Letter to My Self at 20: Noreen Hyslop

By Noreen Hyslop


To the young woman I was,

So, you’re 20. It’s 1971. You’ve witnessed a nation mourn the assassination of JFK and watched the gates close on Camelot. You’ve seen The Beatles at Comiskey Park, Joe Cocker live, The Association and Jefferson Airplane. You’ve shared time with The Buckinghams and John Belushi.

You’ll marry this year in April, and five days later, you’ll send your husband off to the jungles of Vietnam. He’ll return safely in a year, but not unscathed. Don’t ask him to speak of it.

In mid-1972, you’ll make the most significant move of your life when you pack up and move from northern Illinois to Southeast Missouri. It won’t be easy to adapt to the new surroundings. You’ll learn that people eat biscuits and gravy for breakfast and greet total strangers on the street. You will come to love it, though, and you’ll soon be proud to refer to it as “home.”

You will birth two children in quick succession, and a third 10 years later. Apply the lessons learned from the first two in raising the third.

Your marriage will end, but not before your heart is broken into a million pieces. Use those scattered pieces to put your life back together. You will slowly become empowered and learn to seize opportunities that you thought were only dreams.

Challenges are placed before you to be met. There is nothing to keep you from attaining new goals. Be careful of the mindset that you “can’t” or you “don’t have the time” to take on new ventures. Make time, and you’ll come to find you can do many things … sometimes simultaneously.

Your parents will age with no warning. Call them often. Call them for no reason. You’ll have only memories of them in the blink of an eye.

Listen to your children. They are wise beyond their years, but they will still need your guidance more than you can imagine. Be a better listener than a talker, and with all you know, hear more than you are heard.

Drop everything sometimes for fun. Build a snowman. Sing and dance. Pack a picnic. Take a drive to watch the deer feed as the sun sets. Take time to marvel … and to allow your children to marvel.

Read to your children. Read to them so often when they’re young that they are quick to recognize when you attempt to skip a page or a few words to quicken the task.

Read yourself. Read fiction and nonfiction, biographies, mysteries and historical novels. You will be a better person for it, and you’ll better understand the world around you.

Don’t listen to cynics. It’s easy to become one.

You’ll learn to give your heart away again, and it will be everything that love should be.

Volunteer when you can. The blessing you receive is far greater than the task at hand.

Laugh often, so often that you can rarely say, “I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard.”

There is truth in the old saying, “Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside.” This will be tough for you, especially in the realm of technology, but you must move on.

Cherish friendships, especially childhood friendships. They will understand you better than anyone ever could.

Pray often, not for the material things in life, but for His will to be done. Recognize that when things don’t go as you asked, those are not unanswered prayers. Sometimes His will contradicts our wants, and often those “unanswered prayers” become our greatest gifts. That will perhaps be the most difficult concept to grasp.

Never take your health for granted. There will come a time when you will be faced with the reality that all is not well. It will be time once again to listen, this time to those who will advise the path to follow. And then it will be time to fight, to call upon your faith once again and to pray again that His will be done.


You wiser self, Noreen Hyslop