What would I want to say to myself last year at this time – when I was just turning sixteen?
You might be wondering how I consider myself qualified to answer this question, considering I just turned seventeen. I don’t see sixteen as nostalgic and laced with memories and it certainly doesn’t include letter jackets from a boyfriend or with a sparkle in my eye just yet.
But this is what I want to say to myself this time last year.
I know God doesn’t allow us to travel back in time for an intricate purpose. But if I could come back to her, I would want to affirm her and whisper some of these truths and predictions in her ear.
Dear sixteen-year-old self,
Sixteen comes with a lot of expectations. Maybe too many of them, really. It’s called sweet sixteen.
I know I haven’t been separated from you long – I’m still waving goodbye to you, really.
I know you’re already more grown up than most. True adulthood will come when it comes. For now, even in your mini-adulthood, I don’t want you to lose the invincible feeling that you get when you listen to rap music or the giddy laugh you make after seeing a handsome man with a cup of coffee and nerdy glasses. I don’t want you to lose your sense of humor, and the importance of laughing even when no one else thinks it’s funny. I don’t want you to lose the goofiness that remains. Don’t let maturity steal your ability to laugh.
I know you’ll have to grow older, and then old. This isn’t a tutorial on how to freeze time. But, if you must have an old soul – it seems as if you had no choice in the matter, I’m afraid – I hope you can jump into moments such as these for the rest of my life. Moments when you can feel like you’re a little girl again. Moments when you’re fearless and not afraid to dance. When you’re expectant and silly.
This year may have held some heart ache, confusion, and a sickness that kept you in bed the first month of summer – but it also held deep laughs, lipsync battles, guacamole, dinners with those who mean most, and growing courage. It’s all worth more than you know, my dear.
Remember all you that you can. All you hated and loved, all you walked through and all you danced to. Right now, you might look back at everything you didn’t get to experience, or did, and feel defeated. Do not live like that.
You’re going to receive a little more freedom this year. You’re starting to sail scarier waters. Stop focusing on too many of the details. You did the best you could, babe. You wouldn’t be who you are today without each day spent well or poorly. God doesn’t waste anything.
Stop beating yourself up. No negotiations allowed. Don’t ever be sorry for who you are. Don’t apologize for being a dork of for how introverted you are or what you’re interested in or where you go to school.
You’ll be sad that sometimes you sit alone. Then you’ll learn what it’s like when you have someone to sit with. When the season changes again, you’ll be confident enough to – dare I say it – to enjoy sitting alone. You’ll sit taller.
Girl, you’ll sit through some awkward conversations. You’ll push through it. Time will help a tiny fraction, but mainly your life will be oddly made better just because you’ve seen what you look like wrapped in bravery.
You’ll listen to an Adam Levine song and wish that someone was singing the lyrics directly over you. Keep allowing yourself to get caught up in beautiful melodies.
You’ll text your girlfriend and say, “How do you get over a vulnerability hangover?” You’ll feel like crap for awhile. Just keep going. Trust me.
You’ll struggle and wonder what’s best and you’ll dream about graduation, and for the first time it won’t feel so far away.
You’ll see what God does when you finally let go and trust that He takes cares of you. Of course, it will be hard to accept His hand and His lavish care and ceaseless love because you can’t comprehend why He loves even the details of you that you’re terrified the world will see. It’s a process.
You’ll get overwhelmed and burnt out. People will exhaust you, people will uplift you.
On the bad days, you’ll wonder why in the heck people call this year sweet sixteen.
Love people, but don’t wait to love them until you know they like you. Love everybody, you’re not forever obligated to the ones that continually belittle you.
Say what you need to say. (Actually, you did a pretty good job at this. Congrats.)
Instagram is not real. If they don’t document you, it does not mean their world didn’t glow a little brighter when you walked into it. Maybe they know that you have brought sunshine, and maybe you’ll never get the credit for the way their world has been touched. It doesn’t really mater. What matters is that you’re a friend with loyalty and integrity – discussed or not discussed, critiqued or praised, mentioned or not mentioned. Things are almost never as they seem.
Props to you for all those dance parties and for always taking the time to hug your dog and for writing handwritten letters even when if you know they won’t reply quickly or at all and some other simple efforts that are never highlighted; the daily things that hopefully are leading into a life that leaves a big, fatty legacy behind that is more concerned in heart than in appearance and not looking to fit in all the lines created by society.
I can’t take away your heartaches and your tears.
But that also means that I can’t replace the lessons you’re going to learn, that are going to be woven into you whether you remember them all by name or not.
From Kansas to North Carolina, to Colorado to Tennessee, to one job to another – you grew.
You’ll get better.
I guess that’s it.
You’re on your way to sweeter, better things.