A letter at graduation
Dear Me at 18,
It’s weird to write this letter to you here, knowing that now I am facing graduation of my own seniors. I see in them much of what I saw in you—naïveté, precociousness, wit, intellect, self-consciousness, and trepidation. I see their joy in finding out where they’re going to school, the excitement of planning the next phase of their lives, and I remember that with you, too. I’m proud of you for taking the leap to go out of state to school, even if it is a small Idaho town, and it wasn’t your first choice. And you’ll find that a lot of the naïveté will give you a chance for growth—you’ll learn that life on your own is different that you thought, and you’ll meet people that, inexplicably, won’t like you. For no reason. Sadly, they’re your roommates. Just roll with the metaphorical punches and you’ll be stronger because of it. What will matter most to you there will be the chance to work on a college paper, and some of the people who will shape you for the rest of your life will be there. This experience will override the Idaho, the lame roommates, the fact that you can’t wear shorts on campus, and it will change you for the better.
And then will come Provo, a totally different kind of experience. I hate to burst your bubble, but it won’t be the end-all, be-all kind of experience you had pictured for yourself. You won’t date like those girls; you won’t look like those girls. And you know what? It’s ok. I would also like to warn you that big, curly hair is not the way to go and wish you could find a flatiron earlier on, but do what you can to work it out. It sucks to be self-conscious, and at a school like BYU, it feels kind of like high school. Just know you’re great, and the few extra pounds that come in and out of your life do not define you. I wish I could tell you that you’ll stop worrying about what other people think of you. For the most part, you will, but it’s something you’ll struggle with off and on, along with your weight. It is what it is, but there’s more to life than that, and you’ll figure it out. You’ll still date boys—very specifically, one wrong boy—but you’ll learn from your experiences and have some fun and a fair amount of heartbreak along the way. So it’s ok you haven’t kissed anyone by graduation—you’ll make up for it shortly.
I wish that I had more of you with me now. I’m not saying that I regret who I’ve become by any means, but you have so much faith and so much moxie—you always do the right thing, even when it is hard. Stay strong to who you are, and know that you’ll struggle from time to time, with faith, with church, with life, but that at your core, you will know who you are because you’ve worked to figure it out. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. You’ll think that you’ve taken the safe route by becoming a teacher, but then you’ll remember that it’s the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done, and that it’s something that matters. As you see them in their caps and gowns at graduation, you’ll know you’ve made a difference to them, which, in turn, has changed and affected you.
Part of me wishes I could tell you that your life would turn out the way you’d envisioned it, the way you’d written about it in Young Women’s. Well, it hasn’t, but that’s not a bad thing necessarily. You’re not married by twenty-five, you don’t have kids, and you spend more time than you’d like wondering sometimes if those things will happen. But it comes back to this: Life is still great, with amazing friends and family, with chances to travel and find adventures, and you’ve discovered that things happen on someone else’s timetable, not yours.
So with that, good luck on your graduation. Keep writing. You’ll realize at some point that you wish you’d kept up with it like you had at 18. Read deeply and widely. Search for new experiences. Keep listening to good music and good ideas. And know that the boy you are looking for at 18, you’re still looking for at 33, but now he’s grown up, just like you have, which makes you both so much more interesting.
Salt Lake City