Dear Kelsey

Dear Kelsey,

You think too much. No really, you do.

For years, that thinking paid off in big ways. You got the best grades, earned a spot in the Ivy League and charted a course for yourself from dreams to reality.

There’s no reason for you to regret all those thoughts. Today, sitting at my (our?) desk, I practically glowed with excitement about what I’ve accomplished. Things are coming together. You have people who love you. Friends who support you. And a little voice in your head that has never stopped saying: You can do this and more.

But this letter is about how the constant whirring of thoughts will hurt you sometimes, how you’ll miss the magic of now if you’re lost in tomorrow, next week, next year.

I guess it’s not even magic all the time. Sometimes it’s just now, and it’s screaming out for you to pay attention.

I’m crying as I write this, because I realize how hard this advice is to take. You can’t quit overthinking cold turkey. You can only try, fail and then try again to face new situations without immediately assessing what could go wrong and when.

The core part of this advice is to trust your instincts. You’re one of the most self-reflective people I know, but be kinder in this process. Believe that your gut is on your side, and don’t let your overactive mind get more than its fair share of input.

Often, an idea will pop into your head and, before you follow through with it, you’ll look around, like you’re asking permission. It comes from years of grade-A overachieving, during which you knew exactly how to figure out what a teacher, adviser or other authority figure wanted and deliver it to them.

Out in the real world (*gulp*) the only opinion the really, truly matters is your own. And to listen to it, you have to quiet down the dozens of other voices surging through your thoughts.

The other night, “American Pie” came on the radio, and I screamed along to the familiar lyrics, just like I had at 20, at 15, at 10. For the first time in a long time, I felt a surge of connection to those earlier versions of me, and I smiled about the ways I’ve continued to be them and improved on them.

My point is that you’re doing a good job, even when you’re busy worrying about whether you’re doing a good job. You love deeply. You work hard. You care so much.

I want you to be proud of yourself for now and for always.

Remember: You can do this and more.