Last weekend I went to a tennis tournament at the awe-inspiring 18,500-acre Air Force Academy in the Rocky Mountains. Liz, a friend I’ve known since we shared an apartment after college, went with me. Trying to find our way to the courts, we took the wrong road. We ended up at a guard station in a restricted area where we were promptly and firmly turned around. Once back on the correct road, we looked at each other and laughed out loud. “What would our 22-year-old selves think if they could see us now?”
That led to something we’d heard about on national TV: writing a note of advice to a younger version of ourself. The project had gained a lot of attention when Vice-president Joe Biden made public the letter he had written to his 12-year-old self. Liz and I wondered what we have learned that might have helped our 22-year-old selves avoid taking the wrong road in the future.
Back home, I found a picture of myself at about that age and sat down to write.
I’m writing from an age you can’t imagine you’ll ever be. Patty is the name everyone in our family and friends from school continue to call you. Pretty soon new friends and colleagues will call you Pat.
This note is about the relationships you will have going forward with those who call you either Patty or Pat. And with yourself. And about how all these relationships are affected by the words, “oldest daughter.”
Tip #1. “Oldest daughter” describes where you fit in the family lineup. Don’t let those words define you.
That can be a little hard, because it’s the way everyone in the family continues to think of you. Mom and Dad have brought you up with expectations — to set the example, to lead, be responsible and caring. Our three younger sisters and brother expect those same things from you. They’ve watched and learned from what you do and the choices you’ve made. They’ve grown to trust and often rely on you.
Tip # 2. Studies show that leadership and nurturing are characteristics that go along with being an oldest daughter. You’ve already experienced both. You can choose, or not, to continue developing them.
In the future, you will be surprised at the expectations our family and others, without even thinking about it, will continue to have of and for you. Sometimes you’ll feel frustrated when others don’t seem to see what needs to be done or to take charge of a situation in need of “fixing.” So you’ll end up doing it. You’ll set yourself up to be overwhelmed if you continue to take on others’ expectations while also responding to the needs of your husband, your children, your job. And I haven’t even mentioned taking care of yourself.
Tip #3. It will be up to you to set boundaries that respect your own time and energies.
Tip #4. Re-read Tip #1. Then understand that what will define you is up to you and your choices going forward. You have the right to decide what role you will play in contributing to this great, wide world we’re each part of.
That’s it for now.
Till next time, with love from
Your Older Self