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 naïve 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.)
D at 32