I’m twenty-one years old.
In a few months, I’ll be in the same year of life that my sister was when she passed away. Sommer was a quieter person – incredibly friendly, but kept her group of friends very small, which is how she liked it. People didn’t earn her trust easily, but when they did, she gave them her whole heart. Most people didn’t know it at first glance but she possessed a wisdom far beyond her years. It astonishes me that I’m almost the same age that she was when she passed away – I feel decades younger than her.
Nevertheless, I have been thinking a lot about the “Old Me”. The one who confidently strode into any room she could and didn’t worry about whether or not she would impress people because she honestly felt like she was already pretty impressive. The Old Me who always sought out the popular crowd and would do almost anything to fit in. The Old Me who never wanted to look like a fool and was far too worried about always being “cool”.
Oh honey, you think you know so much.
With all of that said, there are a few things that I wish I could go back and tell my younger self at specific, pivotal ages in my life; specifically the ages of twelve, fifteen, seventeen and twenty.
If I could go back to any time, I’d also go back to age nine and tell myself not to become obsessed with the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe movie and instead encourage myself to keep reading the Chronicles of Narnia books because no, they are not the same thing, and wow, you are missing out on re-reading some great literature. Don’t make the excuse that your mom read them to you when you were younger – read them now for yourself, child. But besides that ridiculous obsession, there are only a few years that I’d like to go back and give myself some advice/words of encouragement over.
Here now is your chance to eavesdrop on a semi-private conversation with “The Old Me’s”.
Dear Twelve-Year-Old Me: Babygirl, I wish I could give you a hug right now. As you live in this strange, uncertain transitional phase of life where you’re going back and forth between two houses in two different states, I know you feel completely lost and confused. You’re finally reaching the age where you aren’t a kid anymore, but it takes a lot longer for everyone else to catch up. I have some advice for you, even though I doubt you’ll take it since you’re easily the most headstrong young lady I’ve ever known. First of all, deep conditioner is your best friend. It’ll take care of that Hermione Granger bush of hair you have. It would be amazing if you could realize this ahead of schedule. Just sayin’.
Second, let go of drama. Take a breath. Ask yourself – “will this matter a year from now?” I can already promise you, the majority of the things you’re worried about right now will not matter a year from now. Life is going to hold enough craziness on its own, you don’t need to create more drama ahead of time. I promise, you will have a big and full life. Things will not always be as uncontrollable and frustrating as they currently.
Third, I’m really proud of how much you’re clinging to Jesus right now. This is a mode of operation that is going to continue throughout your lifetime and I’m so glad that you’re starting now. You’re angry, like most people at your age, because you’re not quite sure where you fit in life or what you’re supposed to be doing. So for the fourth thing I want to tell you to remember that your anger hurts you too. Let it go, babe. You’ll be glad that you did.
Dear Fifteen-Year-Old-Me: Honey, you are full of too much drama. This is that wonderful and confusing age where everything is a huge deal and completely forgotten about a month later. You have so many dreams and aspirations – which is amazing because this zeal for life will continue to rocket you into your future. I know you’re insecure about so many things about yourself – sometimes the list changes from week to week – but I can promise you that none of these things are as important as you think they are. You’re going to live an amazing life, despite your unfortunate nose. But something that is most certainly going to stand in the way of your amazing life is this pride issue that you harbor. You use your pride as a protection against all of your insecurities – holding it up like a flaming shield so that no one can come near. You don’t want to admit your faults because you’re afraid that you’ll have to change. You can’t handle criticism because you’re overtly concerned with constantly winning outside approval. Almost everything you do is for other’s affirmation and it is exhausting. Stop. It. Just live your life. The only one that you’re here to please is God. And babygirl, while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about pleasing God. You’re not living like that’s what you want. You go through the motions, your heart dances around the ideas and prances through prayers and worship songs. You read your Bible and pour over Bible studies but none of it is out of true love for God. You do it because you think that’s what you have to do to impress the people around you. Don’t buy this trap, girl. It’s keeping you from meeting God for who He really is. It stops you from coming face-to-face with the great and powerful Yahweh that He is. Your masks and shows that you put on keep tripping you on the way to knowing what a Real God looks like – not the one that you keep in your tidy box and strap around your wrist like an accessory.
Dear Seventeen-Year-Old Me: Congratulations on finding deep conditioner. Your hair looks great, lady. You’re finally starting to get the hang of your writing and seeing where it’s going to fit in your career, which is awesome. You’re standing on the brink of what’s going to be an incredibly bright future at Texas State University – even though I know that your heart is still crying for A&M, you’ll come to realize God’s impeccable plan for you elsewhere. You’re going to get discouraged a lot this year. You’ll be turned down again and again at different opportunities that you’ve set your heart on. What you’ll find is that no is not dismissal, it’s direction. You’ll learn that you absolutely do not know it all, and you absolutely never will. You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get angry. That’s okay. Because you’ll learn how strong you are. You’ll use that strength in future battles that you can’t even imagine yet. You’re learning so much more about meeting God for who He really is, and not some interpretation that has been fed to you. You’re falling more and more in love with the creator of your heart and seeing more and more of Him leaving His fingerprints on your story. You’re still overwhelming yourself with fitting with a crowd – any crowd where people will accept you. It’s something that you’ll probably continue to wrestle with for the rest of your life. You’re getting older and becoming an adult, and with that, starting to think you’re a lot wiser than you are. Please remember that no matter how wise you become “for seventeen”, you are still only seventeen. There are those around you who have lived a lot more of life than you have that would love to administer their wisdom to you. Remember, you can always turn to your parents for help if you need it, and don’t lie to them when you do need it.
Dear Twenty-Year-Old Me: Girrrrllll you’re in for a wild year. Not that you’re going to be too surprised considering that it started off with losing your sister/soulmate. Honestly babe, it’s hard to know where to start with you. You’re going to make a lot of emotional decisions this year. You’re going to make a lot of emotional mistakes. Not just because of everything that’s going on in your life, but also because you’re just so incredibly confused by everything that being twenty brings. In time, you’ll look back on 2017 and call it “My Ridiculous Year”. You’re going to find a lot of your weaknesses this year – they’ll become magnified and thrown in your face until you find yourself almost crushed from their undeniable validity. And then, something beautiful will happen; you’ll learn to turn your weaknesses over to God, and He will shine so brightly through them, that they will become your greatest strengths. You will learn to love people from a pure and unbiased place, and when those people hurt you, rather than wanting revenge you’ll only love them more. God will come so close to you this year, you’ll practically be able to feel Him breathing on your face when He speaks to you through His word. You’ll learn the true meaning of “I must decrease; He must increase.” Oh, babygurl, you’re in for such a challenging year. Looking back now, I wish that I could just hug you and whisper how proud of you I am over your tears and shuddering heartbreak. But oh, honey; once these lessons are learned, every scar, every bruise, every smashed piece of glass that makes up your mosaic life, will soon become evidence of a life courageously lived and remind you that you serve a God who is stronger than any storm that besets you.
Final Call: When I set out to write this post I thought “Who wants to read a ‘private conversation’ I’m having with my past self? I look like a psycho.” But then I had a conversation with one of my friends that changed this thought; “I think we all need to take the time to look at who we were so we know who we have become.” I hope that some of you reading this can relate to how I felt – maybe not at those specific ages, but perhaps at other points in your life. I hope that by reading this, you can rejoice with me that God never left me in my prideful, stiff-necked, broken ways, but continued to soften me with His love – sometimes gently and sometimes with a jackhammer. I hope that you too, can dance in your heart, looking back on your own periods of brokenness and failure, and thank God that He loved each of us enough to continue to spin us on His potter’s wheel and shape us to be better and better equipped for His kingdom.
“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay; you are the potter. We are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8