A while ago I was at the mall, sitting in the food court having a snack.
Along came a little girl who looked a lot like I did when I was small: fly-away blond hair, glasses on a tiny face. She was with an adult, a grandfather perhaps, who was getting her some lunch. He fussed about, settling her in her seat, arranging coats. She got her lunch, which included a juice box. You know what happened next. She tried to take her first slurp and the juice went everywhere. The grandfather jumped to his feet, indignant and distressed, flapping about trying to clean up the mess. To her credit, she didn’t cry, but she looked confused and overwhelmed by his distress.
That is when I found myself speaking to her in my mind, “Don’t worry, little girl.”
If I could travel back in time, what I would say to my little self? What would I tell myself, what advice would I give? Things I need to hear now. Things you might need to hear, too.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Chris Hadfield may tell you different, and in the world of astronauts every little thing can mean the difference between life and death. But for most of us regular, earth-bound mortals, worrying about spilled juice or ripped pantyhose or that time you put your foot in your mouth and accidentally insulted an acquaintance…you need to let go of those things and move on.
Don’t take on other people’s issues
Be yourself. Don’t fret when other people get worked up. You don’t have to be perfect. Let it roll off your back, little duck.
Don’t worry about what others think of you
Ok. Easier said than done. We want our parents and siblings and friends to love us and respect us. But ultimately, we are happier people if we aren’t consumed by pleasing others. Be considerate and loving, yes. Dwell on past mistakes for years on end, no.
The little girl in the mall might decide never to drink a juice box again when she gets that kind of reaction from an authority figure. She might never drink juice again, if the reaction was strong enough (we are strange creatures and do sometimes make decisions based on the avoidance of pain). I say to my little self: take a risk. Drink juice boxes even if it is messy. After all, life is messy. Take the iniative in a friendship. Try something you’ve always wanted to try. Say, “I love you.”
As I left the food court, I wished that little girl well.
Be strong, little girl, be strong.