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A Letter to My Younger Self: Here Are 37 Life Lessons from Your 37-Year-Old Version

a letter to my younger self

Taj Mahal, India

April 22. Mama said I was born in the afternoon at home with the help of Nang Lodi, the midwife in Tuburan. There are so many things going on in my life right now. I’m gloriously 37. With that age comes a bit of life experiences that I wish the younger Jona learned. Here are 37 life lessons I wish someone told the younger Jona.

Here they are.

Learn to say no

In a culture that grooms us to either keep quiet or blindly accept everything, saying no is an essential skill to have as a young woman. It allows you to set boundaries and prioritize your needs and wants. Don’t be afraid to say no to things that don’t align with your values or goals. It’s okay to put yourself first.

budget hotels in singapore
Tioh Bahru, Singapore

Quality over quantity

Be selective with the people who have access to you: As you grow older, you realize that having a few close and genuine friends is better than having many shallow friendships. Surround yourself with people who support and uplift you. Don’t waste your time on toxic or draining relationships.

Learn as many life skills as you can

Life skills such as cooking, budgeting, and time management are essential for a successful and independent life. Learn as many as possible and don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance.

Be kind but know when to say the truth

Being kind is important, but sometimes the truth needs to be said. Learn how to communicate honestly and respectfully, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Be unapologetic with your truths, loudness, and laughter

Don’t let society’s expectations or norms silence you. Embrace your authentic self, speak your truth, laugh loudly, and take up space unapologetically.

Keep on reading and writing

Reading and writing are great ways to expand your knowledge, creativity, and self-expression. Make them a habit in your daily life.

Keep on learning

Learning should never stop. Whether it’s formal education or self-learning, always strive to expand your knowledge and skills.

Cooking is a life skill, not a gender role

So do it. It’s not just for women, but for everyone. Don’t let gender roles dictate who should do the cooking. Learn to cook for yourself and your loved ones. It will become one of your chosen love languages.

Taiping, Malaysia

Cut ties with people who are never there for you

Don’t waste your time and energy on people who don’t reciprocate your efforts. Surround yourself with people who show up for you and support you.

No credit cards

Credit cards can be tempting, but they can also lead to debt and financial struggles. Learn to budget and live within your means.

to my younger self
OLD BAGAN, MYANMAR. Taking a selfie by an isolated temple near a river.

Invest in sexy intimates

They make you feel good. Investing in quality intimates can make you feel confident and empowered. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself to something that makes you feel good. Like a good massage. Or a pair of sexy intimates.

Call out casual sexism, homophobia, and misogyny

Don’t stay silent when you witness or experience discrimination. Speak up and call out these harmful behaviors.


Saving money is vital for your financial stability, independence, and future. Make it a habit to save regularly, even if it’s just a small amount.


Traveling is a great way to learn about different cultures and perspectives. It also allows you to step out of your comfort zone and create new experiences. You will realize no matter how wounded and cynical many have become, the world is still filled with tiny moments of kindness.

Travel solo

Never give it up even though you’re in a committed relationship. Traveling solo can be a life-changing experience. It allows you to discover yourself and create new memories. It will make you realize how adaptive, empowered, and capable you are.

Have conversations with your traumas

Acknowledge and address your traumas. Seek help if needed and don’t be afraid to have honest conversations with yourself and others. Healing from them will take time, but the earlier you start the better. Don’t dismiss them as midnight thoughts or personal quirks when in fact you are not healed from the many childhood traumas you experienced.

Seeking help is not a sign of weakness

Do it. Don’t be fooled by your so-called hyper independence. It’s nothing but trauma response.

Getting married has no timeline

And you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. Don’t let societal expectations pressure you into getting married at a certain age or time. Marriage is a personal choice, and again, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.

Fall in love with your solitude

Being alone is not a bad thing. Being alone is not the same with being lonely. Learn to enjoy your own company and embrace solitude. It allows you to reflect, recharge, and connect with yourself. When you do so, so many things on this list become easier. #1 and #20 for two.

Never compromise your non-negotiables

Especially when it comes to choosing your partner. Don’t settle for less than what you deserve and what aligns with your values and goals. It took you two serious relationships and considerable number of flings to realize that you don’t have to compromise any of your non-negotiables. Just stick to your feminist values, be clear and honest about them, never compromise them, and if he arrives, he arrives. If he doesn’t exist, singlehood is beautiful too. He has to be someone who shows up domestically, emotionally, mentally, financially (for himself), and sexually. And of course, someone who loves traveling and is okay with you traveling alone once in a while.

Have at least two sources of income

Having multiple sources provides financial stability and flexibility. Explore different income streams, and don’t rely on just one source.

If ever you get married, do not lose your identity

Marriage should not define who you are as a person. Continue to pursue your passions and maintain your individuality even in a committed relationship. Find a partner who enables your independence and individuality. If he exists, making him stay is not your job. It’s his choice. You’re not his shadow, you’re his partner. His equal.

A portrait of an island girl overlooking Pokonji Dol Beach
Hvar, Croatia

Be financially independent

Financial independence gives you freedom and control over your life. Learn to manage your finances, and don’t rely on anyone else to provide for you. Why? Just in case, you decide to get married, and later on in life, you realize, the partnership doesn’t suit your values in life anymore, it would be easier to get out of it. Yes, when you are financially independent.


Investing in your future is crucial for financial stability and growth. Seek advice and learn about different investment options. Invest your time, your energy to something, to people who deserve it.

Never forget your roots

Don’t be ashamed of where you come from. Embrace your heritage and cultural background. Yes, you grew up in the boondocks, yes, you grew up in a farm, yes, you grew up in a community that didn’t have a library, functioning roads, light, and water system. But on top of these systemic injustices, you got a family, who, for generations, understands the mountains and the seas like the back of their hand. This generational wealth of knowledge is only made possible because you are born through this family

Imposter syndrome is real

You will always question your worth as a poet, as a writer, as a woman, as a human. Know that you are not alone and learn to recognize and combat imposter syndrome. It’s okay to doubt yourself, but don’t let it cripple you. Just keep going. Submit those effing poems.

letter to my younger self
SIQUIJOR, PHILIPPINES. Always date the self.

If ever you become a mother, I do hope it is a conscious choice

Motherhood is beautiful, but it will take a lot from you. But never let it define you. Never make it become your sole identity. And you don’t have to be a mother if you don’t want to. It doesn’t make you less of a woman. Being childless does not make you less of a woman. And please, work on your traumas before you become a trauma source yourself.

Take care of your mental health

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Seek help when needed and prioritize self-care and mental wellness.

Learn to advocate for yourself

Speak up for yourself and your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and deserve.

Embrace your sexuality

Your sexuality is a natural and important part of who you are. Embrace it and explore it on your own terms.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Focus on your own journey and celebrate your own achievements.

Be comfortable with being uncomfortable

Growth and change often require stepping outside of your comfort zone. Embrace discomfort as an opportunity for growth.

Take risks

Life is too short to play it safe all the time. Take calculated risks, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Move somewhere else.

Practice gratitude

Gratitude can improve your overall well-being and perspective on life. Take time to reflect on what you’re grateful for each day.

Your body is yours to love and care for

Your body is unique and beautiful, and it’s up to you to take care of it. Treat it with love and respect, and prioritize your physical health.

Stand up for what you believe in

Use your voice and platform to stand up for issues that matter to you. Advocate for social justice and be an ally to marginalized communities.

You are enough

You are worthy and deserving of love, respect, and success. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Believe in yourself and your abilities.

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Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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