If there’s anyone who has learned firsthand how to endure hard times, overcome obstacles and turn it all around into incredible success, it’s Jane Fonda. The iconic entertainer, who stars in the queer-themed series Grace and Frankie and received a Golden Globe nomination last week for her supporting turn in the film Youth, participated in CBS News’ Emmy-nominated series, Note to Self and composed a letter to the young Jane Fonda that reveals all the adversity she would face (her mother’s suicide, feeling unloved, the enduring controversy over her visit to Vietnam) and some interesting glimpses into her psyche (she once wished to be a Native American boy living in the wilderness). It’s an important message that all of the challenges we face help shape who we become and serve to make us stronger.
Read her full letter below.
What you don’t realize now is that your life will be life a big circle, passing through many dark periods when you will see no future for yourself, when you won’t know who you are and you won’t feel anyone could ever love you.
Right now, you want to be a boy, preferably a Native American boy, living in the wilderness and passing through it silently, invisibly, with stealth.
You will be sexually molested at seven, just as your mother was as a child. When you are 12, your mother will commit suicide and the bravery and spunk of your earlier years will seem to fall by the wayside. You’ll come to feel that you have to be perfect if you want to be loved — meaning thin and pretty and appealing and certainly not angry. You’ll have to be a “good girl” to be loved. Living in-authentically like this will lead you to various addictions that will dominate much of your life and energy.
Your parents are both self-involved, so you will grow up not really knowing what love feels like. What will come to pass is that, through a lot of hard work you will realize that your parents did the best they could. You will learn to remember them with compassion and love and forgiveness and become your own person.
I wish I could explain to you that the painful things that will make your life challenging and get you in trouble are the things that will ultimately make you strong and compassionate.
Your biggest strength will be that you won’t shut down and become cynical. You will become an activist. You will discover that doing this will give your life a meaning you don’t think is possible right now. It will be the rent you pay for life.
You are a late bloomer, so it won’t happen quickly, but your ability to be honest with yourself, your desire to make sense of it all, to learn from your mistakes, will permit you to blossom into life. A woman with courage, imagination and resilience.
As I read this, I am about to turn 78. And though I know you’ll find this impossible to believe, this is the happiest I have ever been. It was all worth it, the good and the bad.
So don’t give up. I’m proud of you because you will never settle for less than you think you can attain.
Watch Fonda, still stunning at nearly 78, read her letter below.