This thing will happen on Sunday that I had no idea I had any feelings about until last night.
When I was sixteen I had some pretty delusional ideas about what thirty would mean, namely being and feeling old. And I had no idea what it would look like in my life. I had hopes about my future, and always knew I wanted a family, but back then that felt like a lifetime away. Five years ago I had a new boyfriend and dreams about our life together started to take shape. Even still, thirty loomed out so far in the future to me that it never occurred to me to think about what I would feel emotionally when I hit such a milestone. So I started thinking about my sixteen-year-old self.
And I wrote myself a letter.
This is your older much wiser self. Right now I will be thirty in four short days. Thirty. With all that is ahead of you, you need some pointers. Mostly you will figure things out all on your own, because as we know, you’ve been saying “I can do it MYSELF!” since you were two. You will still be proud of that when you’re me. Don’t change that.
Take it easy. Even though I’m you, I bet you will not listen to me here. Regardless, listen. Your first love really is something like magic. Everything is magnified when you feel it for the first time, and it is something real. Even though Mom and Dad got married when they were nineteen, you won’t. And that is a really, really good thing. Don’t be so serious. Put your friends first, the ones who let you know their hearts, the ones you know who need you. Don’t define your worth based on what a boy says or does or thinks of you. One of the best boys you’ll ever meet is your brother. When you tell him you’ll be there, show up. Be loyal and be happy. Most importantly, have faith that the love that God intended for your heart to feel in this life will wash over you in waves for years to come and it will enrich your soul in a way that you would never believe. There are many decisions you will make in the next few years, and all of them will lead you this seat I’m sitting in now. Even when you feel like it isn’t, it IS going to be ok. Be content that there is a plan. And he has the most beautiful blue eyes you’ll ever see. Believe that.
I have a handful of friends stretched out across the country that I would do anything for. You’ve only met two of them. Be friend-LY with everyone, but it’s ok if you’re not friends with everyone. I know you want to be included and have a place to belong. Make your own space and be confident in who you are and all you have to offer. Look around at the people who truly love you and be confident in the things they see and love about you. Your lifelong friends are out there, and you’ll find them. Seek depth and goodness and those who are creative and passionate like you, but learn from those who are different from you. Stay open and honest and be real. Be humble when you’ve made a mistake and try to make it right. You’re going to hurt people, but always just try to make it right. You will be hateful. You will humiliate yourself, and be humiliated by others, and make choices of which you will be ashamed. You are going to be alright. You and I are still very much the same, I just have the proof it’s all worth it. There will be drama, and a little of that is ok, it keeps things interesting. And makes for some great stories. Just bring it down a notch. And let friends go if they keep perpetuating nonsense. Get your facts straight before you blow a gasket. Just remember: two sides. Two sides to every story. One day in the future for you, not too long ago for me, your ability to see both sides will literally help save a friend’s marriage. Stay strong in your convictions, but allow yourself to grow and change your mind. Don’t stay staunch and hardnosed on things. You’ll develop your own code of conduct and what you’re willing to accept. You will see things in this world and they will break you. And your opinion on some things will change. Choose wisely who you pull close to your side to do life with.
Pay attention when you drive that car. Poor thing needs a break. Oh, no car yet? It’s coming. It’s not a Cougar.
Do not work at that bank full time the summer after your Senior year. Fight long and hard on that one. That one is worth the fight. Get that lifeguard certification you always wanted and stand up for yourself. Hard.
Wear sunscreen, not baby oil. And stay out of that damn tanning bed. You are going to feel ridiculous when you look back at how tan you were. And even more so now, as I stare at those crows’ feet creeping in around my eyes. Wear a hat, don’t get sunburned. Healthy glow in the summer and you’re good.
Do not work at Captain Video. Some things you cannot unsee. Just don’t do it.
You will know where you are supposed to go to college. Hint* it’s not Rhodes or Vanderbilt. This decision is pivotal. Listen to your heart. It’s leading you the right direction.
Stop recycling boys. There’s a reason it didn’t work out the first time.
Stay away from the crazy. It’s contagious.
There is a moment in the middle of the night a few years from now when you can barely control your tears and are repeating to yourself, “why can’t I leave, why can’t I leave?” You are standing by your car. You have your keys. Leave.
Don’t get the cat.
Go to Memphis with Katie and Erin.
Go to Columbus with Katie and Erin.
Go to Chicago and Mexico and on a cruise.
Get out of your bed after you’re already in your pajamas to meet your friends for drinks.
Go to the cliffs and jump in darkness. Be careful climbing back up. And don’t think about snakes.
Be scandalous and daring and bold. Be you.
Walk around your college campus very slowly on the day you pick up your cap and gown and look around. This place will shape you, and will shape your life. Honor it.
Laugh it up and be able to make fun of yourself. Some people don’t get you. That’s alright. You’re a little awkward. But the people who count think you’re really funny.
One day a man will get you, and he will get on his knee and ask you to be his wife. He will tell you that you are a dying breed, that he’s never known anyone like you, and your heart’s searching will all be worth it. He is all you’ve ever wanted and more.
On your wedding day it will snow a little…
Take heart sweet girl, your life is both completely normal and exceptionally special. And without giving too much away, your future is blessed in a way you cannot yet comprehend. Twice.
I am turning thirty. Thirty looks good.