For my graduation speech from Southeast High School in Charlotte, NC, I wanted to do something a little different. Rather than simply quoting a famous author or poet, I decided to write a letter to my younger self, Terri. I wanted to tell her what I’ve learned throughout the years and give her some advice on how to navigate the world of college. I started by telling her that I’m proud of her and the work she’s done, especially considering how she came to school with such low grades and had such a tough time fitting in. I told her that I know she’s going to go far in life and that she should never forget her family and friends who have been there for her throughout the years. The letter then took a personal turn as I spoke about the hardships and struggles I’ve faced in my life. I shared with her the importance of finding strength within yourself, being confident and comfortable in your own skin, and speaking your mind even when you might feel nervous or anxious. I ended the letter with a challenge to her not to be afraid to stand out and be different, to not be scared to show the world who you really are, and to never forget where you came from. After I delivered the letter, I received a standing ovation from the audience. I felt so proud and motivated to share my story and give advice with such an enthusiastic group of young people. It was a memorable moment for me.

College Is A Whole New World

During my senior year of high school, I was so nervous about going off to college. I didn’t know how I was going to fit in with all these kids who were about to embark on a whole new adventure. I had never been away from home for so long and was nervous about being alone for the first time in my life. I remember lying in bed one night, studying for the MCATs (Medical College Admission Test), when I suddenly had an idea. If I went to law school, I reasoned, I could always get a job with a big law firm in Charlotte. It would be my chance to be a part of the action, to be in a position to help people rather than just taking a test about which doctors should or shouldn’t be allowed to practice medicine. I got up and went to the computer, signed up for law school, and decided that it was the right move for me. I loved being a lawyer.

After I graduates from law school and passes the bar, I return to Charlotte and begin working at a big law firm. Things are going well until… I begin to notice a pattern. The partners I work for always seem to favor male associates over me. Every year, they promote a couple of guys and ignore or underutilize me. I’m sure they’re thinking I’m just not very good at what I do. If I were a man, I know I would’ve been given a position of responsibility a long time ago. Instead, I’m stuck in a legal secretary role, which despite the fact that I’m extremely capable and hardworking, does not seem to fit my skillset. Frustrated and discouraged, I begin looking for another job. Luckily, I’m able to secure an offer from a prominent Charlotte law firm, which I eventually take. Now I’m an associate at a very reputable law firm, yet somehow I still feel underutilized and frustrated.

Don’t Listen To Naysayers

There’s this girl in my social studies class who says terrible things about everybody. She makes fun of the way people talk and the way they look, calling them stupid and ugly. One day, I’m sitting with my friend Emily after school when this girl comes up to us and begins criticizing me. She says I’m a nice quiet girl but that I don’t deserve to be in her social studies class because I have horrible grades. She also says that I don’t contribute anything to the conversation and that my nose is too big.

“You’re a smart girl,” I tell her. “You don’t need to be saying all those things about other people.”

She just looks at me and says, “You’re wrong. I know I’m smart, and I know I’m right.” With that, she walks away. I’m not quite sure if she’s challenging my authority or just being a bratty teenager, but either way, it bothers me.

A couple of months later, I see this girl walking down the street. I wave hello to her and she smiles back, but she doesn’t say anything. I’m puzzled because I thought she didn’t like me. Was I wrong about that? Was I being talked about behind my back? The next day, I see her in the hall, and she whispers something in Emily’s ear. I overhear her say, “I don’t know why I bothered to talk to her. She’s just annoying.”

I feel sorry for the girl. She seems sweet and innocent, and I know she doesn’t have an ounce of meanness in her. I decide to give her a chance and try to be her friend. We become pretty good friends and eventually start hanging out a lot. A few weeks later, we’re walking down the street together when this girl laughs and says, “You have an honest face.” I ask her what she means, and she tells me she doesn’t know why, but whenever she sees me she thinks I’m a sweet girl with an honest face. I’m touched by her words and decide to adopt my “honest face” as my new best feature. Whenever I feel down or discouraged about something, I think about this little girl and how she sees me and my smile and thinks everything is going to be okay. It gives me hope.”

The Importance Of Self-care

Taking care of yourself is an important part of growing up and being a functioning adult. You have to eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. Regular exercise and proper nutrition will help you feel your best and look your best as well. Studies show that being overweight can cause health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. This can lead to serious complications. So it’s important to be careful about what you eat and how much you weigh. You also need to make sure you get plenty of rest and allow yourself to be compassionate to yourself. Self-care is all about taking care of your mind, body, and soul, so you can be at your best whenever you are needed.

Set Realistic Expectations

It’s important to have realistic expectations about the future. You cannot control how other people will behave, and you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself if things don’t turn out the way you planned. Just because someone doesn’t like you or doesn’t think you’re valuable doesn’t mean they’re wrong. You have to learn to be happy with who you are and what you have, even if it isn’t perfect. If you want something different, you have to be willing to change. I find that sometimes it’s easier said than done, but that’s how you grow and learn. You may not always get the results you’re looking for, but you will eventually. This world is not always going to treat you the way you want to be treated, but that’s why you have to be strong enough to fight for what you want. Unrealistic expectations can keep you trapped in a bad relationship for far too long. Believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your goals. You will be surprised at how empowering it can feel to finally believe in something and put in the work to make it happen.

My younger self would’ve been pleased to know that, despite the fact that I’ve had some struggles, I’ve done well for myself. With some hard work and determination, I’ve found a career I love, and I’ve been able to establish and maintain healthy relationships with the people I care about. I’ve learned to be happy with my appearance and to care for my mind and my body, so I can be at my best for others. I feel like a lot of what I’ve learned throughout the years has benefited me in my adult life. It’s not always easy, but I feel like I’m a better person for it.