Dear 18-Year-Old Me,
I write to you on the day before your 40th birthday. Life is good. There are so many things I want to tell you. The best one-liner I can give you is “Buckle up, it’s going to be a ride!”
One of the best decisions you made was marrying your best friend, your soulmate. I know it seems like you both are still kids right now and there are a lot of people saying you are too young but don’t listen to them. The bond you have together will continue to grow into something that will be nothing short of amazing. You will have little bumps and bruises just like everything else worth having does, but hold on tight, I promise you that doing life with him will be a decision you will never regret. It will be one that will keep you smiling and, most importantly, laughing for the rest of your life.
He will be your rock. He will know your strengths and your weaknesses because he cares enough to know them. He will care enough to be there when you need it, and he will care enough to leave you be when you need to do it yourself. Know that you got one of the good ones, and if I have to be biased, you got the best one.
You will create three of the most precious gifts the world will ever give you.
These three gifts will carry your heart around outside of your body, and you will never have felt love like this. They will give you so much joy, so much love, and if we are being honest, so much stress and sleep deprivation too, but it will all be worth it. Your oldest will show you an old soul in a very tall body, one that is meticulous and thoughtful, caring and kind. He will be a true reflection of a first child, one who will teach you as much as you teach him.
You will get your daughter, the one you dreamed about as a child, and she will show you independence and strength, beauty and love, and you will be eager to watch her grow while always being there for her to fall back on whenever she needs you. She will show you, you, only a much more beautiful version.
Your third will show you a wild and kind soul. With his love for true adventure, his humor and his kindness, he will show you the world through lots of belly laughs, a little humility, a lot of dirt, and a few words probably not appropriate for his age. Don’t blame yourself for those.
They will all three make you stand tall while at the same time bring you to your knees. It’s a love that words will not do justice. They will test you. It will be your job to protect their hearts and help them navigate this world to be the best versions of themselves they can be. It won’t always be easy but the most important jobs usually aren’t.
Don’t try to please everyone. You cannot be everything to everyone.
You will go through stages of life questioning relationships and friendships. You will try to bring everyone together. You will fail. You will wonder if you did all you could, what you could have done better, and what you did wrong. You will find that not everyone will like you, and you will realize you don’t like everyone either. You will learn to be OK with that. You will be too much for some people. You will be just right for others. You will have heartaches and sadness, love and laughter—honor it all. There is lots to learn from each instance. You will finally adopt the saying, “it’s not the size of the circle, but the loyalty in it.”
You will make mistakes, apologize genuinely when you do. You cannot go backward, but the best apology comes with a willingness to want to make things right and the actions that come with that. Those mistakes will come with lessons that will make you who you are at 40, so I can’t tell you not to make them. If you’ve been misunderstood, leave it be. People will believe only what they want to believe and their opinions are not your business. Time is too precious to waste trying to change a closed mind. Your skin is very thin right now, but by the time you get to 40, it will have many, many more layers to it.
Cherish the ones who choose you. The ones you can fall apart with, the ones who love you unconditionally. The ones who you hope your kids go to when they can’t come to you. The ones who will laugh at you when you fall and then ask if you are OK. Make it clear that you choose them too. Be their safety net, their 3 a.m. call, their safe zone. Love them. You won’t get many of them, but the ones you do, they are gold. Don’t ever take them for granted.
Grow, grow, grow. Don’t be afraid to change. If we don’t change, we don’t grow. What doesn’t grow, dies.
Try new things, be open to a new point of view, a different opinion. Just because you’ve been doing something a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean you can’t wake up tomorrow and do it differently. You are not stuck, ever. Wake up and do something you’ve never tried, something you’ve always wanted to do. Wake up and stop doing something you’ve always done that you know doesn’t make you happy.
Shine, girl, shine! Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle. You were put here to do things that no one else is here to do. You are here to be you. Anyone who doesn’t like it, doesn’t have to. You’ll find yourself in a time shortly where the terms “unfriend” or “unfollow” will be a big deal to some, don’t let it be to you. Everyone is entitled to creating a world that makes them happy, sometimes that may be with you not in it and that’s OK. It’s got everything to do with them, not with you. Let it go.
Stay active and do the things you love. Take the trips. Let the dogs up on the couch. Exercise to feel good, dance to make your soul sing, and eat the dessert to celebrate. Learn to love your body, learn to take care of it, and know it’s the only vehicle you have to get you to old age. And getting there is going to be a privilege—one not everyone gets.
Remember that nothing is permanent, happiness is a choice, and there is always good, you just have to sometimes dig a little deeper in certain places to find it.
Bring tissues, you are going to need them. But, luckily the laughter has outweighed the tears so far.
Originally published on the author’s blog