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My 19-Year Old Self

I sometimes wish that I could put a letter in a bottle and send it across the ocean of time to one of my younger Selves. On my 69th birthday, as I am looking back over the years, here is what I would have liked 19-year old Irene to have known.

1. Don’t give up. You ARE going to make it for at least another 50 years – and hopefully much longer.

2. Don’t worry. Despite what you are reading in your Abnormal Psychology textbook, you do NOT have schizophrenia or any of the other awful diseases described. Instead, you are highly sensitive and have an extremely vivid imagination.

3. Stop trying to straighten your hair. You won’t find love by hiding who you are. In just over 5 years on the South Coast of Crete, you are going to meet a man who will love your strength, intelligence, quirky personality, AND curly hair. When you first have a conversation with your future husband, you will be covered with hives and reeking of the vinegar that was poured over your body by a grinning tavern owner to stop the itching. The two of you will be blessed with two wonderful children – and just as wonderful grandchildren.

4. Your times of deep sadness about life, loss, and the problems of our world will not last forever. Just as a heavy fog can make it seem as if the sun has disappeared, so can deep sadness make it seem as if you will never be happy again. Just keep going. You will have countless times of great joy, fun, and laughter.

5. As impossible as it seems now, you ARE going to benefit from your mistakes, and you WILL overcome your shyness. You will NOT die of embarrassment, frustration, or fright. You WILL learn and grow. Some of your struggles will turn into a safety curriculum that will be used worldwide and lead to an international community of intelligent, strong, loving people who care just as much as you do.

Imagine all THAT!


AND, the biggest birthday present you can give me is to teach one – or more – Kidpower skills to someone you love!


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Published: April 26, 2017   |   Last Updated: April 26, 2017

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.