Dear Younger Me,
I desperately wish I could sit down with you, face to face, over a cup of coffee. Well, today’s me (Or should I say you? This could get confusing.) would have coffee, but since you’re only 16 and still on your caffeine hiatus, you’d probably have Sprite. Anyway, I digress. (Yes, you still wander off on rabbit trails when you’re 35. You’ll learn to adjust. Sort of.)
I wish I could sit down and talk with you. I wish I could tell you all the things I wish you knew that would alter your course in ways you can’t imagine now. I wish I could change things for you.
I can’t, though. I can’t change things for you, and really, I’m not all that sure I really would want to if I could. See, you’ll come to a place in your life when you’ll appreciate the hard times and the bumps in the road and even all the things that cause you pain, because you’ll begin to see how God – yes, God – uses those. You’ll begin to understand that your life isn’t arbitrary and pointless, but that you are here on purpose…for a purpose…and that you fit into a bigger plan than you know.
I know that you don’t believe me. I know you’re more far more interested in loud music and strange movies and questionable fashion choices than you are in God. (You’re still in that awkward phase of wearing clunky Doc Marten boots and baggy camouflage pants and teeny little shirts that show your back when you bend over. We need to talk about that, by the way.) I know you’re in a crowd that doesn’t think or talk or even consider God. I know you have at least one friend who openly mocks God and “church people,” so you certainly wouldn’t even tell her you go to church. And I know you do go to church, which is good, and have some vague ideas about right and wrong. I also know, though, that you don’t necessarily attach those ideas to God. And when you’re at church, I know you still hide in the bathroom instead of going to Sunday school.
I know how you’re feeling about yourself. I know you look in the mirror and wish you saw something different. I know you’re still dating that guy…yeah, I remember him…because you can’t imagine yourself being alone. I remember all of that. I do. And I’m sad to tell you that a lot of that will take some serious time and work to change.
Those things will eventually change, but in the meantime, you’re going to make some bad decisions. You don’t know who you are, really, so I can’t fault you for that. You’re just trying to find yourself. It’s just going to hurt as you keep looking in the wrong places, and I wish I could spare you that pain.
You’ll learn from it all, though, and will come out better on the other side as a more wise, more confident, and more secure young woman. Keep hoping in that.
And that’s what I really want to tell you: that there is hope. I’m not sure you’d describe yourself as hopeless right now, because in a lot of ways things seem to be going really well for you. Your grades are great and you’re fairly popular and things seem all right. But hindsight is 20/20. (Yeah, you’re definitely going to be one of those adults who uses cliches a lot. It’s not the end of the world.) I can see a lot looking back, and I can see what you’re feeling deep inside. You’re lost. You’re scared. And you’re reaching for anything to grab onto for security.
As much as I hate to point this out, but that Sunday school class you’re avoiding like the plague? And that youth pastor you’re literally running from? They know the truth you’re looking for. I know you don’t want to hear it, based on how you reacted when your friend mentioned coming to Sunday night youth group with him. (None of those have been your finest moments, by the way.) I know you’re rolling your eyes and getting defensive right now. Just hear me out. There’s something to this.
There is going to come a time – or many times – when you’ll feel like your world is crashing down. In some ways, it will crash down. Your vulnerable heart will break and the pain will be worse than you can imagine now. You’ll face disappointments unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. You’re going to have some really, really hard times for which you can’t even necessarily pinpoint the cause. You’ll wonder what is happening in your head and why you feel so lost when you’re alone with your thoughts. Sometimes you won’t recognize who you’ve become. Things are going to get so bad, at times, that you’ll think about taking things into your own hands and making it all stop.
Yes, I’m talking about what you think I’m talking about. I’m serious. You’ll get to that place, but it’ll scare you and you’ll feel ashamed at even thinking those thoughts and won’t dwell on them. You won’t act on anything, but you’ll revisit the thoughts occasionally.
Oh, sweet girl… (I’m calling you that because deep down, you are. Because deep down you need to hear that. Because you don’t feel it at all.) You have such hard days ahead, and I don’t necessarily want to tell you which decision not to make and what situation to avoid in order to change the course of your life. I don’t see benefit in that, because God really is going to use those things. All I want to do is tell you to hold on to hope.
Cling to it. Refuse to let it go. Claim that word for yourself. Speak it over yourself and surround yourself with it and do whatever you have to do to orient yourself toward hope.
Just hope. Allow yourself to believe that there are good things up ahead. Release yourself from the expectation that you’re going to be an absolute failure. Let go of the idea that this is as good as it gets.
Grasp for hope. Search for it. Look for it in nature and in beautiful things and in books with pretty covers and in people who just seem different from everyone else. Look for it in places you don’t expect. And if you see a rock in the shape of a heart? Go ahead and pick it up. Stick that rock in your pocket, because it represents a kind of hope, too. That won’t make sense to you for a few more years, but trust me on this. Pick it up and keep it.
Keep hoping. Let it be your anchor in the storm. (That cool image is from the Bible, by the way. I’m just saying.) Let it be the thing that steers you down that uncertain path ahead of you with college applications and prom dates and graduation speeches. (The prom thing? That’s going to be weird, but go with it. And yes, you’ll have to speak at graduation, but you’ll be okay.) In all of it, hope. Hope. Hope.
You are at the beginning of a crazy, incredible journey. The truth is, I might be willing to go back and walk the path you’re starting down….but only – only – if I had the promise of hope. I would do it again only if I felt tethered to hope and driven by possibility and pulled by the expectation of great things to come.
You’re going to be okay. You’re going to uncover dreams in your heart that you have no idea exist, and you’re going to learn things about yourself that will put everything into perspective. When you’re 35, your life is going to be pretty amazing. I won’t give you details, but trust me: things will be better than you feel like you deserve.
You’re going to be okay. I promise.
Hoping with you,