Photo by RaeAnna Stephens, with permission

16 Things I Wish I’d Known at 16

an open letter from grandmother to granddaughter

Jodi Barnes, PhD
6 min readJan 19, 2020

Hello there, self of 1975:

1. You are lucky to be here. Sure, you’ve been through some sad stuff already. Money’s scarce. Your parents have a lot of flaws, but they love you. Not always the way you want them to. They’ll never be exactly who you want them to be. But you will find this is true of everyone you care about. Everyone. At every stage of your life. There is no perfect love. There are no perfect people.

2. Gossiping and criticizing others (in your head or out loud) is a waste of time. The worst thing is that criticism grows inward — you will become hypercritical of yourself, creating more damage than others’ gossip could ever do. Stop it as soon as possible.

3. Replace criticism (and condemnation) with curiosity. Don’t assume malicious motives or feelings. Ask more questions of others and of yourself. Curiosity leads to more information, understanding, and creative ways to solve issues.

4. Life is not a competition, despite what you’re told. The more you focus on what you are drawn to, what makes your mind explode with happiness, excitement, interest, or wonder, the less you will worry about what others think or how good you are in comparison to them. Oscar Wilde said, Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

Photo by Jodi Barnes

5. You’ll never be liked by everyone and that’s a lousy goal, anyway. It sounds harsh now, but don’t waste time on other people if you really don’t enjoy their company. Life is short. We never know our expiration date. Save time pursuing your happy mind explosions (see #4), and set aside time for people you want to get to know better and for those you already love. It’s not selfish; it’s wise.

6. Despite what you’ve been taught at church and at school, you are not special or more worthy than anyone else. The paradox you’ll fully realize when you’re well into adulthood? Life itself is a fucking miracle. The fact that life exists; that you were born, that all animals, plants, the very earth we inhabit still evolve despite heaps of neglect and abuse… that…



Jodi Barnes, PhD

Writer and Collaborator-in-Chief of where small acts of writing, art and conversation create multicultural connections for good.