Last week was my 28th birthday. An unremarkable age, but I know I’m blessed to have another year of health and the richness of love and happiness in my life.
During a lunch break recently I was sitting in the lobby of my office building going through old pictures on Facebook, just killing time to get away from my desk for a bit, and I came a cross a picture of me at 18 years old. When I realized I was approaching 28 I thought holy sh*t, that was 10 YEARS AGO! HOW?! It was my freshman year of college and it was a total shock that it’s been that long since. It was also a total shock that I was quite thin and fit when, like most teenage girls, I thought I was certainly NOT thin and fit.
Which got me thinking about how much I and my life have changed since that time. If only I could impart some wisdom on that 18 year old girl. You know, the ‘ole “if I knew then what I know now”. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I would change that much. But of course I say that now. Maybe I would handle a few experiences differently or not wear that one red leopard belt (seriously though, what was I thinking?). But that’s how you’re supposed to feel after you’ve lived and learned. So for my 28th birthday, I wrote a letter to my 18 year old self.
Right now you are going through a whirlwind. You’re starting college, living in a new city and rushing a sorority. Buckle up, because these next four years are going to be wild. You’re going to meet amazing people that will become like family and stay in your life forever, travel internationally for the first time and learn valuable lessons in the best way possible. Making mistakes.
Speaking of mistakes, in these years don’t let anyone walk all over you. Stand up for yourself just as you would for your friends. It’s unfortunately a lesson you need to learn, and do so a few times over. Be better with your money, and don’t live in places you can’t afford (particularly over the summers when you’re kicked out of the dorms). Really consider minoring in business, you’ll wish you had. Oh, and don’t open that Banana Republic credit card. Just don’t.
These years pass by in a flash, but boy do you pack a lot of life in them.
Your early 20s are particularly special because you get to experience living by yourself, living with your best friend, getting into graduate school, and meeting your future husband. Sounds like a lot, right?
Let’s talk about grad school because I have some bad news. You essentially drop out. Those life plans you set when you were 16 and 17 and held on to through college, don’t feel quite right when you’re 22 and 23 . Unfortunately you realize it while working a full-time job, going to school nights and weekends and took on a little more student debt. You’ll always wonder if you made the right decision to forego the remainder of the program, even several years later. But you trust your gut and take the leap. The “phase” that follows this decision is what I call the quarter-life crisis, searching for anything to right the ship that steered off course and find a new goal of what you want to be when you grow up. There’s no silver slipper moment here, you still don’t know you’ve just learned to live with it.
HOWEVER, in the midst of all this you find an anchor in a truly special person that God made just for you. A person who encourages you and inspires you. Luckily, you’ll marry him knowing it’s the best decision you’ll ever make.
Your wedding will be beautiful but not without its challenges, and you’ll have to make really hard choices. Forgive yourself for the missteps, in the long run you did your best and held on to what is most important — that you and Gabe were going to be married. In the end that’s all that matters.
In your mid 20s you’ll realize your dream of living in New York City, taking in shows, brunching and jogging (OK fast walking) through Central Park. It’s everything you dreamed of just smellier. You’ll travel to Europe a couple more times, which feeds your wanderlust to experience what’s even further. Then you’ll move once again to Washington D.C. Through all of these experiences you’ll learn that you’re adaptable and open minded, and welcome change with grace. Something you quite like about yourself.
Now that you’re stepping in to your late 20s I wish I could tell you you have things figured out, but the truth is hardly anyone does. You’re still making mistakes and learning lessons from them, and still navigating each step as it comes. Perhaps the best advice I can give you is to get comfortable being uncomfortable because things sure do change a lot, and you actually kind of like it.