There’s something about birthdays that make me retrospective; its like one day a year, I am able to appreciate my age instead of projecting frustration at it. When you see those candles gleaming, every flickering light feels earned somehow, and I am reminded to feel blessed by the glow. While I’m not humble enough to willingly accept my few threads of gray, I do enjoy the confidence that comes from age alone.
A few years ago, I read a book from Ellyn Spragins called What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self. In it, she challenged numerous guest authors, mostly famous personalities, to pen a letter to themselves in years previous, when they would need to hear it most. I’ve always thought it would make the most wonderful writing assignment, but it wasn’t until today – the day before my thirty-third birthday, that I thought of assigning the provocation to myself.
I think the most challenging part of this exercise was figuring out when I would most need to hear from my future-self. There were so many times that it might have been helpful to know that “it will all be okay,” with certainty. Then, like a mental flip-book, sifting through awkward, faded pictures in my mind, I saw her. Seventeen. Somewhere between here and there … moving on, and holding on while parts of my life were trying to let me go. It was hard. Even in the best parts, I found myself doubtful, and often more than a little lost. So here’s to you young one. Or here’s to your future – “me.”
I want to begin by telling you something I need you desperately to know. It’ll work itself out. All of it. All of the doubts and insecurities and “what-if’s” you obsess over will find a way to knit themselves into the right places of your wonderful life. Trust a little more. Worry a lot less. Try to live in the moment because here, from the other side of you, I can tell you with assurance that none of the fears chasing you have ever caught up, and you’re wasting your precious time running your mind in circles the way you do.
The people who truly love you now, will still love you “when,” (I cannot say “then” for I am now). And what’s more? Even when love changes titles and directions, it doesn’t leave. There’s no use in fearing loss, because one thing you’re good at is holding on to people that have your heart. But believe it or not, those that someday will take up the most space in that heart of yours haven’t been born yet. He will have your mischief, she will have your eyes, and both will have their daddy’s kind heart. Give it time. You’ll know it’s right when you meet him, because it will feel like coming home. And even better, he’ll feel the same. Destiny and heaven together have taken good care of you … so trust them.
The last thing you need to do now is be patient. Don’t doubt yourself so constantly, because your fear of mediocrity trails you like a shadow and lengthens, masking the brightness of the sun around you. Others need the light God planted in your being to love them with, and you rob them of joy when you self-deprecate. If you can’t appreciate you for you yet, then at least appreciate yourself for the person others need you to be.
There is a writer named Sylvia Stefanova who speaks of stars and dreams, saying, “In the stillness of such infinity and completeness, LOVE will radiate from that billion-year-old light, the most genuine sort of love I have ever known – the one that comes of being fully open in each present moment and giving unhurried, closer attention to the meaningful things in life.” You haven’t accomplished all of your dreams or ambitions yet, but you also haven’t lost your wonder or inspiration to keep trying. So carry on.
Be thankful. Pray often. Love with abandon. I believe in you.
Me, who was once … you.