Dear 20 year old Marla,
You’ve finished at Ricks, you’re getting ready to head to the big BYU. Everything incredible in life is ahead of you. From the person that loves you the most, here is some advice to get you through the next few decades.
1. You are amazing. You offer the world a different view, and you are unique. If people don’t like you or agree with you, it’s OK! You’ll learn to get along with most kinds of people and draw close to those people that love you the most, just the way you are.
2. Don’t let that amazing voice be stamped out. BYU is a different pond; people are more conservative than you’re used to and you’ll be fronted by prejudice and sexism in many ways. Some female professors will be the worst at it! Keep speaking up, even when no one seems to agree with you. Then search out role models that can give you advice on life: they’re in the female counselors you work with, in boys you take English classes with, in your roommates, and the people in your Women’s Studies classes. Listen to everyone’s voice, then use what feels right to you.
3. Work hard. Don’t be afraid of science or math. What you don’t understand can be remedied with hard work. This is the time in your life when you can disappear into yourself and focus on preparing yourself for adulthood: don’t be afraid to withdraw. Work as hard as necessary to achieve what you want.
4. Support yourself first. In the old lifeboat analogy, make sure you can support yourself before you take on anyone else. Give yourself the best education possible and the best career you can before you take anyone else into your boat. Keep your separate financial, health, and retirement savings. One day you will be so glad you did.
5. Go on that mission. It’s not the best place for a feminist, but you’ll be exposed to so many things that will help you grow. You’ll go to a developing country, and that experience alone will shape your life.
6. Get ready to feel pain. I wish I could tell you not to marry your first husband (yes, first), but I know you’ll be swept up in something that feels so amazing, you won’t know which way is up. Just know that when that marriage ends, (horribly I tell you, HORRIBLY, THE WORST), you’ll be OK. Even though you will be incredibly devastated, that crash will send you off into new adventures and people and yes, even love, that you couldn’t even imagine. Every failure will be a new springboard that will send you somewhere new. Every pain you go through will make you into a better person, will create more empathy for others, and will give you a larger understanding of humanity.
7. Don’t worry. Let worry push you far enough to do your part, then sit back and let the universe sort it out. This applies to money, to the church, to everything. In the end, you have so little control, don’t let that rob you of enjoying the great life ahead of you.
8. Take every adventure. When you want to go on Study Abroad, don’t worry about how you’re already paying for school yourself. Sell your eggs, take a second job: do whatever you can to travel and see new things. There will never be an easier time. Take every trip offered to you, camping trips, trips to anywhere. Have as much fun as you can. Take a summer off from school and devote it just to having fun. These adventures will help you know yourself and live without regret later in life.
9. Don’t be a lazy feminist. The world seems amazing right now. Bill Clinton is in office and it seems like feminism has won the world forever. But there’s always someone waiting in the wings to take away hard-fought rights. Keep speaking up and keep talking to people about what you know to be true. Just one person speaking up can make a lot of change. Being a woman is an awesome and amazing gift; be sure the way is open for everyone.
10. Take care of yourself. Keep cozying up to good books (hard to believe it, but someday Jane Austen will be popular,) and keep your heart open and happy. Life is good and wonderful. When it overwhelms you, take a hike in some pine trees and renew yourself. The answers will find you.
Almost 40 year old Marla
Marla is a student, reader, and accomplisher in Boise, Idaho. She only wants simple things, like all the feminists joining hands and crushing the patriarchy together. She can’t wait for the time when people think wearing stretchy pants and being grumpy are adorable traits.