Jane Fonda wrote a letter to her younger self as part of the CBS News series Note to Self, and it’s definitely a must read. There’s a lot we can learn from the 77 year old — currently having a deserved resurgence thanks to “Grace and Frankie” and “Youth.”
What you don’t realize now is that your life will be life a big
circle, passing through many dark periods when you will see no future
for yourself, when you won’t know who you are and you won’t feel anyone
could ever love you.
Right now, you want to be a boy, preferably a Native American boy,
living in the wilderness and passing through it silently, invisibly,
You will be sexually molested at seven, just as your mother was as a
child. When you are 12, your mother will commit suicide and the bravery
and spunk of your earlier years will seem to fall by the wayside.
You’ll come to feel that you have to be perfect if you want to be
loved— meaning thin and pretty and appealing and certainly not angry.
You’ll have to be a “good girl” to be loved. Living in-authentically
like this will lead you to various addictions that will dominate much of
your life and energy.
Your parents are both self-involved, so you will grow up not really
knowing what love feels like. What will come to pass is that, through a
lot of hard work you will realize that your parents did the best they
could. You will learn to remember them with compassion and love and
forgiveness and become your own person.
I wish I could explain to you that the painful things that will make
your life challenging and get you in trouble are the things that will
ultimately make you strong and compassionate.
Your biggest strength will be that you won’t shut down and become
cynical. You will become an activist. You will discover that doing this
will give your life a meaning you don’t think is possible right now. It
will be the rent you pay for life.
You are a late bloomer, so it won’t happen quickly, but your ability
to be honest with yourself, your desire to make sense of it all, to
learn from your mistakes, will permit you to blossom into life. A woman
with courage, imagination and resilience.
As I read this, I am about to turn 78. And though I know you’ll find
this impossible to believe, this is the happiest I have ever been. It
was all worth it, the good and the bad.
So don’t give up. I’m proud of you because you will never settle for less than you think you can attain.