Trisha Yearwood, Singer and Songwriter
Raised in Monticello, Georgia, a town so tiny it didn't even have a movie theater, Trisha Yearwood did the highly improbable: She carved out a phenomenal singing career. Her first, self-titled album went double platinum in 1992, and a single from it reached number one on the charts. She has since cut nine more albums and won three Grammy Awards. Now divorced and married to singer Garth Brooks, Yearwood writes to herself in her early 20s.
I've got something to say to you, and I hope you will listen with an open heart. Don't be so worried about what everybody else thinks of you, and don't think your happiness depends on someone else. I want you to just trust yourself. Trust that if you take care of yourself on the inside, follow your instincts, and let yourself evolve naturally, your potential for happiness will be so much greater.
You probably don't think you need to hear this. Mama and Daddy brought you up to be independent, intelligent, and educated. And you are. I'm proud of the way you've stuck with your music, even though the odds were against you.
But there's another part of you that's less independent. You're hearing everyone ask "When are you going to get married?" The friends who didn't tie the knot right out of high school are doing it now, after college. Somewhere inside you, you think that's the way it's supposed to be.
There are going to be times when your gut instinct is telling you something isn't right, and you're going to go ahead with it anyway. If you keep that up, I know exactly what's going to happen: In about a year, you'll be standing in the back of a church with Daddy, getting ready to walk down the aisle. Daddy's going to say, jokingly, "We can duck out the back door if you want to." You won't dare tell him that's what you want to do. Everybody will be sitting there, everything will have been paid for, and there will be a ton of cake to eat. You'll be afraid of the embarrassment of calling it off. And so you'll get married—for all the wrong reasons—to a wonderful guy.
There's another way of living, and it has brought me a sense of peace that I want you to have. Know that God has a plan for your life. Turn your life over to him every day. Stop looking outside yourself for validation and approval—you're letting other people define your happiness. Instead of trying so hard to manipulate life, take care of yourself on the inside. Then all those other attributes you're so desperately seeking will find you naturally.
Your 37-year-old future self
Next: New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast on health and happiness