An Open Letter To My 40-Year-Old Self

“Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and twice as beautiful as you’ve ever imagined.” – Dr. Seuss

Dear 40-year-old Di,

I know things feel shit right now. And let me tell you, you’re in for one helluva ride. The next 20 years are going to bring heartache, loss and some seriously tough times, but on the other side is a bigger, bolder, braver life than you ever imagined.

I’ve got a few things I want to tell you.

Firstly, stop listening to the school tuckshop mums when they tell you mountain climbing is dangerous, and you could die. They mean well, but you’ve got no time to waste worrying about their pointed questions and judgemental looks. By 2021, where I’m writing from, questions like “who’s looking after the kids?” will become politically incorrect anyway, so you’ll be the one laughing. You already know your mental health and wellbeing is deeply connected to your adventure dreams – listen to that voice. It’s guiding you in the right direction.

Secondly – and I know it’s hard – but you really need to ignore your kids when they say stupid things like ‘I hate you’. They don’t hate you… they’re being teenagers who are innocently testing your love to see how you react. Trust that your kids will listen when they’re ready for your wisdom. They might not listen to what you say, but they’re paying attention to what you do.

And they might just apologise for those teenage outbursts, too!

This little man is now a grown up and he’s one of the best people you’ve ever known.

Di, you will have success in your little hiking business that everyone thinks is a bit weird. There will be times when you are so close to giving up, but you will persevere. When your good friend and mentor tells you there’s no way you can support your three kids on a volunteer wage, you’ll politely thank him, then push on with your mission. And it will all pay off.

Yep… you’ll call yourself ‘Chief Adventure Chick’ and you’ll run hiking events all over the country. Your team will inspire thousands of women to get out in nature and move their bodies. You’ll have fab offices and an amazing team, and your community will raise nearly $40 million for charity with Coastrek. You’ll even receive an OAM for your work for women’s health. I know you won’t believe me right now, but it’s true.

Never, never, never give up.

Yep, you’ll get an OAM. I know, I still can’t believe it! 

Di, I’m sorry to say you’ll lose some friends along the way. But you’re about to be so bloody busy there’s no time for long lunches and ladies’ lounges. You no longer have anything in common with some of your ‘Mum friends’ and it’s okay to let them go. In your fifties you’ll learn that your deepest relationships are with people who share your core values. You’ll build new and beautiful friendships and rekindle old ones… most often with kindred spirits who share your love of adventures in the wild.

You’re also about to fall truly, madly, and deeply in love. It will make you giddy and crazy and for a moment you’ll remember what happiness feels like. Then you will throw it all away because you don’t have the wisdom to hold onto what’s good for you and you’ve lost the ability to trust. This will be one of the hardest lessons you’ll learn, but darling Di, you’ll get through it.

You’ll eventually learn to embrace feedback as fertiliser for growth and start to crave honest opinions. Your learned childhood defensiveness at the hands of family criticism will slowly and gradually diminish as you realise most people aren’t picking on you. They don’t dislike you. And they won’t hate you when you disagree.

In fact, most people don’t care less what you think.

Didi, you will learn that your big sister was right when she said: “Tough times pass.” These words will fill you with hope in the dark days when you feel alone and lost. You will experience this when you’re lost in a blizzard on Mt Aconcagua, when you’re gasping for air on Mt Ama Dablam and when your children stumble, falter and fall.

Does this look fun? It wasn’t. But it taught you a lot. 

Tough times do pass, both in life and in the wild. Always.

Di, right now you think that by 60, your life will practically be over. But it’s not. You have no intention of slowing down in your sixties because you love your life and the sense of purpose you get from your work. Your kids are flourishing, and they finally want to come on adventures with you. And… you actually like them now, too!

At 60 you’ve got some hard-earned wrinkles, saggy skin and the odd grey pubic hair, but you’ve also got three fabulous grown-up kids who adore you, a home you cherish, a job you love, a body that can still cartwheel and climb vertical cliffs and the wisdom to follow your dreams.

Oh and that man you loved and lost? You’ve found him again.

Di, at 60, you have everything you dreamed of and more. You’ve got this.

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