Dear My Much Younger Self,
So many people are playing roles in your life right now that will shape who you become and what you will accomplish. Yet, their value and impact are not yet clear to you. In fact, the guidance and influence they are offering are not always comfortable and welcome. Still, you need to listen, follow, and treasure what they offer to and ask of you.
Among the people who are guiding and shaping who you will become are your teachers. Of course, it can be tempting to dismiss and push back on what they say and expect. You think that you know what is best for you. Unfortunately, you do not have enough life experience and perspective to make every decision on your own. You need to pay attention, heed their advice, and follow their guidance.
I have come to appreciate many of the expectations teachers are holding for you. They have shaped my attitudes and expectations for myself. Insights they are sharing with you have stayed with me decades later. Let me share with you some of what I have learned as I reflect on the experiences you are having now.
The teacher who is pressing you to lift your aspirations and increase your investment in learning sees in you potential that you do not yet realize you have. Listen to what the teacher says and follow the advice you are given. You will not regret it.
The teacher who gives you challenges and pushes the boundaries of your learning knows that the most valuable learning you will develop comes with struggle and frustration. When you make mistakes as you are learning, know that they are a natural part of the process. Use them to adjust your approach and guide your learning.
The teacher who holds high expectations and refuses to lower them when you fail to make your best effort and do your best work is teaching you a valuable lesson about life and learning. When the work is hard, you need to focus on your effort and strategies, not how to “work the system” or find an easier path.
The teacher who resists providing you with immediate answers is not necessarily being difficult. Learning where and how to find answers for yourself is a lesson you will use for the rest of your life. Knowing how to solve problems on your own will serve you well when you face dilemmas and difficulties and no teacher is present to provide a formula or show a clear path forward.
The teacher who presses you to focus on what you are learning, not just the grades you will receive, is guiding you to focus on what is most important. It may seem that grades are what you are working for, but grades are nothing more than symbols. Grades at their best do little more than capture the progress you have made and learning you have gained.
I could go on, but you are probably wondering why I am sharing these things. I want you to do something I neglected to do.
I fear that my teachers did not feel my appreciation for what they did for me when I was experiencing what you are experiencing. Of course, you cannot fully know or appreciate the impact they are having on you and your life. Trust me. What your teachers are doing for you matters. You will come to value the impact they are having.
In the coming week, please make it a point to thank your teachers for what they are doing for you. Tell them that you appreciate that they push you and hold you to high expectations. Thank them for believing in you and your potential. Let them know that you understand that learning is not always easy.
I know. Doing what I am asking is not typical behavior for you. It will feel awkward. I am asking you to do it for me. Of course, you will also be doing it for yourself.
Enjoy what lies ahead. Your life will be amazing.
All my best,
Your Future Self