’s fine, sure, but it means you never take the time to listen to other people. And that means you don’t learn.

4. You’ll never go back.

Life is filled with beginnings, but some beginnings are also endings. You’re going to leave Illinois to go to college. In fact, you’ll visit Michigan for the first time in your life on the week that you move into your dorm. You’re not going to be back for a long time. That’s going to be a trend. Leaving something behind isn’t always a bad thing. It can be the start of something amazing. Look ahead, not behind.

Ro looks at the camera with bright green hair, red shirt, and a small smile..

5. But don’t be afraid to leave.

You’ll be stuck in plenty of situations that you know in your heart are bad for you. Whether it’s a job or that boyfriend you really think you’ll end up marrying (spoiler: you won’t), you’ll be hit by wave after wave of situations and relationships that corrode your mind and body. When you’ve had enough, don’t push through and tell yourself to focus on the good. Cut that tie. Leave. You’ll thank me later.

6. Stay curious.

When things get stressful, it’s easy to tell yourself you don’t have the energy or time to learn something new. That’s such a lie. You’re the kid who checked out every single dinosaur book your local library had when you were in first grade. Who cares if you couldn’t understand half the things they said? You were thirsty for knowledge, and you wouldn’t let anything get in your way. Channel that little kid. It’s a big world out there.

7. It’s gonna take time.

Your journey’s going to be (and still is) a wild one. Your first job (selling nuts at the renaissance faire) isn’t going to be related in any way to pretty much anything else you do. Yes, your careers at Subway and McDonald’s will pass. You’ll get to put away the non-slip shoes and focus on a desk job, but even then, you’ll bump around from expertise time and time again. That’s fine. It’ll take a while to find where you belong, to find a place you feel comfortable, to find a team that boosts you up. It’s worth the wait.

8. Be present.

Life is wild. Time passes way too quickly. Make the most of it while you can. Spend time with the people closest to you. Play with your pet rabbits. Laugh with your high school friends. It’s just like that Tempest line you know so well: “These our actors as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air.” Spend time making good memories. They’ll serve you well.

Ro and Lain wear white at their wedding, while Ro holds Lain's face in the palm of their hand.

9. Don’t try so hard.

Seriously. You’re not running for office. Some people will like you. Others will hate you no matter what you do. You can’t control someone else’s reaction to the actions you take. Stop trying to! Stick by the people who matter and ignore what the others say. 

10. Look forward to the future.

You’ve been through a lot, and you’re going to go through a lot more. That’s life, kid. Instead of wallowing in whatever self-pitiable existence you’ve constructed for yourself, focus on what’s to come. Happiness is a real thing. You can have a job you like, marry your best friend, have three cats, know some amazing coworkers, own a house, and still be into all the nerdy shit you’re into. You’ve just gotta work for it.

You’re only living your life. No one else’s. That means you live at your speed, and you do things when you’re ready to. It’s not a race, because none of you are even driving similar vehicles. Everyone’s unique. Stop comparing yourself and your success or lack-there-of to others. You’ll spare yourself a bunch of headaches. Besides, who knows who might be comparing themselves to you?

See you in about a decade, Megan.


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