A letter to 25-year-old me.

I just read a letter that Richard Branson wrote to his 25-year-old self. It is touching, inspirational, humble and sweet. It made me wonder what I’d say to my 25-year-old self, as that was a wild time in my life, full of the magic and wonder of an entire universe available and open right in front of me.

At 25, I was working at a marketing agency, an early career change from accounting, and moving into a new job as an Assistant Account Executive on the Bose account – I managed their first online ad (on Prodigy) as well as countless direct mail programs. Our team produced one of their first animated TV spots, which would live on for years (“can your radio do this…”). I was a founding member of the Inline Club of Boston, managing events and excursions; I was an inline skating instructor, in the IISA’s Instructor Certification program and a member of this inline counter-culture that was pervading city streets throughout the US. Around that year, I started my own skating school (SkateBoston) and wanted to start an events management company but didn’t have either the guts or the funding. I was involved with fundraising for the Aids Action Committee and we even tried to start a young professionals philanthropy group (‘The Realists’) for them. I lived on the 3rd floor of a brownstone in the South End of Boston and loved every minute of the freedom that living in a great neighborhood of a young, thriving city affords. Out-of-town weekends and holidays were spent mostly in New York City, skating in Central Park and drinking in myriad bars on the Upper West Side. There were weekends on dad’s boat, Camp Rollerblade weekends (those may have been the following year) and summer Sundays spent first skating on Memorial Drive, then feasting at our weekly “Celebrity BBQ” series at the friends’ compound in Union Square, Somerville. International dinner parties, scones at Claremont Cafe, drinks at TarBar or the DeLux, brunch at Tremont Ice Cream…Life was (very) good.

Letter to my 25-year-old self:

Dear Lesli,

This is a letter from 48-year-old you, to say hi from the 21st Century and to let you know that you didn’t turn out so bad from this vantage point, 23 years in the future…You are having one of the best years of your life. Cherish your freedom, harness your optimism and whatever you do, don’t let corporate negativity dampen your spirit.

The Universe is going to challenge your every sense and you are going to question both your place in the corporate world and your place in the human world. While challenging, it will be worth sticking to your values, honoring your integrity and listening to your heart. You’ve received one of the best pieces of life advice this year: pick your battles. Never forget it, as these words will be a mantra for you throughout your adult life.

Surround yourself with people who make you think and laugh, who embrace curiosity, and who care about the natural world. You will be faced with life-changing moments in the coming years, and you’ll need all your inner strength and courage to get through some of the days. Fear not, wild woman, you will make it – and come out stronger on the other end.

My bits of advice from the future which may or may not change your trajectory: respect boundaries, listen more, pause before acting. Listen to your heart and figure out who it is you are… then go for what calls you, with everything you’ve got. You’ve got unfulfilled dreams that have merit. You have ideas and opportunities and future diverging roads – which path you choose is up to you, but choose thoughtfully.

Ask your dad all the nagging questions about your childhood. Find out who you are and where you’re from and find out about your family’s history. Go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas even when it’s easier or more fun to stay in Boston. Ask him for career advice, whether or not you take it. Hug him more.

Travel. Explore. Spend as much time as you can in nature. Never stop reading or asking questions or seeking meaning. Keep writing. Keep dreaming. Keep learning. Love will come and love will go, but underneath it all you have this amazing sense of self…do not lose that. Ever.

Now, keep being you…

–Your older self.