Hey, it’s me. Well, it’s you, only older.
You’re 25 now. Doesn’t that sound so old? It’s really not. I know just yesterday you were talking to a childhood friend about how you are both half-way to 30, and you gasped and laughed and sighed a little relief into the phone’s receiver, comforted in knowing that adulthood is still so very far away.
It’s been ten years since then. TEN whole years.
It wasn’t as far away as you think. Turns out, that decade will come and go pretty quickly. And I hate to be the one to tell you, but you’re about to find out real soon that life, and love, are not at all what you imagine they should be. You’ll experience so much more in that time than your young heart can imagine, good and bad, helpful and hurtful.
Let me tell you just a little about your (our) next ten years.
That house that you are in at 15, and that situation, I know it seems impossible and stifling. Your parents’ divorce hasn’t been an easy one, and your new step-mom is a complete opposite from your real mom. Sometimes you like that (when it means getting away with things) and some times you hate it (when you reluctantly realize there’s a reason your real mom won’t let you do that). You keep your distance emotionally because, truth be told, you’d rather turn out like your real mom. And I know your mom is hard on you. And I know, even in your youth, you see the value in her words, regardless of how often you roll your eyes and bite your tongue. I think that might just be a teenager reflex. Don’t worry, your dad is going to come to his senses soon and your next transition will be slightly less filled with uncertainty.
That guy you love at 15 – the one you spend hours writing about in your journal instead of actually spending time with, the one you will date and break up with twice, the one who will never take advantage of you and who you will ultimately leave feeling a little apathetic – you’re still friends with that guy. Not close friends, but that is ok. He gets married to a beautiful, kind, and loving woman. And guess what? As much as you want him all to yourself now, you couldn’t be happier for him in the future. Promise.
That house you’ll live in at 16, it’ll be strange at first. The couple you’ll be staying with isn’t a traditional one, and you’ll be terrified your mom is going to ask about them. But they are good people, and ultimately, you’ll learn a thing or two about tolerance that you’ll carry with you for years to come. Actually, you should talk to them more often, because mostly, you’ll be too distracted with that guy to concern yourself with very much else. Oh yeah…
That guy you will love at 16 – the one who will hurt you and make you feel special all in the same breath, the one who will drag you along and lead you to believe things that aren’t true, the one who will make you lose close friends (not because he demands it, but because your friends will get tired of telling you he’s not good for you, and you ignoring them), the one who will promise you a love that he can’t possibly deliver, the one you will spend entirely too much time chasing and believing and wanting and regretting, the one who you will ultimately leave feeling broken, and who you will only leave for good because you finally realize the thing he wants most is something you are not ready to give up (I’m proud of you for this, by the way) – that guy you’re not still friends with. And that’s ok. In the future, you don’t know what’s going on in his life, and it isn’t as heartbreakingly painful as you imagined it might be. You hope the best for him, because you are no longer vengeful, but it doesn’t keep you up at night. (Kids do that now. Yeah, you have kids. I’ll get to them soon.)
That apartment you’ll live in at 17, the one right by the high school, it will become a place of many memories, just like the “homes” before it, but different this time, because you and Dad will be solo and there will be more space to discover who you are without siblings or housemates or pets. Except the birds… They like to come down the chimney and you’ll have to let them out through the patio door. It is terrifying the first time, but you’ll get used to it. Your dad will start dating a woman around this time. Get to know her. You’ll like her a lot. But again, you’ll be distracted.
That guy you will love at 17 – the one who you won’t be sure about because of the hurt that came before him, the one who will wait patiently (but persistently) for you to agree to a date, the one who you will laugh with and dream with and cry with (this is different than crying about), the one who will do his best to understand all of the broken and ugly and hurtful things of your past with grace and patience and a strength you can’t understand (because he will also be the guy who shares the broken and ugly and hurtful things of his past with you), the guy with whom you will share an exhausting (but worth it) habit of pages-long notes that you will pass to each other via friends who share classes with him, the guy who will hold you close in comfort when you cry over losing your part in the school play because you failed a class, the guy who will then encourage you to do better in school (because he knows you can), the guy who will respect you, your wishes, your dreams, and your strengths, the guy who will show you new strengths you never knew you had, the guy who will go off to basic training after high school and who you will write to and dream of and miss with everything that’s in you – that guy is your keeper. You don’t even know him yet, but in five years’ time, you will walk down the aisle in a beautiful gown to claim him as your husband.
Just five years. See what I mean about time flying?
Your dad marries that woman and she is the perfect addition to your family. Trust me. No evil to be found in this step-mom. She’s sweet, caring, thoughtful, and she loves your dad very much. I told you you’ll like her.
You’ll also gain two new siblings in the next few years. Both girls, your first sisters in a long line of brothers. But the age gap will leave you disconnected from them. This is something you’ll work on around the age of 23, when they are both still under 10, but I wish you would start sooner. They need you, and they want more than anything to feel connected to you. Your step-sister, too. I know she’s little now and sharing a room with a 3-year-old isn’t your idea of a good night’s sleep, but for all intents and purposes, she’s your sister, too. And later on when the two of you are just acquaintances on social media, you’ll look through her pictures and wish you knew her better. Plus, joke’s on you: you’ll be sharing a room with a 3-year-old in ten years, anyway!
Ah, the kids. You have two young boys now who light up your entire world. They also drive you a little insane. For all those times you assume you are going to be a great mother, a stay-at-home-mom with routines and curriculums and incredibly well-behaved children (just like your mom), there will be an equal number of times that you question whether God should have ever given you children in the first place. At their ages 3 and 1, you will still have no idea what you’re doing. But you’ll love them regardless of tantrums, you’ll cuddle with them in spite of runny noses, and you’ll read every piece of parenting advice you can find in an attempt to keep peace in your home. Most importantly, you’ll pray fervently for their futures and imagine their successes and be preemptively proud of all that you know they will become. Let’s face it. You’ll basically be the best mom ever. You just have to believe in yourself.
I know that I can’t keep you from making the mistakes that you’ll make. I can’t bring you to any life-altering epiphanies any sooner than they are meant to come to you. I can’t change the way things are going to work out. You probably could, but you wouldn’t know the difference.
Just know, in the hard times, that it does get better. Even when it seems like the world is crashing all around you, when no one understands or you think that no one cares, just keep moving forward. Keep writing it all down. Keep praying. Keep learning. Keep your chin up.
You’re going to be just fine.
Yourself, One Decade From Now
P.S. Since there is so much more that I want to say to you, this is only “Part 1.” Who knows how many more letters I’ll write. You know how I like to write letters.
P.P.S. Post inspired by a Blogging 101 “assignment” in which I was also challenged to include an element that I haven’t yet. And so, I feel compelled to share this video of Brad Paisley’s “Letter to Me,” which was pretty much on repeat in my head throughout the entire process of this post. Enjoy!