Before I Forget

A letter to my 20-year-old self

I would assure ‘me’ that hearts don’t break…. that there is a huge difference between loneliness and solitude

The author’s 11th great grandchild Odri Lopez during the author’s book launch

The author with five of her great grandchildren

Written in 2017, this is included in the author’s recently launched book, My Chair Rocks,  a compilation of essays/columns written over the years, and available in

In a recent gathering, a sweet young couple came up to talk to me about my column. It feels good to be appreciated and to know that my weekly ramblings serve a purpose, if only to amuse someone on a quiet Sunday morning.

They suggested future topics. Some were funny, others controversial. This one caught my attention: “If you were writing a letter to your 20-year-old self, what would you say?”

It made me wonder. In the twilight of my life, what can I tell someone just starting to live hers?

Words of wisdom? Advice? A warning perhaps? Would it come from a defeated heart or from an older and wiser warrior?

At age 20 I was a wife and a mother. Surely I needed to hear many things. But would I have listened?

How can anyone tell a girl just past her teens and with stars in her eyes that most dreams don’t come true; that a shining armor tarnishes with time, that castles dissolve in the air, and that “happily ever after” is just for fairy tales?

While I was learning how not to poke my baby as I changed his diapers, I was a junior in college, tripping on Shakespeare and worried about midterms.

If I knew then what I know now!

If I knew then what I know now!

I allow my thoughts to wander to a time 20 years later. I am 40 and the mother of six.  How’s that for a “fast forward”?

Life has changed. Dramatically. I live in San Francisco.

I get off a Greyhound on my way to work and I pass a cafeteria. I see an elderly woman eating alone. I think it is a picture of loneliness. And it frightens me.

What would my letter say about this?

Today I would tell the young “me”, that growing old is not to be feared; that it is a privilege, that getting on in years will yet prove to be the most rewarding and healing time of my life, and with still much to learn.

I would assure “me” that hearts don’t break, that being alone is not the end of the world; that there is a huge difference between loneliness and solitude.

But at that age, no one wants somebody else’s stories.

Today, many decades later, I would tell “me” that when my hair has turned grey and laugh lines and age marks become permanently etched on my face, and when my footsteps have become slow and unsure, to take a deep breath and pause, and hold my loved ones close to my heart and give thanks.

And it would remind me to treasure all the beautiful memories because they will keep me safe and warm in the deep and cold winter of my life.

About author


She was once a journalist with Manila Chronicle, a book author. She is a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother whose wisdom and graceful writing style many readers continue to enjoy.

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