Where Faith, Food and Life Converge

Letter to my Teenage Self

Letter to my Teenage Self
Yearbook photo with me in the middle...
Yearbook photo with me in the middle…

Dear Me,

Really, the years have been happy ones.

Look forward to that. And try to always look on the bright side, because that is the very thing that gets you through the bad times. You did a pretty good job of that anyway, but it would help if you knew ahead of time that that’s what really mattered when you were walking through the sadness, uncertainty, and fear.

Here’s something you should understand…. Fear. It’s a big time waster. I don’t know that you ever learn how to get past feeling it, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Rather, read a story to your kids, watch The Sound of Music, Pride & Prejudice, or Braveheart yet again, bake chocolate chip cookies, go for a run, or read a book from the library. All those things are a better use of your time. Stop thinking about whatever the thing is that’s causing your fear. Besides… the fear? It’s a word. An emotion. Rarely does it turn out that the agent of your fear is the huge monster you imagine.

And when the worst does happen, well, it brings you closer to Him. You find that He is indeed your strength. He is your comfort. You learn more about His compassion and grace, His kindness and mercy when the fear sets in than when life is humming along smoothly.

So learn to embrace all the mountains as well as the valleys that life brings.

Another thing: Get over yourself. I read somewhere (and then learned when I had teenagers of my own) that as a teen you spend an inordinate amount of time concerned with you instead of the people around you. Likewise, all those kids around you are only concerned with themselves.No one really cares if you wore those same jeans yesterday or if your mom put a love note in your lunch that day. If your hair isn’t just perfect and you had to have your dad drive you to the basketball game instead of driving the family car yourself, no one is paying attention. Really. So stop worrying about it. Just concentrate on being a friend to your friends and kind to those that aren’t.

And if people don’t want to be your friend? Well, so what? No matter what you do, and how hard you try, not everybody in this world will like you. Learn to put forth your effort toward the people that have your back, and don’t dwell over the ones that don’t. Still, never forget to be kind to all. That girl in your neighborhood who caused you all kinds of misery when you were in elementary and middle school? She turns out to be a friend. A good friend, in fact. Other people you thought were friends? Not so much. Pay attention to the people that seek your company for the right reasons and not the wrong ones. The people that wanted to be your friend when your dad got a new Porsche were the same ones that abandoned you a few years later when his business went under.

Despite being a cheerleader, don’t be upset that your little scrawny self is always the last one chosen in gym class to be on the popular girl’s team. You grow up to compete in triathlons, run marathons, and are generally in much better shape than a lot of the people that show up to your high school reunions. You’re strong, you’re disciplined, and you like the challenges that most of your friends now might say “I could never do that.” You can do that, and you do!

Boys. Again, it all works out. You marry the kind of man that cherishes you and puts up with all your quirks and faults. When you weep once more watching William Wallace cry out “Freeeeeeedoooooooomm!” after the 58th viewing, he just smiles. When you make a nest of books and magazines on your bed on Sunday afternoons for some “me time” he lets you have that space and time. When it’s time to choose a vacation spot, even though he despises it, he picks the beach because he knows that’s where you’re happiest. Those Junior year beach crushes that were always dazzled by your beautiful best friend while you shyly stood by? Nothing, truly nothing, compared to him. Marriage is not always easy and doesn’t even remotely resemble a Hallmark Movie Channel romance, yet you absolutely know you’re valued and loved. No matter what.

Oh, and before I forget… Apple. Buy stock in Apple Computers. It takes over the world.

The beach and a good book? Still your perfect day. Although, you’d now rather have a margarita to go with that than a chicken-fried steak biscuit from Hardee’s. You’ve come a long way, baby.

Kids. You become one of those weirdo homeschool moms you said you’d never ever be. And you LOVE it! Even though you still have your “only child moments,” you love that you get to spend all day with your favorite people. And they are fun! And smart, wise, amazing, funny, and weird too, but they make you smile and laugh and sigh and cry and breathe in the joy of life every single day.

Stop apologizing for things that aren’t your fault. Your grandfather is always telling you to stop apologizing for every. little. thing. But you figure that if you say you’re sorry before someone else has the chance to tell you that you messed up, it’ll make it all better. It won’t. Figure out how to understand what is your fault and what isn’t. Only own up to what you are truly responsible for, otherwise, people will walk all over you.

Oh, and remember how awkward and tentative you felt when you tried to comfort your friend next door, when her big brother, the prom king at your high school, died? Or when you tried to share a kind word with the brother of your friend who was killed in a car accident, but no words would come? So you just sat with them? You felt so… inadequate. But when you’re older and trying to comfort friends who’ve lost spouses and children, you’ll understand that just sitting there, just showing up is enough.

In fact, just just showing up is really a good thing to remember in your life. When there’s no money left for groceries in those early days? Just show up and go to work and the money will show up too. When your kids are being little snots again? Just show up, hug them, love them, and eventually they’ll go to sleep! No, really, once they’re asleep you’ll find the capacity to love them again. And when you and your husband disagree about something and that disagreement lasts for days? Just show up to the marriage and you’ll muddle through because… your marriage is more important than the disagreement.

Show up. Be present. Live your life instead of letting it get away from you. You’ll thank me.

 


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