Monday, June 29, 2009

M in Orange County

Dear Me 23 after graduating from college,

You are blessed with the quality of being at peace with life and it’s challenges. But with that peace comes complacency. Take more risks, get more involved, and do the things that you daydream about. Look for opportunities that help you stretch and grow out of your comfort zone. Don’t be okay with the status quo.

You also have a hard time asking for help and relying on others when going through difficult times. You have a tendency to be strong and silent in your emotional relationships with others. You keep a little border up between you and those you are closest with. You are a consistent, dependable, and stable friend to others but, you internalize every stressful emotion on your own. Please give others the opportunity to help and serve you. You don’t have to be so independent. When you go to others for help your relationships will grow. You might think you know what is best for you, but getting another person’s perspective is also just as valuable. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to admit your vulnerabilities. There are many people who have had similar experiences that will be able to help you in times of despair. Don’t assume that others will think it a burden to help you, even in the small things like asking for a ride to the airport. If you don’t learn to rely on others you will at times feel very alone.

Nourish your friendships and relationships by sharing with them how you feel about them. Focus on the good in others and tell them often how important they are to you. This may be difficult since you aren’t used to hearing these things, but this will also help your relationships to be strengthened. The friendships and relationships you have during your early twenties to the present are going to be your lifeline. Keep those people in your life who genuinely have your best interests at heart closest to you. Always remember that you have a great deal to share with others and don’t be afraid to let others in to see all the good you have to offer.

Me at 33

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kersten in SLC

Dear Kersten,

First, the bad news: you will never own that lime green, convertible Geo Metro from the hand-me-down copy of Road&Track you’ve been stashing. Although this is undoubtedly a blow to your 9-year-old dreams, keep hope for black Toyota Corollas — 1995 was a particularly good year.

And now for the good news: you are one weird little girl. Trust me, being weird is good news. The things that make you awkward and ugly and nerdy and alone now will one day be your strongest assets. These weirdnesses will be with you a long time, maybe even the rest of your life, but eventually you are going to learn how to deal with them, how to mold them, how to craft them into strengths.

Let’s take that oversized plant identification book that you’ve been carrying around — you have been telling your classmates that you want to be a botanist when you grow up. These are not the things that get you invited to sleepovers and summer pool parties. But, 20 years from now, you will still remember the cover to that book and reaching out to touch the illustrations as though you were actually running lavender buds through your fingers. Someday you will have your own lavender, if not the botany degree. Remember that Mondrian painting you saw in the Pittsburgh museum, while on a field trip with your girl scout troop? It happens that, through no particular maneuvering on your part, that you will one day build a house that looks a bit like that Mondrian.

These are strange details. But they stick because you’ll always have a mind that grabs odd snippets and clutches to them, pulling them out for daylight every so often, brushing off the dust, and rearranging the details on your mind’s shelves. Embrace this trivia and this propensity to remember and learn — you’re going to make the most of those hyper-connective sparks some day soon.

Love,
Kersten, 28

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nikki in CA

To my dear 22 year old self –

You would think at 22 years of age, things would all fall into place. You are graduating from college in 2 months. You have a great job lined up for your jump-start in the real world but all of that doesn’t really matter.

Currently things in your life are not as you had planned. Plans are funny, aren’t they? You are little bit of a dreamer, so it has been a tough adjustment for you to deal with heavy heartbreaking matters like grief. Not breakup grief (which is no picnic – sorry to tell you this – you will experience a lot of this in the next 7 years) but real life-altering loss.

Let’s get back to plans. You had not really planned on your mother passing away in her sleep. Who does? Especially when she was 63? This was the person who taught you EVERYTHING. Speaking, walking, talking, eating – she taught you how to live! She was supposed to BE THERE at key moments in your life. Since her funeral, your world has forced you to move forward and you notice most of the people around you moving on. These people are well meaning, and their reaction is natural to them, just hard for you. So you have spent the past month “moving on.” You talk to a select few people who understand loss, and allow yourself to cry twice a day in privacy. The nights are the hardest.

What you need is a change. You had it all planned out. You had a great friend who suggested a trip to her parent’s beach house in Orange County. You made plans for a large group of girls to make the road trip and the night before you were scheduled to leave, the excuses arrived. Too busy. Too tired. Too much work. Too sick. It came down to just you and your original friend. When she called and said that she wasn’t sure if the trip was still going to happen, your heart sunk. You had really put a lot of hope into that trip and it looked pretty hopeless. In reality it wasn’t the trip – it was just an opportunity to go and forget about your new Mom-less life.

I am writing to you on that night. For you it was a breaking point, where you just didn’t know if you could suffer one more disappointment in your short little life. You just wanted to enjoy something again. This pseudo life that you had been living since your Mom’s passing was not welcome. You used to have a knack for enjoying things that were not the easiest – such as attending 4 high schools. But at this point, the knack was gone. You are currently praying for a miracle. Not even the trip – just for you to love your life again – whatever life it is – you just want to enjoy something. Eventually you fall asleep crying.

I wish I could have caught you before you feel asleep and told you how this was a turning point for you. Though you won’t realize it – that night was one of the lowest points in your life. Tomorrow you will take that road trip and you will remember how to laugh. You will remember that happiness does not occur with perfect plans – it is just being willing to enjoy moments. Moments like a blow-out on the 1-15 in Baker, CA, just a few days later. Turns out changing a tire has fun potential – who knew?

When you come home from this road trip, a few friends will literally answer your prayers and your last 2 months of college will be some of your greatest memories. They will be your personal angels – proof that Heavenly Father answers prayers. Proof that happiness is possible when our best plans are derailed.

I hate to tell you this – but things will never work out as you had imagined. Prepare yourself for all of your plans being “off track.” You aren’t going to be a girl that gets married by 25 and had a kid by 30. You are going to build a very lovely little single life for a number of years. Complete with good friends, multiple job and many adventures. Some of the adventures are dating – and most of them end poorly – but one of them turns out to be exactly what you needed, even though you didn’t realize it at the time. You even have a little Pride and Prejudice moment of your own with your love.

You regard your grief as a burden but you will realize in time what a blessing it is. Your grief will allow you to “mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” Although you never wanted to – you will now “get it” when someone experiences loss. You will cherish your family members even more than you thought was possible. And on some of those important days when you planned on your Mom attending – you will realize that she been right beside you all along.

Things have never been easy – while single and after marriage but I am fairly confident that they never will be easy. You had someone tell you once that, “happiness is a choice.” At the time, it sounded like crazy-talk but it turns out that happiness – no matter what your situation in life – is simply a choice. It doesn’t come from road trips or fun, it comes from conscious choice. Keep on choosing happiness and things will work out just fine. I promise.

love, nikki

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Amy

To me at 24,

You are so young right now and you think you are so old. You have experienced so many great things already and have made so many wonderful friends. You can’t imagine now that you will cherish some of these friendships forever. So many people come and go, in and out of your life, but those relationships that you nurture will turn out to be the very ones that will carry you through countless years of trials and difficult changes. I want you to always work at being your best version of yourself, which by the way, will not be an easy task.

The word “friend” to you has a positive connotation and you like having a lot of friends around you, but you will be amazed at what the word “friend” will mean to you later in life. Your good friends will become your closest and most important confidants. You will go through everything with them and they will see the good and bad in you and love you the same. You will turn to them for virtually everything and you will be amazed at the ways they continually come through for you. In many ways, these seem to be the only people that really “get you” and that’s okay. Don’t feel bad that you are closer to your girlfriends than you are to your own sisters. Your sisters are wonderful and unique and very different from you, but you will learn over the next 10 years that they will always have your back and they fulfill a role that no one else can.

Learn now to cut people some slack. Decide right now not to take offense to everything. You spent your teen years choosing to be hurt by so many people. It’s almost like you were looking to be offended. STOP taking things so personally. People do not generally mean harm. People just say stupid things and do stupid things and pass judgment on your stupidities. It will take you the next several years to really master this concept, but you will become pretty good at cutting slack and at forgiveness. Forgive your parents now. They love you and want the best for you and their lives don’t revolve around you. That’s right – it’s hard to imagine it, but they are barely surviving their own life struggles.

You are a truth-seeker and you will become even more of one as you get older. You want so badly to know what it is you are supposed to be doing at all times, but that burning question will almost always haunt you. You won’t really ever feel entirely confident in what you are doing in this life. A matter of fact, you will learn to question everything. This is what you do not know right now, but boy how I wish you did: you already have the answers within you to most of life’s questions. That’s right – you have an incredible sense of natural knowing. Trust yourself that when things feel good, go forward and when things don’t feel good, make a change.

Oh, and speaking of change, you think you are so strong and independent right now. Wrong again! You are vulnerable and scared and insecure and you hate change. It seems that everyone around you is changing and you are just standing still. That’s why you just quit your job and went back to school. This is one the best things you will ever do. I hate to tell you now though that it will take you 17 years to get your undergrad. It’s true, just accept it now and don’t worry about the traditional timetable.

Take risks! Don’t live the safe life. The safe life literally takes you nowhere. It is only in the risk-taking and in trusting in yourself that you learn to feel good. Your life will not be anything like you are imagining right now. You have such high hopes for the amazing things you will do. The truth is you will do some wonderful things, but you might as well throw the expectations of “amazement” out the window right now. Most of what you will consider disappointments in your life will be a result of the expectations you set early on. Oh how I wish you could just go with the flow, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t ever really become a go-with-the-flow- kind of person.

Just a couple more things: Some of your worst fears at this moment in time will come true. You will be single when you turn 30. Your niece will get married before you. Your parents will get divorced. Your friends will move away and not need you anymore. You will not do anything with your degree. You will continue to struggle with your weight. Sorry to break it to you now; I know how afraid you are of all these things, but it will all be okay. Really. It will all be okay. The fear is much worse than the reality.

Go easy on yourself. Decide now that you are pretty and don’t forget it. Look in the mirror more. Somewhere along the way you stopped doing that. Take care of yourself and your body. You can’t imagine at this time that you will be a diabetic on insulin in just a few short years from now. You’ve always been good at staying out of debt, but that will change when you start a business. It’s okay – it’s not the end of the world, even though your dad always said it was. Serve others. You will learn over the next 10 years how much joy this brings you. Find ways to make a difference in others’ lives – it will make all the difference in yours. Don’t worry that life turns out entirely differently than you planned – it’s full of wonderful surprises.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jenni

Dear 25 year old me,

Right now you are a nervous wreck. It is 3 am, and in your arms you are holding a beautiful little baby girl, just days old. She is crying, and so are you because you don’t know what to do. I think you’ve probably slept an average of maybe 3 hours a night in the past 4 days. You knew it would be hard, you knew you would be sleep deprived, but you had no idea what that all meant for your mental state. You’ve heard about post-partum depression, but you never thought it would happen to you. You love that baby girl with all your heart, but right now you are angry. Angry that she won’t sleep. Angry that your husband gets to sleep because you are nursing and that’s the only way you can calm her down. Angry that you are so depressed and you don’t know how to break the cycle.

A mere 5 years from now you will have not 1, but 2 beautiful children and another on the way. Motherhood will still be stressful and difficult, but will also be the greatest adventure and source of joy in your life.

I know you don’t want to talk to the doctor about your problems right now, but you need to. What you think you can handle on your own, you cannot. You need medical help. Your sweet husband can only do so much, and this is taking it’s toll on him too. Please get help. It’s okay to admit you need it. Don’t pretend to have it all together, it doesn’t mean you are weak or that you are not a good mother. What you don’t realize right now is that if you don’t get help it will take much longer to get over this than you think. Trust me, I learned the hard way. That sweet little girl you hold in your arms deserves a happy mother. Do all that you can to give her that.

In 5 years that little baby will be a beautiful little girl. She loves and adores you and looks up to you so much. She will be smart and kind and obedient and the two of you will be closer than you could imagine. She will be more than you could ever hope for. Do her and yourself a favor and get the help you need. You can do this! You are stronger than you know.

J

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shawna in Minneapolis

Dear 20 year old me –

I know you feel like you are drowning. The last year has been one of the most difficult years of your life. I know you’ll never forget the day that you learned she was gone. It doesn’t seem right, it just doesn’t seem fair. Nineteen year old girls are not supposed to die. Nineteen year old girls that are beautiful and vivacious and filled with so much life shouldn’t have their stories splashed all over Unsolved Mysteries. She was your friend and you miss her.

I know you feel unsafe. I know you are angry with God and struggling with your faith. I know you are being reckless and making bad choices. I know your heart is breaking after falling in love with the wrong person, and knowing that you need to let that person go. It feels like everything around you is heartache, and you are struggling to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

I want you to know there is light at the end of the tunnel – and so much hope. You are angry with God – and that is okay. God is big enough to take your anger, and as a very wise man is going to tell you, your anger is encouraging because it means there is a relationship there (you can’t mad at someone you believe doesn’t exist…right?). You have some pretty fantastic friends, and they will help you get through this dark time in your life. You are going to come out of this with a faith that is pretty amazing – as a matter of fact (I don’t want to scare you or anything) but your faith will eventually influence your career choices, and you will absolutely love your job.

Eventually they will solve this case, and justice will be served – and you will find that although you will never forget, you will be able to forgive. This will be key in your healing process. In addition, you will know how important it is to stay connected to those people who are important to you, so you never have any regrets. There will even be new social networking tools that will help you do this ( and drain a lot of your time) in the future! : )

As for the boy, you will spend a lot of time worrying about this and this particular relationship. Believe me the sooner you can let it go the happier you will be. God has great things in store for you – including a much healthier relationship and some pretty terrific kids, but you have to be open to it – and that means getting rid of all the other relationship stuff you are holding onto first. Believe me you won’t be sorry!

Take care, I’m looking forward to what the future holds for both of us,

Me at 34

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

D in Utah

Dear 16-year old me,

Oh, little girl, you’re still so young and so innocent. You just got to college and there are so many new things to try, people to meet, and who are all these cute boys?! Do you remember when you thought it would be fun to make a list of twenty-six guys you had liked in your young life? You were going to name off a different crush for every letter of the alphabet. That was a fun little exercise, but I think it illustrates an embarrassing point that you and I have both been very reticent to admit: we’re a little boy crazy.

And you know, embarrassing or not, I’m not going to take that from you. You’re actually very lucky that you have the ability to love so easily—because you do really love most of them. You have the potential to love in such a childlike way—innocent, trusting, hopeful, with all your heart. Most people tend to be more guarded in the way that they love, having been shaped by pain and hurt throughout the years. You, sweet girl, are so na├»ve in your affection: “Here I am, world, and I love you!”

But you’re also gonna have times when you’ll feel a lot of pain from your relationships (or the demise thereof). Sometimes that hurt will be so excruciating that you’ll want to shut your heart off. Don’t do it. Shutting off would change something so fundamental to who you are as a person. Stay you. Even when you feel tempted to do it, don’t let yourself become jaded, don’t be bitter, don’t be sarcastic. When you notice yourself behaving that way, shake it off. Be positive. Be hopeful. Stay open and vulnerable. Pain is a natural part of life and love. You’ll see that by letting yourself stay vulnerable, you’ll be open to pain but you’ll also be open to truly love and be loved. And that ability to love so easily will serve you well over the next several years as you’re able to impact the lives of so many friends who feel that you truly love them.

And don’t worry. It’s not like you’ll be an open target. As time goes on and you have more experiences dating, loving, and losing, you’ll learn to do a better job of navigating relationships and you’ll learn who you can trust and with what part of you they can be trusted.

But a few words of caution: romantic love can be all-consuming, but there is more to life than this. There are more noble pursuits than the attention of some man you barely know. There are higher, more wonderful things to be experienced than orgasms. I know you just want a boyfriend and you want so badly to feel loved, but…life is more than this. And until you learn that, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. You’re going to date a lot of the wrong guys. You’re going to shed a lot of tears. And I’m sorry to say, you’re going to have a few times when life seems really dark and you’ll feel like you’ve hit rock bottom. But you know what, sitting on this side of another 16 years, I can tell you that you’re going to be fine. In fact, you’re going to be great! Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t let your mistakes define you. Learn from them.

Stay away from the jerks. Turn around, walk away, and don’t look back. Some of the other heartbreaks though…a few of those guys will actually become some of your closest friends. It’s going to work out. You’ll start to recognize those things in life that mean more to you than the rush of a new fling: serving others in a truly selfless way, getting to know your parents as people, hearing the words, “I love you, Auntie,” knowing and feeling very powerfully that God loves you and knows you as an individual. And you’re going to meet so many amazing people whom you will adore. AND you’re going to go to grad school! (I know! Sometimes I STILL can’t believe we did it!) Your life is going to be so rich and wonderful. You’re gonna be fine. And you know what, little D, although you’ll still be single at 32, you’re going to feel so loved, so happy, so blessed, and you’ll look at all that God has given you and sincerely feel, “I could not ask for more.” (But…if God sends tall, dark, and handsome my way, I ain’t gonna turn him down.)

Love,

D at 32

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Marissa in Boston

Dear childhood me,

There's something I've always wanted to tell you.

Don't you worry about a thing, little girl. Everything is gonna to be just fine.

I think deep down you do kinda know that. It's the "here and now" that aren't so fine for you. You know how you've always felt like you didn't quite fit in with the other kids? Well, honey, there's a part of you that will always feel that way. But you will learn to work with that reality. That part of you that is sensitive and quiet? Right now you think it only means you are weird and awkward, but you'll learn it also means you have an amazing ability to see things in people that others just can't. Do you love a little deeper than most? Yes, and that hurts, I know. But you also get the upside of the deeper love, which is, of course, deeper love.

Babycakes. I wish I could tell you that life was going to stop hurting. But it won't. You just aren't made that way. And later on, when you feel like you need to go on antidepressants? Please don't waste your energy feeling like a failure about it. You just go ahead and do what you need to do. You won't be on them forever. And speaking of college, don't even waste a moment wondering if the next guy you date will be "that guy" for you. He's not, and ah, the adventures you would miss if he were.

And I'll give you a hint (though I really hate to ruin the surprise): he's nothing like what you expect.

Little me, you are OK. You are beautiful. You are so smart! And funny! And just because you tend to befriend girls who overshadow you doesn't mean you are, in reality, less than they are. In fact, I'd say that just about 100% of the time, you are so much better equipped for life, for marriage, for motherhood than those friends of yours with all the attention.

Don't waste energy on judgment. It has never suited you, and it never will. Just be and let be. You will be so happy. There is marriage and motherhood lying before you, and those two things will be more than you hoped they would be. At every point in life be sure to leave your heart open to love in all its forms, and though that will inevitably cause you some pain, your life will be so full that you will never for one second wonder if you are loved. And one day you will be following your crawling little baby around the house and be completely undone by the abundance in your life.

There will be plenty of love to go around. So much laughter and so much love.

It's gonna be fantastic.

Marissa

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Letter to Michelle in MA at age 21 from age 33

Dear younger me,

Don't worry that you didn't get into vet school. I know you've been planning for it your whole life, well at least since your were 5 years old, and you don't know what to do now. Everything you have done as a teenager and young-adult has been in preparation to become a veterinarian and now you wonder about all of this wasted effort. You've been crying and angry and depressed. But, you have recently written in your journal that you said a prayer asking God to be in control of the admissions boards so that if you aren't meant to go, you won't make the wrong decision.
It's funny that you are even thinking that it is a "decision to make" after all you've done to prepare. It's strange you are even thinking that you "aren't meant to go" after it has been your perceived destiny for your whole life. You have quickly forgotten that you said that prayer and you have completely ignored that it was answered. Good thing you wrote it down. Your 33 year-old self read your journal the other day and couldn't believe what she read. She had totally forgotten about it too, but now that 12 years have passed, she knows exactly why you are receiving the rejection and waiting list letters. Don't be tempted to go for that waiting list application. Let it go. You're supposed to be with David and if you go to vet school, you won't be with him. He'll slip through your life and become a boyfriend of the past, and you'll never know what it is you were really supposed to do. God knew you wouldn't make the right decision if you got the acceptance letter. He would have let you make it, but, you asked Him to intervene. He did. You asked Him for help. He helped you. Your answer was NO. Getting that answer really sucks, but you'll get over it. And, you'll even be glad for it later.
The first years of your marriage are going to be rough. You'll wonder if you've made the right decision. You and David have so many differences to work out. You'll watch your little sister, your best friend, move away and you'll think your world has ended. You'll wait 6 years to have kids. THIS is the RIGHT decision. You need this time to figure out your relationship with David before your attention is completely focused on little ones. But, your reward for the right decisions is coming.
By age 33, you will have two little DARLING girls. They are better than anything you could dream of; they are better than horses, better than sisters, better than best friends. I know you've actually never had "being a mommy" on your list of "must-do" things in your life, but it will be the coolest thing you ever do and you won't believe how much you like doing it. It will also be the hardest thing you ever do and you won't believe you have what it takes. But, you do. You'll appreciate everything in life more because of it. You have no idea what kind of guy David is until you see him be a Daddy. But, trust me, you picked the right one. He is the best Daddy you could ever hope to have for your little girls. He is your new best friend. He is your rock. You have forged such a common goal in life after almost 12 years of marriage that you hardly ever disagree anymore and a big fight is extremely rare. Your sisters, all of them, are also your best friends, and although lots of moving has happened, and you don't live close to any of them anymore, they are always right there. Life is good. Don't fear. Things work out. All those years of vet school preparation weren't wasted either. You spent your time doing things you loved and you will continue to do so. I see you, right now, in your concert t-shirt with your long hair in 2 braids coming to David's house to show him your rejection letters. Cry on David's shoulder for a while about your letters, but then, let it go. And, stay with him.

love,
Michelle

Friday, June 12, 2009

Marla in Salt Lake

Letter to myself:
So, I know you’re getting ready for the biggest night of your life: your first dance. I mean how lucky can you be to turn 14 on the same day you get to go to the dance. And I know its black, red and white night. And I know you have your eyes on a couple of boys already. You have waited so long for this and can’t wait to flirt with those boys! Do it!! Have fun!! But, let me give you just a few suggestions about the whole boy thing. You are not going to marry any of them! Get this into your head now or else you’ll spend the next 10 years (that’s right 10 years) of your life asking yourself if this boy or that boy is the “one” for you. I’m telling you now: NO! So stop worrying about it.

Now, don’t worry. You do end up getting married. And to the most amazing person in the world. He is perfect for you, and so completely different from your image of him right now. So don’t go looking for him. He will find you. In fact, you’re not even going to want to date this boy at first.

But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out there and have fun and date. By all means, enjoy this time. It’s a blast! Date as much as you can. (Although I would stay away from that one boy in college who takes you to the basketball game. That one is totally not worth it.) But just have fun and don’t worry so much about getting serious.

You know what is more important than all these boys – your girlfriends, including your sisters. Pay more attention to them. They are the ones who will always be there for you. There will be many boys and lots of tears. But the constant thing in your life will be your girlfriends. The thing is, you can learn so much more from these girls than all those boys you end up kissing. (Yes, don’t get too excited but you will end up kissing, a lot). So instead of being worried about what these boys think of you and if they like you, (they either do or they don’t) try and build lasting relationships with your girlfriends. Listen to them and don’t just talk about boys. Talk about your goals and your dreams for the future. Forget about yourself and all those boys that you think are sooo cute. You are an amazing person no matter what any boy thinks of you. And your friends love you no matter what, so love them back more.
For now, get that eyeliner going, the hair teased up a little bit more, and don’t forget to run through that musk perfume. It’s a great night. “He” will be waiting for you ten years down the road. So leave all these boys in the dust and dance it up!!!

Love,
Marla

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Katie in Chicago

Dear my 20 year old self,

You just finished packing up your car and are ready to make the trip back to Ohio. The feelings you have right now, you will experience many times over the next 10 years. You continue to make life changing decisions in your quest to challenge yourself and find out what your purpose is on this Earth. Luckily, in 10 years, I think you are pretty close to figuring it out.

But, guess what? You are not married, you do not have 7 children, you are not teaching high school math, you live in Texas, and you eat vegetables. And not just the fried ones, the real raw veggies, and you like them.

After trying out many careers, you find one that you are passionate about. So passionate, you will be paying for that graduate school diploma until you are 55.

The good part, though, you are really good at what you do and people in your field respect you and your opinion. You will work with terminally and critically ill patients. You will cry when you first experience the death of a patient. You will lose many patients. One day you realize, as you delete a patient from your list, that you do not cry anymore. You believe it should hurt just as bad as it did the first time, every time. You turn to God for guidance and answers. And, of course, He delivers.

The next 10 years are exciting but life is not perfect at 30…you now have image issues. You have always had all of the confidence in the world, maybe even too much at times. I have always thought this has contributed to your success. Unfortunately, you overhear someone you love call you unattractive. It breaks you. You have heard your whole life that you are beautiful but you can’t seem to forget the one time someone told you different. You will struggle with this every day for years. Your family and friends are there to put you back together, you need to let them. That day your heart breaks, you need to walk away and never look back.

Because of this experience, you’ll have great relationships with stand up guys that you sabotage because you don’t believe they are really attracted to you. When it comes time to define the relationship, you bail or push them away until they leave you. You think you are saving yourself from heartbreak. Newsflash, it hurts just as badly if you define it or not. Let people love you.

Some things are still the same. You still hate cats. You still cry when your mom cries. You still fight for the underdog. You still want straight hair and a tan. You still pray everyday. You still have friends that make you laugh harder than you ever thought possible.

Even though you are enjoying life at 30, you still want some of those things you dreamed about when you were little. I guess we’ll both have to wait and see what happens. For now, you are happy with your life and happy with your self.

Good luck over the next 10 years. Sit back and enjoy your ride to Ohio. You just made one of the best decisions of your life.

Cheers,

Your 30 year old self

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tali in Cleveland

Dear Tali,
You have just turned eighteen, and college is looming. People will tell you college will be infinitely better than high school, but don’t believe them. This is not to say that you won’t love your college years, I would just encourage you to soak up these last months at home. And don’t feel bad for crying when you leave home, because those last moments with your family that morning will be among the sweetest memories you will ever make.

And as long as we’re talking about emotion, I want you to know that you shouldn’t avoid it. It’s okay to cry. I know you feel the need to protect yourself by being tough, by avoiding anything that exposes your true feelings, but let me tell you from experience, you’ll wind up with an enormous amount of regret if you do this. So share your testimony often, even if you have to blubber through it. Go say goodbye to Shaun, even if you are a few states away and in the middle of finals. Yes, you would cry like a baby to see him so sick, but if it were you, you know you’d want him there. And if you don’t go, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. That I can promise you. Dance with your brother at his wedding, even if there is no friend beside you to talk you into it. Sure, you might cry, because you love him more than anyone, because he is your miracle, and because it’s hard to let go, but it will be worth it. I can promise you that, too.

You are an incredibly caring person, and with that comes a tendency to want to help others who are struggling. This impulse is not a bad one, but it can get you into trouble if you aren’t careful. Remember that you can always walk away. Remember that not everyone can be helped. And remember that the person whose sanity is the most important is your own. The minute you feel yourself becoming less than the person you know you are, have a cry, cut them loose, and move on with your life. You’ll need this advice in both relationships and friendships, so please take it to heart.

And finally, a word or two about love. People are all sure you’ll marry fast, and while you are almost showy in your disagreement, you actually hope they are right. There will come a moment this summer when you realize that you could be married by this time next year. It will fill you with a sense of privilege and maturity. But let me just give you some advice right now and tell you that you will not get married as soon as you are hoping. You’ll have to trust in the Lord’s timetable, and this will not always be easy, but it will be essential. You will accomplish much in your single years, and too much discouragement will keep you from fully reaching your potential.

There are so many good things in your life, both then and now. Enjoy them, express gratitude for them, and if nothing else, write them down.

I’m pulling for you,
Tali, age 27

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

K in San Diego

Dear Me at 16,

You know all too well the mantra of “progress, not perfection,” though I can’t think of a time when you settled for anything but perfection. Well, prepare yourself now, because the next 10 years will be far less than perfect.
But they will also form you. Right now your mind is filled with abstract hopes and dreams of a life you have not yet experienced. Ironically, ten years later you’ll long for the optimism, hope and yearning that comes from that same inexperience. Appreciate it now – it will never come back.

You have no idea how strong you are. You are dependent, obedient, meek. But you will have experiences that you are positive will break you. They won’t. Instead, they will cement in you a power of survival that you will take with you throughout your life. But remember that you’re not all strength and steel. You’re also flesh and blood and soul, and most importantly – a woman. You will learn to be vulnerable again, and realize in time that softness is not weakness.

You are a people-pleaser. Don’t let go of this charitable attitude but take care to look out for yourself as well as others, and accept that some people – especially men – will ask too much of you. Free yourself of obligation.

You are smart – so much smarter than you give yourself credit for. What was once your greatest pride will slowly shift as you become more concerned with your beauty, image and the pleasure of being ‘liked.’ I wish, wish wish you wouldn’t shadow your intellect with your image. Don’t completely replace a library with a gym, or a museum with a mall. Your mind is your greatest gift. I wish we had appreciated it more.

I wish I could tell you more, but I’m only ten years ahead. I’m optimistic for the future, and I feel content with the person we have become. She is strong but fragile, charitable yet assured, and always working to improve herself - body, mind and spirit. We have created an impressive woman.
Thank you for your dreams. We’re getting there.

K

Monday, June 8, 2009

Katie in New Orleans

Dear me as a high school senior,

You once wrote a letter to the eighteen-year-old you when you were only 11. You had outlined your future goals to accomplish by 18 – in school, in love, with long hair, and a famous actress (?!). You were supposed to open the letter on your 18th birthday, but you couldn’t wait. You opened it earlier and felt a little sad that you hadn’t met your goals. You were still in school, obviously, because you were a senior in high school (funny how old 18 seemed as an 11-year-old), but your hair was still short (always has been, and I suspect, it always will be), and you had not yet been in love. You had transferred your acting dreams to writing, but still in that vague kind of way.

You spent much of your senior year stressed about college and applications and grades and wondering if you were good enough. You spent most of the time writing really bad poetry on scraps of paper and staring out windows with affected melancholy because you thought it made you somehow more interesting. I wish I could tell you that being aloof wasn’t the answer, but you will learn several years later the joy of engaging with all different kinds of people. At 18, you thought small talk was “trite.” You will learn that all talk is a way to connect and understand people.

You once spent an evening watching Tommy Boy and refusing to laugh because the movie was “pedestrian.” You had some strict ideas about what kinds of things were worth your time, and they generally included only movies based on literature or with corsets. I’m relieved to tell you that was just a phase. (Although, you would probably be ashamed at how much reality tv you end up watching.) But I wish you hadn’t wasted so much time taking yourself too seriously.

You are 18, and you desperately want to leave Utah and go to a small liberal arts college. So desperately that you turn down scholarships and take out loans to do so, only to discover it wasn’t what you really wanted after all. That’s ok. You are 18, and you will make mistakes. Let yourself explore new things and don’t define yourself before actually getting to know yourself. And guess what, you will continue to learn new things about yourself all the time.

Love,

Your older (but not wiser) self.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Jess in Salt Lake

Dear Me at 23,

I know, I know, I’m only 10 years older than you. I can’t really know that much more than you do, right? Because you think you pretty much have things figured out, I know.

I just want to tell you that you actually made some good choices these last couple of years. You have learned that there are so many good people around you. Some of these friends in your little apartment complex right now are treasures you actually get to hang on to. Lucky you! You are learning that there is not only one “right way” to do life. There are so many different choices and time frames and combinations. What you are starting to figure out is that you can be a good person, and a good member of the church without structuring your life just like someone else. Many different roads led your friends to this spot you are at, and each road was different.

You have struggled with deciding if you are ready to start a family. You are not. Nobody is ready. But I will say that waiting a few years was a really good idea for you. This was a difficult decision for you to make. It seemed like for a while there you felt like you “should” have a baby. You prayed and pondered and then decided to wait. So good job for doing what YOU thought was best, not what someone else thought was best. I wish I did that more these days. There are some serious road blocks, speed bumps and potholes on your road and the little foundation you have been working on is just barely going to get you through. I don’t want to scare you, but in the next 6 years, you will question your faith, strength, marriage, and mental status. You will cling to the bits you can, and you will get through these years mostly intact, but chubbier. Ease up on the ice cream. You needed a few years of married life before taking on children.

Also in the next 6 years, you will experience such joy you can’t even believe it. Babies fast and furious. Six years from now, my younger, not-even-pregnant-yet-self, you will be done having kids. And you will know for sure about that one too. You will have had many precious moments, many opportunities to build up your faith and strength. That goofy guy you married is a dang good father and he will save your bacon many times, and will encourage you and love you. Forgive him when he struggles, and return the support he gives you. Also, your kids are beautiful and they will need a lot of sunscreen.

So, all this to say, the decisions you make this year are good ones. You did well, you chose right for YOU. Try to have a little more confidence in yourself, you are stronger than you think you are. Ten years later, I am still working on this, but trial and error have showed me that trusting myself usually works out OK.
And I know you can’t even wrap your head around this one, but you are moving to Utah soon. And you will still be there at my age. Even though it pains me to admit it, turns out that the decision to come here was a pretty good one too.
Love,
Jess -33

Thursday, June 4, 2009

C in Southern California

Dear Me at 14,

You’re in high school – woo hoo! But here’s the rub, high school sucks. And why does it suck? Because you make it suck. All those years of watching Grease and reading Sweet Valley High have built up expectations in you that can never be fulfilled. High school is just a tiny blip in your life, and nothing that happens there is really that important. You don’t have to be popular, a cheerleader, homecoming queen, go to every dance, date a football player, or even date at all. You just have to be yourself. Be happy. Be that wonderful, easy-going, understanding person that everyone relates to and can talk to. You aren’t defined by your friends; you’re defined by who you are. So go ahead and be friends with the druggies, the nerds, the band geeks, even a few cheerleaders. And don’t feel like you have to hide those friendships. Just relax, stop trying so hard to be someone you’re not. Because who you are is pretty awesome! Yeah, you’re shy and awkward in group situations. But that’s only because you’re so concerned about what everyone else thinks of you. And guess what – they’re not thinking of you! They’re thinking of themselves, only themselves, and how awkward and shy they feel. So just go with it, have fun. You’re going to have so many wonderful experiences that you’ll remember forever, don’t stress about the small stuff. Oh and by the way, you’re not fat, not chubby, really not even overweight. I don’t know where you got it in your head that you were some big fatso, probably from your parent’s misguided attempts to encourage healthy eating by telling you “you don’t want to end up fat like Jenny!” (who, I must stress, is not fat either). Yeah, you’re not a size two like some of your friends. But trust me, they would exchange their skinny arms & legs for your curves any day. The only beauty tip I would give you is that it’s time to grow out those bangs. And be patient with the braces, they’re well worth the pain.

I know the next four years are going to be tough, and you’re going to make some mistakes. You’ll make a lot of friends; you’ll lose a few friends. But it’s okay. You’re okay. And the best years of your life are still ahead of you. So just roll with it, and have fun.
Love,

Me at 32

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Megan in Utah

Dearest me,

You’re standing in the bathroom, scared as hell, holding a positive pregnancy test in your hand. Yes you’re married. But no, you weren’t exactly planning on motherhood just yet. You’re terrified. And you’ve learned that it does matter if you forget to take The Pill for a day (maybe 2? 3? Oops.)

But calm down little girl. Wipe the tears off your face. And think about that little kid growing inside you. A little kid (a girl!) who will to love you more than anybody else. A girl who will run to find you first thing every morning. A girl who will cuddle with you for stories every night. A girl who will learn from you, depend on you, and frustrate you. But a girl that will awaken a piece of your heart that you didn’t know you had.

You’re scared. You’re in the middle of your last semester of college. Your husband has at least 2 years of school as well. You’re poor. You’re really poor. And what about the teaching career you’ve dreamed of since you were just a kid yourself? You feel like you’re losing a part of yourself--sacrificing your body, your brain, your ambition. How can you be a mother? Feed, clothe, clean, teach, carry a child? You can’t even take care of yourself (see what you did with The Pill?) how can you take care of a baby?

Megan, you can be a mother. And you will be a mother---a mother who will cuddle and nurse and rock her baby just like mothers have from the beginning. You will be imperfect. You will worry, oh you will worry, but you will raise that baby the best you know how. And “the best you know how” will be more than good enough.

So, go tell that good husband of yours the good news. Because it is good news. A baby is great news. And go blow your last 5 bucks on some ice cream. Being a mom rocks.

Love,
Me

P.S. Should I also warn you about the twins you’ll have after that little girl? You’ll do okay by them, too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Carrie in Southern California

Dear young self – I think you are about thirty,

Maybe you should miss work today because things won’t go so well. You have been working at one of those big corporations for several years now. Corporations give you the opportunity to work with many types of people and grow from the experience. Some of those people you will enjoy and some will challenge you on many levels. Today is a test and you don’t pass.

For several years you and a co-worker have shared different parts of a job. You guys are really different making some days exciting for the difference and others frustrating. Over the years your co-worker has been pretty hard to take on many occasions. Being one to just go along you have practiced and perfected the art of turning the other cheek. This art has been practiced in many remote parts of the world, in front of other people and at social outings. But not today!

Today you wake up stressed with impending deadlines and that is not an excuse. You have a meeting in an open studio with other designers. While discussing an important design decision your co-worker pipes up about you not having a good taste level. You stop and look her up and down. The woman is actually wearing a short black skirt with red and white striped tights. The ensemble is capped off with a yes a cap, a fuzzy sweater and short boots. So here is the mistake, you say, “All this from the woman whose design inspiration is the Cat in the Hat.” Seriously, all the air sucked out of the room. People are laughing and dead quite at the same time. Well, Ms. Seuss storms away and you are left realizing that comment only felt good for a second.

If you get the chance, keep turning the other cheek. You will have to see the Cat in the Hat forever. You two would not have been close friends but cats don’t forget. It would be much easier to see Ms. Seuss and ask about her family or even just say hi. Also, it doesn’t feel good to be mean period!

love,
carrie