Paris Photo Diary (Part I) + An Open Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self
While most of you were enjoying the Labor Day weekend, I was celebrating my birthday.
I turned 24 on Sunday, and as I sit here dissecting every detail of my life as I typically do every year, I am reminded of my 18-year-old self, full of life and wonder, ecstatic to embark on the journey of “real life,” completely naive, oblivious and unaware of what being an adult actually meant. Overall, I feel blessed beyond words to be where I am today, and I thank God for every lesson along the way.
In the midst of my reflection, I had the idea to write a letter to my 18-year-old self. I hope it helps you realize that we all go through the same wilderness in one way or another. I also hope it plants in you a seed of bravery to come to terms with your past, enjoy every minute of the present and to never, ever lose hope for that which is yet to come. If anything, I hope it gives you a sense of happiness and comfort to know that issues which seem so concerning at the moment will pass in the blink of an eye.
Just stop. Stop wasting time trying to nourish a genuine friendship with every person you come in contact with. First of all, it is impossible to have a genuine relationship with a person that cannot even begin to fathom the meaning of genuineness. That’s the problem with people like you, who mean everything they say; they think everyone else does to. Unfortunately, you will learn this the hard way (if ever). Fact is, the people you currently call your friends will be anything but in a few short years. You have yet to meet true friends – friends that know everything about you and love you nonetheless, friends that give sound advice even if it grates on the ear, friends that are truly invested in your happiness – but don’t despair. It will happen! Very soon, in fact! You will gain a new understanding of friendship, and when you do, I pray not a day goes by without you showing your friends just how much they mean to you. I pray you hold on to the select few (quality over quantity) and never let them go, even if life tries to get in the way (which it most definitely will).
Treasure your well-meaning family as well. I know somewhere deep in the recesses of your heart you realize that they are the most important people in your life. In good, in bad, they are the one constant in your life, regardless. None of them perfect, and stop expecting them to be. Unfortunately, they are not high on your priority list right now because you have lost focus. Honestly, you have no priority list. You are far too preoccupied with him to notice life passing you by – your sister blossoming into a teenager, your brother growing distant, your parents aging significantly – all things you will struggle to forgive yourself for missing out on later in life.
Speaking of him, although it may seem like a million years away, you will have the happy ever after you’re dreaming of. Count yourself truly lucky, and thank God for him every day, because I’m talking about butterflies-in-your-stomach, only-happens-in-movies happy ever after. Yes, it may take a few years to smooth out the mess you’ve found yourself in, but God has a way of turning chaos into something beautiful. Learn to forgive. A happy marriage is made up of two good forgivers. Remember that. Rest assured that he will make you feel safer, sexier and more loved than you could ever imagine. Hold on tight to him. He is your champion, your rock, your sanity. And when he tells you you’re beautiful – believe him. And when he says you’re not fat, just go with it.
I know that every fiber in your body will resist what I am about to say next, but please, please, please consider it: be impractical (I bet that’s advice you’ve never heard!) Seriously, you have taken the lesson of practicality way too seriously for an 18-year-old – or for a person of any age, for that matter! Learn to live a little (with a clear conscience, of course). Get out of your comfort zone and move away for college (unfortunately, your logical reasoning will win over on this one). Don’t be so determined to follow the step-by-step instructions society has laid out for you (college, marriage, house with a white picket fence, 2.5 children). Put “real life” on hold, book a ticket and just leave! Trust me, you will thank me later.
There is so much more I wish I could tell you. But if you get anything out of my letter, I hope it’s this: learn to speak less and listen more (quality over quantity, again). It will save you from many regrets later on. God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Also, sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right. Understand that the world doesn’t need another intelligent mind that speaks, but a kind heart that listens.