Dear younger me,
I see your eyes rolling round and round. You’re infamous for it, even outside your family. Even though you think it’s a cute signature move, it’s not. Listen, I know you won’t care what I have to say because let’s face it, I’m “stupid and don’t know anything,” but considering I come to you from fifteen years in the future, all Marty McFly like, maybe you should hear me out. I know, cue the eyeballs.
Don’t care so much about what the popular kids are doing, what new things they have, how loser-ish you look, or how many parties you miss out on. I know, I’m starting out strong in the eyerolls, but just hear me out. Many of those “popular kids” will end up staying in town forever, marrying each other and never really seeing anything outside the tri-county area. Not that that’s bad, but there are bigger plans for you, just be patient. I know it seems like everyone but you has a lot, has it all figured out, and that you get bullied often for your seeming lack. I promise you, you won’t remember some of these people in the years to come, because there is a much bigger world outside high school.
Stop being ashamed during gym in the locker room. I know you think every day that if only you could take scissors to your belly to take away what you think is fat, that the popular girls will like you. Oh, how you wish you had boobs so you didn’t look like a boy, but believe me, there will come a day after you graduate that you will wish you didn’t have so much to deal with. Careful what you wish for. In truth, it doesn’t matter if you could get the curl out of your hair, if your makeup was perfection instead of being lost in the basics, or if you had name brands slapped all over your chest or rear pocket. It won’t matter to them, and it won’t matter to you soon either.
Calm down in youth group and your other Christian circles. I get it, it’s where you get to taste popularity, your friends get you, and you have a lot of fun. But please, in the midst of that, at least get the basics down. Jesus doesn’t care about how much you fit in somewhere, because He didn’t fit in anywhere. What He does care about is your dark days coming and that the way you are going, you will be snuffed out. I know you know all the right lines, the song lyrics, the expected behavior, the who’s who, but that’s just substance stuff. Figure out your identity in Jesus before you worry about your identity among friends or for sure your guy friends.
Don’t hold your identity in boys. It’s wonderful that most of your friends are male, because let’s face it, they are way less dramatic than most girls and your outlook on that will never change. But honestly, your worth is not found in what some boy thinks of you. If I could just get you to understand this one fact, I could save you so much heartache later in your twenties. Or at least have a period of living alone before setting up your next home because you think it’s what he wants. You have some things you need to figure out, don’t be in such a rush to find the next experience by going back to living how you know.
Learn what grace and forgiveness looks like. You hold a lot of animosity to members of your family, and being a child of divorce I get it. But your daddy issues are majorly cramping your style and you will turn out just like your mother whether you want to or not. By the time you are thirty, you will find that your stepfather is the only man who has never let you down. Figure out what grace is in the meantime, screaming and slamming doors is honestly getting you nowhere. There will be a day that you actually look forward to visiting your family-I know, how terrifying.
You will get the opportunity to move to Alaska on a two week’s notice. Take it. Don’t second guess yourself, just go. He will tell you that it will be for a year and then you’ll both be back, but in reality it will be five of the best years you’ll likely ever have, and seeing it in the rearview on your way to Canada will be one of the saddest moments of your life. You’ll learn things there that you can’t anywhere in the Lower 48. You will become self-reliant, a DIY-er on cars and houses, and love to saltwater fish. You will own a business, go to college, and manage to have a little bit of a life on the side and absolutely love it. You will treasure the scenery and remoteness for years after you leave, and meet the most incredible people.
However, Alaska will not be all amazing. Since you need to go, you will find that there is a trade-off. Years later, you will find out that man controls you. I know, you were always the one to tell your friends to leave and you watched your mom go through it when you were young and vowed it would never happen to you. You will find that it snuck up on you slowly, quietly, like a thief. You will wake up one December morning realizing that you don’t dress yourself, you long ago lost contact with most of your friends and family, the pet names given to you are an incredible string of awful words no one deserves to be called, and you will be convinced your petite 119lb frame is chubby and that he will be nicer to you if you could just tone up this one other area. In public you will be a celebrity couple in town, while you find hell at home, never knowing when his temper will snap and something nearby him will fly by your head or you’ll have to book it to a room with a locking door. In these days, you will not know who you are and will sob when you think you are so unlovable that you’re a disgrace to your far away family and that you’re so worthless God wouldn’t want you back either. You will carry this will you for years to come, these words will sneak into your mind and try to grasp at your soul. It will be easier if you find Christ’s compassion in your teens, but you will find it later regardless out of necessity.
Eight months later you will move your things out while he is at work and you won’t ever tell him where you moved to. After getting the gall to talk to him about it, you will learn that he had no idea you were terrified of him every day and the look on his face will tell you it’s honest. Despite, you will find strength from somewhere and leave the life you had made for years behind, as well as many friends. That part will be the hardest for you. But even so, moving to Alaska will be absolutely worth it, and you will not regret that decision.
You will find your way back to the American Midwest, landing in the arms of a friend you met in high school. You will struggle with it, because he will be nothing like who you thought you would end up with, but often think that you wasted eight years chasing after other dreams. In truth, you were not ready for each other as teens, you were in two different fields with your own issues to work through. When you come together this time, you will be more similarly yoked, your decade of experiences will balance the other. His patience will draw you in, and you will say yes to a ring very quickly. Normally, that would not be wise, however in this case there is many years of friendship as a base, and although issues will come up, you will find that this base will allow you to work through marriage much easier. Cling to that relationship.
Finally, if you haven’t figured it out, you will in fact not be married and have two children by age twenty-four, and twenty-four year olds are not “so mature” and “have it all figured out and are so put together”. You will discuss this fifteen years later with a couple of high school friends you still talk to on occasion, so hear me out that you aren’t the only one who will laugh at who they were at age twenty-four and only now feel like they are starting to grasp what living is. At twenty-four you will have a very successful cleaning business (although you loathe cleaning currently) and will be going to college in your free time for business, not teaching like you’ve wanted since kindergarten. However, you will also be neck deep in a darkness you don’t see. You will have your first child at age twenty-nine (I know, gasp! that’s basically dead!) after marrying at age twenty-seven. You will struggle with being a stay at home mom, because you have always found your worth in your work status. You will find out that you know absolutely nothing, and thank goodness there will be this thing called the internet at this point, because seriously, after about age twenty-four, you actually get really stupid. This proves that it’s not actually your parent’s fault that they didn’t know anything when you were a teenager, but in fact they lost all of their knowledge around the same time you will. Very scary, I know. But, you’ll manage! You actually won’t really know that it happened, you’ll just realize that you just had to ask someone a question and it will hit you that you just reached the old-threshold. You will find that you are ok with this realization.
Ashley, slow down. Take the time to figure out who you are without trying to rely on who you think others want you to be. I know it sounds so utterly cliche, but seriously soul search, figure out what grace is, and don’t let anyone tell you who you are supposed to be. I will tell your future daughter the same.
Don’t your eyeballs hurt? Like seriously?
Ashley, still learning thirty year old.
What would you tell your younger you? Your kids?