Where Logic Meets Love

A Birthday Letter to Myself (or Thoughts on the Past 10 Years)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

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A Letter to Myself (or, Reflections on the Past 10 Years) | Faith Permeating Life

It blows my mind a little bit that it's only been a year since I launched my new blog design, which was just two months after getting a real URL and a Facebook fan page and introducing Three Books on Thursday. Even though I've been blogging for over three years now, it seems like it's only been a year that this site has been a "real blog."

So happy birthday to me, and happy birthday to my blog!

Stranger still is the realization of how long I've been out of high school now. Ten years ago I was in my junior year of high school. My sister is now a sophomore in high school. That is crazy.

Given how very much has changed in those past ten years, it seems like this would be an appropriate time to write one of those "letters to my past self" that I've seen people doing here and here and here and here and here and... you get the idea. Yes, I am a little slow to this bandwagon.

But seeing as I don't have a time machine and, even if I did, couldn't change the past (yes, I have been watching Doctor Who and reading The Time-Traveler's Wife, why do you ask?), it seems pointless to try to give myself advice like, "Cut your hair short" or "Stop asking guys out" since none of that actually happened. And if it had, perhaps I would not be the person I am today.

Instead, I'd just like to give my past self a little hope that I wish I'd had, and some life lessons that I've learned since then.


Dear 17-year-old Jessica,

Before you ask, yes, junior year is going to continue to be the best and worst year of high school. Spoiler alert: You get through it.

You can't control how other people act. Or feel. You can't stop other people from making mistakes. Those things you think are going to be horribly life-altering will be a big deal for a month -- maybe a year at most -- but not a lifetime. Life is long and contains pain here and there. That's OK.

Also, you're going to like your friends a lot better when you don't have to see them all day every day.

Despite what you think, you don't have any breathing problems and you're just horribly out of shape. Once you get to college, you'll actually have a doctor who listens to you and get some tests to prove that you're fine, and then later a doctor that figures out you need a pill for allergies. In ten years, you're going to be able to run for several miles without stopping. Yeah, I know, it shocked me too.

I know you think that you are never going to get married, but that's because your selection of guys right now is super-limited. Seriously. Just hold tight, because two years from now you're going to be on a great date with your future husband, during which you spill chicken pad thai all over your lap. Trust me, it's worth seeing past the fro, because he'll cut it at the end of the year anyway. He's amazing. Just you wait.

It doesn't prove anything to anyone for you to swear up and down that you're not going to change your college major. All it's going to do is make you agonize that much more when you can't get through your art classes and have to drop your photo major. Guess what? No one cares. No one even remembers that you swore you wouldn't change your major. You're not going to end up working in what you major in anyway, so it's somewhat irrelevant.

Yes, there's something to be said for determination, but flexibility is good too. You're not going to end up in the career you thought you wanted or living in the place where you thought you wanted to live. The options you end up with will make you far happier.

It turns out that the things that make you weird can work to your advantage. Like the fact that you don't want to drink in college is going to lead to you helping launch a new student organization, get an excellent on-campus job in alcohol abuse prevention education, and write an awesome master's thesis on messages about alcohol use at universities.

Oh yeah, did I mention you're going to get a master's degree? Don't worry, it will only take an extra year and won't cost anything. Actually, they're going to pay you to teach, which, I know, is hilarious and terrifying. You will feel completely incompetent for the entire first semester, but you will also love it to pieces. Surprises abound, right?

Also, you don't actually suck at talking to strangers or making friends, as much as that sends you into a panic now. You just need structure. Once you figure out a set of steps that works for you, you'll find yourself hooked on meeting new people -- really! But you won't stop being a homebody or an introvert who needs her quiet time. That's OK too.

Oh, did I mention that your future husband loves to cook? And do the dishes? And wants to be a stay-at-home dad? I'm telling you -- he's incredible.

By the way, you were right about the makeup. You don't need it. And your future husband hates it anyway. So go ahead and wear it when you want to, but know that you never need to.

Seriously, kid, just hang in there. It's completely OK to cry and feel miserable when life sucks. But just know that there is so much amazing stuff in store for you in the next ten years. And presumably beyond that as well... but I haven't gotten there yet.

Much love,

27-year-old Jessica


  1. I have often wondered, at various stages, what my future self would say to my past self, and the message at ever stage is always the same: "Hang in there, it's going to be fine. Even when bad stuff happens. It's still going to be fine."

    1. Yep :) I think adolescence is such a difficult time for just about everyone because not only do you have really intense emotions about the things going on in your life, but you also don't yet have the life experience to know that things will turn out OK and what seems really important at one point in life will no longer be important down the road. It can still be hard to remember, as an adult, that things eventually turn out OK, but at least you have more opportunity to look back and remember how things resolved themselves in past times in your life.

  2. Happy birthday! Thanks for posting this. You motivated me to Google my high school journalism teacher and e-mail her to tell her how deeply glad I am that I took two classes with her senior year instead of taking calculus--it was the first thing that leaped to mind as I thought about what I would tell my teenaged self. (I took calc in college, no big deal. I could not take journalism at my college--it wasn't offered--but even if I could have, it wouldn't have been the same as Mz. T's challenging and inspiring classes.)

    It turns out that the things that make you weird can work to your advantage.
    That is a great message for teenagers! It's very true, in my experience.

    1. That's awesome that you were inspired to contact your high school teacher! What you said about taking her classes over calculus makes me think about how much I agonized over whether to quit choir so I could take AP Music Theory my junior year. I loved music theory, but I'd done choir since 5th grade and I couldn't bring myself to quit it. Looking back, it probably wouldn't have made a difference either way, except that my senior year choir added a requirement of private voice lessons, which were great for my self-confidence. Funny how decisions lead to paths you couldn't ever predict :)

  3. A letter along these lines would have been a great comfort to me a teenager. Congrats on this milestone in your excellent blogging adventure

    1. Thanks! Now if only my 37-year-old self could time travel and reassure me about the next ten years... :)


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