Over the last 15 years, I have learned 15 important life lessons that have helped shape the woman I am. I hope you find wisdom where I only have the benefit of hindsight - Andi Sharma
Dear Younger Me,
Don’t waste time, it is so precious and even though you think otherwise, you don’t have that much of it ― so use it wisely. Some people have lived more in 20 years than others do in 90, so make the most of every moment. Your choices today do matter, they will shape your life in ways you can’t begin to imagine, and each choice has the power to set you back or catapult you forward - so choose wisely. You have a lifetime of memories to make and the benefit of youth on your side; find that delicate balance between preparing for the future and living in the present.
Be careful with the company you keep, the people you surround yourself with define you. Make sure that the people you choose to be in your circle lift you up and drive you to be better. Don’t settle for anything less, you are worth it.
Empower the women you love. Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other strong women who have her back. When you step out into the world, you will find that it is still steeped in misogyny and inequality; where women are often considered second-class citizens and to this day we still earn 75 cents for every dollar that a man makes. Empower the women around you and you will see incredible things happen. Alone? You can absolutely make a difference, fight the good fight. But together? You are a force to be reckoned with, one that can tear down the patriarchy and shatter glass ceilings.
Love yourself. You are beautiful just as you are. You will waste so much time worrying about how you look, what people think of you. Don’t wait for someone to show you your self-worth -– that is something only you can discover. Learn to love yourself and all of your imperfections and the rest will fall into place.
Know the difference between money and success. Success has nothing to do with the clothes you wear, the car you drive or the house you live in. The true mark of success will always be found in the content of your character, the quality of your ideas and the kindness in your heart.
You are not alone. Whatever battles you are fighting, whatever demons you have to face, know that you are loved and can rely on that love to see you through.
Never stop learning. An education is something that no one can ever take from you. It will help you achieve your goals and it will give you the confidence in your ability to meet a challenge head on and conquer it.
Go see the world! A wise doctor once said that this is one corner of one country on one continent on one planet that’s just a corner of a galaxy, that’s a corner of a universe, that’s forever growing, shrinking, creating, destroying, never the same for a single millisecond...and there is so much to see. So go out and see it, touch it, taste it, feel it with all your heart. Trust me when I say you’ll regret it if you don’t.
You are more powerful than you think –- as a woman, you have within you the power to create, nurture and transform. But ultimately the most powerful weapon you have is to be the best version of yourself that you can be, so you can create a better world around you and that is where real power lies – in the ability to make change in a positive way. Start early, find a cause that fires you up and set the world ablaze with your passion.
Defend those without a voice. It is never too early to start standing up for what’s right. You are poised to lead change in a world that desperately needs it. A world where the pursuit of profit has almost drained the earth of its natural resources and global environmental upheaval will radically change every aspect of human life; where climate change is estimated to create 150-200 million refugees by 2050; where social inequality runs rampant as 22,000 children die each day as a consequence of poverty; where the population growth is increasing at an alarming rate which will eventually means that the world’s demand for water will outstrip supply by as early 2040. You have the distinct privilege of being in a position to address these global challenges. And whatever your future holds for you, always remember that the responsibility of privilege is to fight for justice. Wield your privilege in the name of justice and you will never have to doubt your course, whichever path you choose.
Be graceful in victory and defeat. Life is filled with unexpected challenges that will push you to your limits and require you to be stronger and braver than you ever thought possible. Sometimes it’s a failed exam; a job you didn’t land; a moment of overwhelming anxiety sitting in a 1st year university course surrounded by 200 people you don’t know; and of course there will be broken hearts. These moments will help shape the woman you will be; respect them, learn from them and always keep going. Honor the space between what is no longer and what is yet to be.
You are stronger than you know. Your world will come crashing down with one phone call on a cold September morning not long after graduation. One phone call will steal your heart and shatter it into a million little pieces. The day Dad dies is going to change your life. You were both too young for this; but you will pick up the pieces and you will keep going. The scars from this one take a long time to heal but keep your head up, it gets better.
Be patient. The hard work really begins today when you walk out those doors. And it begins with taking the time you need to explore yourself, find out what really makes you tick. Whatever you are doing, let your passion lead you. It will take a while to really find out what that means, but don’t be afraid to try new things until something fits.
Always be an optimist. Be a hoper of far flung hopes, a dreamer of improbable dreams. But be practical about how you choose to pursue them.
Take risks but don’t be reckless. Go skydiving, but don’t smoke cigarettes. Travel alone, but don’t take drinks from strangers. Wear your heart on your sleeve but always keep your guard up. Stay up until sunrise once in a while, but always try to get enough sleep.
Be fearless, be brave and above all else, be true to yourself.
You’re in for one hell of a ride, but don’t worry –- you got this.
Sincerely ― with great love, thanks and respect for the struggle,
Your Future Self.
**Italicized fragments are direct quotes**
**Originally delivered as a 2016 Commencement Speech**