This past week I turned 28. There’s nothing like a birthday to make you feel sentimental and reflective. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve accomplished in my life thus far, what I still want to accomplish, and the major lessons I’ve learned in my 28 years. There are times when I wish I could go back and give my former self advice. Since I haven’t yet figured out how time travel works, I’ll just settle for sharing the letters I would write to my former self here. Maybe someone else in the same period of life or same struggle can use my words, even if my former self cannot.
Dear Middle School Self,
Can we just admit something? This period of life is awkward and nobody really likes it. It’s okay to be unhappy and feel weird right now. You’re not unusual because you feel this way. You’re not hopelessly socially awkward. The awkwardness isn’t because you’re homeschooled. It isn’t because of anything you’ve done. Middle school life is just weird. It’s a relatively brief period of time, but it still sucks. Take heart, everyone feels as weird as you do, even if they won’t admit it. Everyone is still figuring out how to do make up and dress and talk to boys and avoid girl drama. The good news is, it gets better. Hang in there!
Dear High School Self,
Stop beating yourself up because that boy you have liked for years doesn’t like you the same way. It’s not because you’re not pretty enough, not skinny enough, or not funny enough. He doesn’t even really know you very well. You’ve never been able to act normal around him because of your feelings. He has a slightly biased view of you because of that (you haven’t helped that by the way, maybe you should back off a bit?). However, notice that your best friend, who knows you better than anyone else at this point and has seen you at your worst still really, REALLY likes you (yes, I know, it might be a bit much). Even though you don’t like him back that way (you and I both know there’s no romantic chemistry there, and that doesn’t change ps), still he’s seen all sides of you and he’s still attracted to you and not just in a romantic way. He likes who you are as a person. Who cares if someone who misunderstands you doesn’t like you? The person who knows you best still wants to be around you! That’s super impressive and valuable. Don’t discount that.
Also, just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you need to rub that into everyone’s face. It’s kind of a turn off. Along the same lines, you are not the relationship expert that you think you are. Reading books gives you wisdom and knowledge, but you have no freaking real life experience. Don’t be giving tons of unasked for advice, even if you know you’re right (and in some cases, you are, in others not so much). However, your manner of advice giving definitely needs some work.
Dear College Self,
I know that this is not the college experience you were expecting. Perhaps you had some unrealistic expectations. I believe you also had some rotten luck. You haven’t had the time of your life, but guess what? That’s okay. College is not the highlight of life for everybody. It’s definitely not for you. You have much better times afterwards. You haven’t and you don’t make a life-long group of friends here. You have one that you keep up with regularly and a lot of Facebook friends. That’s okay. You don’t meet your husband here either. You don’t even get asked out here. That’s okay too. I mean, it sucks. I remember how much it sucked, but things get better. You know what you do get here? A freaking sweet education. That was the whole reason you came here anyway. Ultimately, you get what you need, just now how you wanted it.
Let’s be honest too, you did need to be humbled a bit. You were a big fish in a small pond and college threw you into the ocean. You needed to know that you weren’t and aren’t the best at everything. You even get your first C! (Actually, you get 2, but in one case it was just because the teacher sucked). Don’t despair. You learn a lot here, it’s just not the super fun time you were expecting.
Dear Post-College Self,
I know that you feel really lost about where your life is going. You have nothing you thought you would have upon graduation: no dream job, no significant other, no obvious goals. It can seem like you’re the only one that feels lost, but you aren’t. Don’t spend tons of time on Facebook looking at what other people are doing and how successful they look. The truth is only a small number of people are pursuing their dream job or really know what they want to do. Even the ones that think they know what they want to do have a very high likelihood of changing their minds about it rather quickly. God actually does have a plan here and it all works out okay. Don’t be depressed about the relationship status thing either. What no one tells you is that there are several waves of marriages. The first one is right after college. The second one comes a couple of years later. There’s another one that seems to be happening now as everyone is in their late 20s, early 30s. What this means is that not everyone is getting married right now. Not everyone is dating someone right now and even if they are dating someone, they might not end up getting married.
It’s not a race. You’ve always been ahead of the curve in school, but life doesn’t progress like school for the most part. You’re not failing or doing something wrong because you seem like you’re “behind” some of your peers. Not being in a relationship sucks, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong (we both know there haven’t been many people you’ve wanted to be in a relationship with, we still do have standards). Having a temporary or “lame” job is okay. Everybody has to start somewhere and having a job is better than having no job and nothing to do. Each job, each volunteer opportunity is leading you on to bigger and better things. Don’t get too down and out about how things look right now. Give yourself some grace. After all, you’re really just starting this adventure called life.
Dear Sad, Desperate, and Single Self,
Here’s the thing, you’re not single because of anything you’ve done or not done. You’re single because there hasn’t been any mutual liking. Either someone has liked you and you haven’t liked them or you’ve liked someone and they haven’t liked you that way. You’re not ugly. You’re not fat. You’re not extremely awkward (most of the time). You’re not missing essential social skills (as far as I know). You’ve just had bum luck. You probably could put yourself out there a bit more. Not in a desperate way, but just get involved in more things where you could meet more people. That wouldn’t hurt, but I guess you really don’t have to do that because a guy does come around eventually. I can’t say much else. I don’t want to mess up the space time continuum or anything.
What you don’t really understand is how quickly all this can change. You can go from your current sad, single self to in a flirtation of mutual like, to a relationship very quickly. You’re already making yourself an old maid because you have no idea how quickly change happens. Keep your head up, girl! Your time will come. I admit, it’s depressing to feel like everyone else is in a relationship and you’re not. It’s sad that you’ve never even had a shot, but that all changes after a bit and it’s totally worth it.
Dear Devastated by My First Break Up Self,
First of all, it’s going to be a rough couple of months. That’s okay. You invested yourself into a relationship you thought was going to last forever. You were convinced (against your will at the beginning) that this was going to be it. He was the one…and then he broke up with you. You shouldn’t expect that to be an easy thing to recover from.
You don’t know this yet, but this is the best day of your life. Okay, today is not great. I’ll admit that. Today actually sucks and you’re going to cry A LOT. However, this is the beginning of something great. As the weeks go by, you’ll realize that the guy who broke up with you wouldn’t have been the best husband. He’s not a terrible person. He’s actually a nice guy. However, you two had some key differences you ignored because of how far you’d gone with him and because he was persistent and made lots of promises. You weren’t on the same page at all about God. You weren’t on the same page about money. You didn’t appreciate his sense of humor. You had some very different values. You didn’t ever feel at home with his family. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t the best. There’s another guy out there that is far better for you and (luckily) you don’t have to wait a super long time to connect with him. Once again, no spoilers, but it’s going to be great. You’re going to end up with a pretty crazy love story. Two years from this exact date (no joke) you’ll be walking down the aisle. So be patient with yourself today. Allow yourself to grieve, but keep looking forward with hope. The future is bright!
What do you wish you could write to your former self? Feel free to share in the comments below. Even if you can’t actually help your former self, there might be someone else who needs to hear the message.