A friend of mine, Katie, posted a letter to her 18-year old self, inspired by Nicole Nordeman’s song “Dear Me.” Katie encouraged those who read it to use it as a writing activity to write their own letter to themselves. Here is mine:
Dear 18-year old Heather,
Greetings from you, 10 years from now. You’re now wiser, funnier, out of that awkward phase, and you finally know how to do your hair and makeup. You’re also hopelessly in love, in your dream job, and living a life that you didn’t expect…but you’re endlessly grateful for.
But it wasn’t easy getting here. Currently you’re living in regret of some choices you made your junior year of high school–trusting the wrong people, trying to “party,” and falling for the wrong guys. You’re trying to “remake” your life, but you find yourself unable to figure out who you really are, because you really really want to be liked but you also really really love Jesus. Cling to your moral compass and do what is right, even when it’s tough. Right around the corner is a season where you’ll befriend a ton of Christian nerds, just like you.
Let’s get real though: Give the world a break and quit being so angry. Not everyone is against you, and many will offer you help. Accept it. Especially when your grandpa offers to put the downpayment down on a new car…that would have been nice. But also accept kindness from others. You’ll find a mentor in your first year of college who will teach you what it is like to be loved. She’ll be the first person to ever tell you that you are beautiful. Soak it in, and live in that truth.
Each person who comes into your life enters for a reason. Take more time to invest in people, and consider putting down your walls and allowing people in more. Consider wisely who to share your story with, as not everyone can handle it; but do make sure to tell it. Never stop writing, never stop preaching, and soak in others’ stories as much as possible…they make yours better.
Also, drop the expectation that you’ll be married by the end of college. Or even by 25. That was silly. But do date bravely, and heal bravely from each guy who breaks your heart. One day you’ll find a man who loves you so deeply, that you will finally understand God’s love for you.
Take care of all aspects of your health. Eat good food. Stay active. Find a therapist. Go to the doctor regularly. Laugh a lot. Save your money and don’t take out credit cards. Make sure that you investigate neighborhoods before you move there…but definitely test out living by yourself. You are going to love that part.
Remember that your most important job right now is to take care of your sister. Be nicer to her. Teach her kindness, love, and grace. Don’t just teach her God’s stories, but live them out in your interactions with her. Love her fiercely, because she will be your best friend one day.
Right now you’ve decided on college, but you’re nervous about majoring in youth ministry. And you’re even more nervous about one day being a youth pastor. Embrace your calling…the more you live it out, the more it will make sense. Don’t be afraid to get plugged into a church quickly in Bolivar.
Don’t count middle schoolers out. Right now you want to work with high school ministry because you are one. But one day you’ll fall in love with the adolescent brain, think puberty is the best stage of life ever, and make poop jokes a regular part of your vernacular. Your lifelong search to balance justice and grace will perfect itself working with middle schoolers. Your desire to nurture will be fulfilled with this age group. Learn from as many youth ministry gurus as possible, and stay humble.
Don’t be afraid to call out injustice, even when it’s uncomfortable. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you’re obnoxious and to speak softer. Your only regrets will lie around not speaking up for yourself when it really mattered. Be loud. Laugh loud. Stand up for people, and through that you’ll inspire others to stand up.
Last, listen for friendships that will last for your lifetime. Invest more clearly into people who are important to you, but who might be hard. One day your closest friends will be people who need a little work, but who are also patient with you and your work. Never give up on your family, and embrace your friends’ families as your own when your own is tough. And take a deep breath: one day you and your mom and are going to love and support each other.
Cling tight to faith. Some days it will be all you have, and those will be your best days. And when you have more (and most days you will), never forget who you are and where you came from.
28-year old Heather