Advice to a Ten-Year-Old

When he asked me what I would say to my ten-year-old self, I was taken aback for a moment. Not only did I not have an immediate answer, I also felt it was too personal to talk about.

It was a strange reaction because the person who had posed the question was my husband. We had finished dinner and were still sitting at table, under the shelter of a small tree. We had too little of this quiet, intimate time together, time to spend in the intimate sort of conversation that only true intimates can have. And here I was, unable and unwilling to say anything.

I know I must have disappointed him when I said, “I don’t know. I’d have to think about it.” It was true enough, but it wasn’t the complete truth. I didn’t tell him that the question seemed to pierce some very private place in me that I was not yet ready to visit.

But the question stalked me for a couple of months and I found myself wondering what I would say to my ten-year-old self.

She was in the throws of change at ten. She had just moved from the only place she had ever really known, thus far, in her young life. That it was the only place she’d known does not mean that it knew her. She couldn’t have voiced it then, but if she could have, she probably would have said that she was not at all certain that any place could know her.

Her body was changing, too. She was getting taller–an odd experience for one who had always been among the smallest in her age group. Her body was also changing in other ways. Hair was sprouting where it had never been and little nubs of breasts were appearing on her chest. She was a bit gangly and awkward. She rode her bicycle around and around the area of a few blocks that summer, in the new town, in the new neighborhood–where she knew no one.

So what would I, a sixty-year-old woman, tell that girl of ten? What would fifty years have done to inform me in a way that would be remotely understandable to, let alone useful to, that girl? I was sitting on the deck of a client friend’s mountain home, early on a Saturday morning, when I asked myself those questions. I had been invited for the weekend and I was sharing that weekend with my client friend, her brother, and another woman, also a client friend. It was glorious to have a weekend to relax in the mountains. Lake Granby was within view, the air was crisp, and my guard against whatever it was that had stopped me cold on the question was down.

But now I was curious. It wasn’t just the advice I might give to my ten-year-old self that interested me, I wanted to know what the others with whom I was sharing this cabin would say to their ten-year-old selves.

Tim was the only one up as early as me, so I wandered indoors and posed the question. I wasn’t at all sure he would be willing to answer it. After all, he might find it as personal as I had or be as stumped for an answer as I had initially been. He wasn’t, on either account. Debbie joined us when we were thick in conversation. Then our host, Peggy, ambled down from her bedroom and joined in.

Here is what my three companions told me they would tell their ten-year-old selves. I won’t attribute any one comment to any one of them, just to keep it interesting and give them a bit of privacy:

  • Stay yourself.
  • Don’t compare yourself with everyone else.
  • Don’t try to figure it all out now.
  • The priests, the teachers, and the ones in charge are not always right. But keep it to yourself until you can do something about it.
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • You’re amazing! You’re going to be and do so many things that are going to leave an imprint.
  • You have no idea how much potential you have, but you’ll figure it out.
  • Everything is going to be okay.

This last one pretty much says it all for me. But I might add a few of my own:

  • You won’t know it for some time, but this move you’ve just made–the one you didn’t want to make, the one you fought–is actually a turning point that will change the direction of your life for the better.
  • You can be known by places, but you must open yourself to them and let yourself be known.
  • This small corner of your life is a wonderful start, but your life can and will be so much bigger. Take a deep breath and take a running jump right off that cliff. Keep doing it. Live life without a net. You’ll know what that means in a few years, but begin to think about it now.
  •  Yes, you did choose your parents and in a few years, you are going to see what a great choice it was. For now, know that angels are watching over you and that you are being guided. Pay attention. Be open to the guidance.
  • By the way, everyone else has angels watching over them, too, and everyone else is also being guided. Curiously, many people don’t know that.

Well, now that I’ve gotten started, I can see that I could keep going. But I won’t. I’d like to know what advice you would give your ten-year-old self.


Copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall

6 Responses to “Advice to a Ten-Year-Old”

  1. Margaret Pevec Says:

    I would have told my 10-year-old to beware of putting all her attention on boys when she got a few years older. That because her daddy died when she was a baby, she would have a tendency to try to find a replacement daddy, even with the most unlikely people. I would have told her, “You’re really smart and you should work hard in school and go to college.”

    But, she wouldn’t have listened.


  2. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    Great advive! For the most part, women in my age group were not encouraged to go to college as they are today. It was not a given. Instead, we were encouraged to get married and have babies, so the attention on boys was big. Thank goodness I was an independent soul, even back then. I might have made a few mistakes with men, but I not only finished college, I finished graduate school. My sixty-year-old self thinks your advice to the ten-year-old girls of my time would have been very sound.

    Thanks for the comment.



  3. Cindy Morris Says:

    Ah, the ten-year-old. I shudder to think of those days. I would tell my ten-year-old: “This is not all there is. You are more than what your family thinks of you. There is abundant LOVE waiting for you. Always follow your heart to those who are kind and loving. Not everyone is mentally ill. Not everyone is an addict. There are people in the world who are neither depressed nor hysterical. Go in search of them.”

    It has taken me over 40 years to be ok not associating intimately with people who are mentally ill or addictive types. Who knew I could be free of other people’s madness, that, in fact, it’s not me who is mad, they are?

    Deep sigh of relief, at last.

    Cindy Morris, msw
    Priestess Entrepreneur


  4. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    Great advice! There is much more out there for us than we could have imagined at ten.

    As for our families and what they think of us, it is curious that our families are often the last ones to really see us and it is often our families who don’t read our books (articles, stories, blogs) and who seem to underestimate our wisdom and talents. Of course, our families also help us remember just how human we are, so there is some benefit in that, but it is important, I think, to acknowledge that many of us are more than our families think or say we are.

    That part of your advice that speaks to addiction, hysteria, depression, and overall neurosis is, I suspect, relatable to many readers of this blog. Perhaps not everyone grew up in a dysfunctional family, but enough of us did that others will be nodding in agreement.

    Thanks for your thought provoking comments.



  5. Andrea Meyer Says:

    Much of your good advice to a ten-year-old applies well beyond age ten, I have to say!


  6. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    You are so right! One of the things that might make it interesting to contemplate the advice we would give ourselves as ten year olds is the thought that we might have saved ourselves a good deal of grief if we had just known those things. But, on the other hand, the moment we understand, we save ourselves some grief from that moment on, so whatever day we learn these things is a good day.

    Thanks for your comment.



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