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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dear 18-year-old me

The third prompt in the National Health Blog Post Month is to write to my 18-year-old self, advising myself on what to do more of, what less of, and what I have to look forward to in the next few years. It's rather a loaded prompt, this one. Which might mean it's worth doing.

Dear 18-year-old Judy,

You have graduated from high school and are looking forward to college. You dream of becoming a concert pianist.  You know that you have not devoted as much effort to practice as you should have, although in the last four years you stepped it up. You have dreams.

Nobody disputes your intelligence, sense of humor, or musicianship. Where you tend to fall down is in the social world. You will find that college offers you friends, real friends, for the first time, that you feel like you are in the right place at last. College is, in many ways, a great time for you.  You will become part of little groups of friends, sharing each other's ups and downs and even, at times, competing for members of the opposite sex.

This has always been a problem for you, in no small part because you are so large. You are not only tall, almost six feet, but also wide. And you are only just beginning to learn how to take care of your big body and clothing. You take showers regularly, wash your clothes more often. It takes a little longer for you to get more consistent in brushing your teeth, but you get there.

Is this too much information? For some, of course it is. But it's relevant.

I hope I can offer some advice. I know that you tend to become defensive and don't want to hear advice, but it's from you! Remember that! You turned out all right, honestly, but if you take this advice you might be able to avoid some of the difficulties along the way.

* First, gradually cut out the animal products. You will do this eventually, and if you do so now so much the better. You'll feel better and start to lose weight and it will be easier for you to lose that weight and keep some of it off. Keeping your weight down will help a lot in the degeneration that is arthritis. It is unlikely that you will avoid the disease entirely but it may never have to affect you severely.

* Take stock, leave fear behind. It wouldn't hurt for you to start looking at your fears and facing them, not just by themselves, but with knowledge. Learn about your fears. What are the chances of your worst nightmare happening? What if you make a fool of yourself from time to time? Will it end the world? Actually, it won't. I guarantee it. Other people are more interested in themselves and won't care if you try something new and fail at it. And if they do laugh at you, laugh with them. Laugh ahead of them. Face the fears head on and don't be afraid to face humiliation too.

* Get into some regular habits. Exercise - don't overdo it but do it regularly. Write - every morning or evening. Take time for yourself. Insist on it.

* Learn to ask for help. You may be able to do some things but often others can do them better and others actually like doing them. Ask. You may be surprised to learn that you are actually giving a gift when you do so.

You have many years of good work ahead. You will have children, who will be the lights of your life. You will have peak experiences and low ones. You'll fall and get up, again and again, and this will become your chief strength. Might as well get started now.

Your 65-year-old self

This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 health posts in 30 days:

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