Letter to my younger self

Dear very young Danielle,

Have fun and smile just as much as you used to but don’t be such a pushover. Don’t think that you need so much good feedback from everyone — be yourself and know that you’re really smart. Don’t worry about what your mom’s and dad’s friends think about you. Play outside even more. Go see more theater in New York with anyone who will take you. Strive to have a lot of friends and take them with you until later in life. Grow a turtle shell that actually protects you from the scariness that is your family and the outside world. Study harder for your tests and find a mentor to help just a little with your college applications because Mom and Dad just don’t get it. Get a good summer job instead of working in restaurants and retail. Plant more flowers. Learn how to grow tomatoes better. Keep singing in the church choir even though you don’t like church, you like singing. Enjoy the heck out of summer camp because really you could canoe for a living. Stop worrying about what you want to be when you grow up and just be a kid. Get rid of the barbie dolls and play with blocks. Ride your bike with the banana seat way more times around the block. Knock on Mrs Piero’s door more often because she throws candy out the window, though she later has around 75 cats removed from her house. Eat another box of raisins, they have a lot of iron. Drink more cups of tea with honey and milk and watch the 4:30 movie in winter while mom is ironing. Then, when you are older, get more jobs after school so you won’t have to be home with her too much. Play a sport because you lived a little before Title 9 and miss that crazy ride though you are one of the first kids to go to yoga.

Go to your friends’ houses for dinner more often so you could see how happier families exist. Wear the hand-me-downs from your sister because it doesn’t matter. Tell your brother to be quiet when he goes through his REM phase and plays tapes really loud in the shower when you’re trying to go to sleep.

Be way less of a pushover and say no. Be wiling to step up and do your part, but if you’re 6, don’t sew buttons onto your bathrobe without supervision because you are going to get a needle in your hand and no one his going to know it’s there and you’ll have to get surgery 5 days later. If you are sick or injured, completely fall apart or scream and yell or no one will know that something is wrong. Be seen more. Learn how to be a leader, not a follower. Take more dance classes — you love them. Know that your parents do actually love you, they are just not great parents because they didn’t have good parents and so on and so on.

Develop magic acts with your cat Cleo when you have mono in 7th grade and miss about 3 months of school. Write more plays and musicals with Elsa and and perform them in the living room to the grown ups. Listen to Bill Cosby stand up comedy records over and over as well as Alfred Hitchcock because it’s a little scary. Play records on the console stereo where we could stack up 45s and they would fall one after the other and play continuously until you turned them over and played the other side. Sing and play more at the cheesy organ because you liked it. Above all write stories! Write about your feelings, about your cats and dogs and gerbils and hamsters. Don’t give your teenage journals to your first therapist and then never get them back. Don’t go to your mother’s therapist — bad idea. Save your writing somehow so you can remember a little, then go to lots of workshops to remember the rest. Remember all of it and write it down.

Love, Danielle, your older self, none the wiser but working on it.

20 Responses to Dear Younger Self

  1. Jamet says:

    Makes me smile visualizing you as a little girl.

  2. Susan Belgard says:

    I wish my older self (much older, I should say)
    Was as wise as yours! Thank you for sharing your humanity
    and self-compassion. A great model and example.

  3. Danielle Vantress Salk says:

    Thank you so much! You are fabulous Reiter. Of course I love the sentiment and also the imagery and appreciate your courage in sharing this. Go get em tiger!

  4. Susan Ito says:

    This is very moving, Danielle. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. Kay Weeks says:

    Be way less of a pushover and say no. One line, and so important: Boundaries.

    The child becomes the adult, in my view, so we go on asking the same questions, but get more perspective on ourselves. This continues until we die.

    Sending love,

  6. Jody says:

    Let’s throw a musical! You’re the star.

  7. Lisa says:

    This one is my favorite of all of your pieces. Thanks for sharing Danielle.

  8. Melissa says:

    A message to younger Danielle, from a future friend….”Trust that you are going to be an extraordinary contribution in the world….and that you are going to be loved and appreciated by so many!” Love you, D!

  9. Rhys Walters says:

    That was a good read. I only knew you briefly in Shanghai but you turned out pretty well despite the parents. Hope you and Bob are well, still think of you folks from time to time. Shame we never got to San Fran these last few years, looks like it will be a few more years yet. Xx

    • danielle says:

      Didn’t I though?? Rhys, there is a small possibility I will come through London this winter or spring. Bob is now consulting for a firm in Armenia, because that’s normal, and I might come along and then visit my mate Siobhan. If you are not too far away, let’s have a beer for old time’s sake. Plus we came in 2nd last night at Quiz!

    • danielle says:

      ps Please come to San Francisco any time. We live in Oakland, and have space for you. 🙂

  10. Hi, Danielle. This is fantastic! I love how this letter gives a picture not only into who your younger self was but into how your now self understands the larger context of her life and choices. This line: “Eat another box of raisins, they have a lot of iron.” Such an understated way of reaching back and filling in the lapses of care and attention. Thanks so much for sharing this. I plan to include a similar prompt in my upcoming Excavate Your Truth/Free Your Voice class! Write on, M

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