Some days I don’t even recognize the face staring back at me in the mirror. Where did these wrinkles come from? Why are there half-moon circles under my eyes, making me look like a not-so-cute, middle-aged, soccer mom/baseball player? At times, I feel so weary from life’s struggles that I simply cannot believe I am barely 42. Other times, I feel fresh and energetic, enough to stay out until . . . at least 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night (only because I can sleep past the 5:30 alarm clock from each preceding weekday).
Life changes a person. I have experienced a vast array of love, loss, excitement, boredom, passion, and apathy.
I like the woman I am today.
I enjoy sharing her story with others even if it doesn’t always paint her in a beautiful light. She is honest, she is real, she is raw, she is me.
In reflecting upon the past 20 years, I came up with some advice I wish I could have shared with my former self. (Between you and me, she probably wouldn’t have listened; she was rather stubborn).
Dear younger, energetic, less-jaded, version of myself:
You may think being a fresh, college graduate with a new job, new husband, and new life staring back at you in the mirror of youth that you have reached the apex of maturity. Trust me, you have not. You will soon learn the big fish in a small pond mentality that fed you for the first 18 years of life was extremely misleading when compared to the small fish in a big ocean you are soon to discover.
The loyalty you feel toward certain people in your life will soon be tested beyond your naïve imagination. Just because you said vows in front of family, friends, and God, your marriage is not immune to the tragedy you believed only happened to others.
You will learn that some things, which come easily for others, will not be so easy for you.
A heart’s desire to have a family does not ensure the ability to have a family. You will struggle in your relationship. You will struggle to have children. You will struggle in your mind, the darkness enveloping you in a shroud of anxiety, making you feel like a prisoner condemned to a life of solitary confinement.
Just when you feel ill-equipped to handle one more ounce of heartache, you will enter a season of joy. Your long-awaited dream of becoming a mother will finally seem a reality. Hold tight, sister. You will soon find that not all joyful occasions end in joyful outcomes.
You will lose that precious first baby, whose life began in your very womb. You will also lose your sense of innocence and become bitter for a season. Do not give up (you won’t). Let your body and mind process this loss. Do not rush this important step. Knowing you as I do, impatient 20-something me, I know I am wasting my breath on this advice.
The tides will turn. You will experience motherhood, and because of the losses you encountered, your gratefulness for the children God intended to be yours will never wane.
You will cling to this newfound love with all your being.
You will cling too much to this new phase of motherhood, turning a blind eye to other parts of life lacking attention.
Your marriage will fail. You will lose much, former me. But please, despite the nights of crying yourself to sleep and feeding yourself the poison of resentment, you will eventually break. Do not despair—this break is necessary.
It will force you to let go of preconceived notions you had as a child. It will allow you to reframe your perfectionistic view of life when life is anything but perfect. This break will be one of the greatest gifts you have ever received. Not only will it allow you to let go and grow in your faith, it will finally allow you to live.
No longer in the shadow of a husband who did not know how to love (any more than you did), you will develop a sense of self that will spur you toward great things. You will be surprised at the strength you emit after this break.
A healthier, stronger, independent woman will emerge.
This woman knows her worth. She is confident in her abilities. She is no longer afraid of messing up but knows the greatest disappointment in life is to let fear steal her desire to live, with passion, the life for which she was created.
Dear younger me, you were born to shine. Sometimes the brightest stars have faced the deepest pain. You are going to have an epic story to share with the world. Every chapter of joy and season of pain, each hurt followed by loss and then gain—it all serves a greater purpose. It tells the tale of a love you never knew. A love you found only after a devastating loss. A love sustained by passion, freedom, insight, and overcoming.
This love, sweet girl, is the love you finally found for yourself.