"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Friday, April 22, 2011

To My 16 Year Old Self...

So my friend Jessica, of Bohemian Bowmans, asked:

What would you say to your 16 year old self?

And I gotta admit, my first knee-jerk reaction was,  do I really want to pull on that thread?  The question would better read, "What WOULDN'T I say to my 16 year old self?"  I mean, there's a reason for the expression,  "Hindsight is 20/20."  And really, what 30-something wouldn't have a mouthful of wisdom for her wide-eyed, wet behind the ears, barely out of a training bra younger self? 

But then I thought, You know what?  It's been awhile since I thought about her.  And I probably remember that age with more clarity than any of the rest of my high school years. 

The driver's license.  The first car.

The part-time job.

The drama.

The boys.  Oh, the boys...

It was a crazy time.  A tumultuous time.  But a good time all the same.  Still, I wouldn't go back in time to that age for all the money in the world.  I'll take 37 over 16 any day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

...but I've digressed...

So without further preambling, I give you my letter to my former self:

Dear person who kind of looks like me but otherwise bears little resemblance to the person I will become,

First, for the love of all that is good and holy, LIGHTEN UP.  Stop taking yourself  so seriously.   Laugh more.  Play more.  Take more risks.  Quit being so afraid of what people will think  what people will say   making a fool of yourself   making mistakes  LIVING.   Life is funny.   It's messy.  It's unpredictable.  It's bumpy.  And it's wonderful!!!  

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Please don't waste perfectly good energy trying to live your life to please other people, because 1.  You never will, and 2.  You'll make yourself miserable in the process.  Believe it or not, in 20 years you will have created an entire lifestyle around NOT following the crowd, and it will make you insanely and blissfully happy.

Expand your taste in music.  There are other bands besides Chicago, Journey, and REO Speedwagon.  You will eventually realize this, but you will save your future husband hours of torture if you realize it sooner.

Keep writing!

The only few times you will break out of your "good girl, must-please-everyone" mold and try to do something even remotely sneaky and rebellious.... you will get caught and get in trouble.  Don't bother.  Except.... yeah, it'll be worth it.  Do it anyway.  You'll look back and laugh.

And speaking of laughing, you know how people say, "When you look back on this, you'll laugh?"  In most cases, you really will.  So don't wait.  Laugh about it now.

Stop putting your books and your wallet and your bags on top of your car.  You'll waste a lot of time chasing them down in parking lots, main streets, and fire ponds.  And while we're on the subject of cars:  get a hide-a-key.  Or stop leaving the dang keys in the ignition when you lock it.  Either one.  Get gas when the gauge says E.  Don't speed around corners in front of cops.  Don't talk back to them either.  Don't drive so close to the mailbox (or the rock wall, or the garage door, or the car in front of you)

Don't take advanced math.   It will cause you huge amounts of grief, and you will not need it, no matter how many people tell you otherwise.

Your parents love you.  And they're human, and they make mistakes.  

I'm sorry to tell you that you're soon going to have your heart broken one more time by another loser person of questionable moral character. He will be charming and lovely and conniving and abusive. He will cheat on you. It will be a good lesson in irony though, because he will be the "good, Christian boy" that you meet at a church function. Everyone will approve of him, and no one will believe you when you try to show them his true colors. But take heart, because you will meet your future husband in one year, when you least expect it. You will know immediately that he is "the one."

Don't do track just because your friends are doing it.  You're not a runner, you're too clumsy for field events, and you will give yourself life-long shin splints from the triple jump.

You know nothing.  You'll still know nothing when you're 37, but you'll KNOW you know nothing.  You'll love learning, you'll crave knowledge, and you'll passionately dive into a million and one  pursuits.  Not because you have to, not because it's the right thing to do, but because you WANT TO.

Wear your retainer.  

You were given a working, thinking brain for a reason.  You can spare yourself a long, painful, and frustrating process of "finding yourself" if you let yourself be you NOW.  If you let yourself have opinions NOW.  Find out who you are, and try not to be afraid of it.

Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions.

Do be afraid of falling off the ski lift.

Remember what it feels like to be a kid. 

Research circumcision before you have your first son.

Don't let all the naysayers get you down when you get married at 19.  You'll still be happily married 18 years later.  

You're questioning your faith, but God will never leave your side.   Not once.  You'll take a long, strange path to discover it.... but you'll take a long, strange path to discover most things.  The life you live as an adult will be so far removed from what you can imagine now that you wouldn't even understand it.  There will be naysayers then too, but don't worry.  You will be stronger then.  You will be confident.  You will be happy.  You will finally be YOU

In about seven years, your life will start to make sense. 

 And finally:   please, please save yourself some future self-flagellation and stop being so narrow minded and judgmental about things like... oh I don't know... homeschooling, extended breastfeeding, and attachment parenting.  Seriously. Just.... stop. Thank you.

Your pushing 40 but younger-than-ever future self.


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