What I Would Tell My Younger Self

Hey, 18-year-old-me.

It’s you, 8 years later.

I’ve been through a lot since I was you. The first thing I want to say is that you’re going to be okay. Hang in there.

Really, I want to tell you so many more things. So I’ve made a list of a few.

  • You’re about to get a fantastic liberal arts education, even better than you realize at the time. It will challenge at least half of what you’ve been taught. Let it.
  • It will also affirm plenty of what you’ve been taught. Let it.
  • Your 3rd night into college 2,000 miles from home, you’re going to have a small meltdown and call your mom in tears telling her you’re not ready and maybe you shouldn’t have come here and maybe you need to go back home. You’re literally going to hang up the phone, make some friends at a soccer game an hour later, and never look back. This experience will forever remind you not to give up because something is new and scary. Hold onto it.
  • You won’t regret abstaining from casual sex or shallow parties. Keep valuing your body and your time.
  • Stay close to the powerful women you’ll meet in higher education. Specifically, the ones who are unapologetic about who they are and what they stand for, but are equally unapologetic about compassion and grace. They’ll mean more to you than you realize right now.
  • Make more time for your friends.
    Make time to make new friends. Put in effort. Feeling uncomfortable won’t kill you.
  • Your beliefs will give you confidence to take risks and they’ll give you endurance through hard seasons. This is a great thing. Conflating your beliefs with your self-worth or assuming you are ahead of everyone else because of your beliefs will leave you isolated. And tired. This is not a great thing. You’ll un-learn it, but it’ll be a painful road.
  • Science is not a threat to God.
    Science is not a threat to God.
    Science is not a threat to God.
  • You will grow in tact and humility, which will be immeasurably good for you. You will also learn to self-silence to avoid conflict, which will be deeply damaging. It will take a long time to learn discernment between the two, and to get your voice back.
    But you will get it back.
  • Take every possible beach day that you can while in Florida.
  • Learning to exercise for physical and mental health will serve you so, so well through the ups and downs of life. When you first start running, you’ll get winded and have to walk after .2 of a mile. It might take you 4 years of staying at it, but you’ll eventually run a half-marathon. This lesson about persistence over speed will stay with you forever.
  • Your continuous internal unrest about the role of Jesus in religion is worthy of your attention. Keep wrestling.
  • Listen to your instinct, even when it’s inconvenient.
    Listen to your instinct, even when it’s isolating.
    Listen to your instinct.
    Your instinct is good. Listen to it.
  • I want to tell you that there are other ways to find connection and emotional intimacy than a romantic relationship. Friendship and kinship can withstand changes as you grow into yourself that a romantic relationship may not be able to.
  • You have so much time. Don’t rush.
  • You deserve effort.
    You deserve continual effort.
    (Not just when you’re being “won.” Or lost.)
  • Adopt the dog.
  • It is not your job to fix someone else.
    It is not your responsibility to fix someone else.
    It is not your authority to fix someone else.
    It is your job, responsibility, & authority to steward your own life.
  • I want to tell you that your relationship with the Bible will continue adapting over time. It’s okay to read it every day when it gives you encouragement, and it’s okay to set it down for a while when it inspires existential confusion and frustration.
  • God is not confined to the Bible.
    God is not confined to ideology.
    God is not confined to your comfort zone. God will meet you outside of it.
  • When you are let down by the people you should have been able to trust, know that there are other people in the world who will value and care for you and help lift you up. The in-between space is lonely and hard, but it won’t last forever.
  • Any ultimatum that asks you to sacrifice your integrity for the sake of loyalty is not from God. You can find new community, but you only get one soul.
  • Visit extended family every chance you get.
  • A good therapist is safer than most hyper-religious people. Seeing a therapist will not open your mind or heart to the devil. If you don’t start feeling better with the first counselor you see, you can find a new one. You’re never trapped.
  • You’re never trapped.
  • Hopelessness is a lie. The feeling is real and valid, but it’s a problem of perspective. You have to keep going until you see the routes you didn’t see before.
  • You will never regret taking the 45-minute drive to eat gelato by the water.
  • You do, in fact, have limits.
  • There are things that are very hard, and then there are things that are very hard but made several times worse by religious prejudice. Divorce is one of those things.
  • You are never actually limited to two options when it comes to complex situations. Jesus will trail-blaze a 3rd way.
    Resurrection is real.
  • Your favorite secondary identity will be Aunt.
    They’ll call you ChiChi and you’ll love it.
  • Yoga will be Church for you in the liminal spaces. It’s a gift you’ll be able to share with others, too.
  • Get the passport. Book the trip.
  • You are not meant to *solve* the tension between grace and justice.
    You are meant to live it.
  • You will eventually learn to play music. You’ll write your first song in 30 minutes. Don’t stop dreaming about it.
  • You really will be okay.

Of course, Younger Self, I can’t actually tell you any of these things. If I did, I wouldn’t be here to say them.

I wouldn’t have learned what I learned or grown how I’ve grown when I was you.

I can’t tell you to stay out of the water and then expect you to learn how to swim.

So the only helpful thing I can actually tell you is that you are capable of learning to swim.

In fact, you’re already wired for it. You just have to keep moving. Even if it means treading water until the waves calm.

Because the waves will calm.

You really will be okay.

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