Original publish date: January 12, 2016
I am sitting here on the eve of our 28th birthday and have so much I want to share with you, I don’t even know where to start. Your life has been so incredible so far, full of adventures, love, and success. It’s also been full of unimaginable heartbreak from losing your first love to losing your sister to suicide. You never let tragedy pull you back, though. You always press forward, creating beauty out of ashes.
You switched your small-town Wyoming upbringing for a studio on the beach in Florida. You don’t live near any of your family like you planned to, but you talk to Mom and Dad every day. Your values and morals have only strengthened over time, as well as your faith in God. All is well.
Now, for the advice that I wish you had known years ago:
A girl is going to vote you off the lunch table in eighth-grade → survivor style. She will taunt you in the hallways and turn your entire class against you. She will eventually even take you to the counselor for ‘smiling too much’. Be patient, stay graceful, and know that her attempt to destroy you will massively fail and only prepare you for dealing with hateful people.
You are going to be diagnosed with a chronic illness at 13, and be on bed rest for nearly six months. Immediately see the light at the end of the tunnel. This will be the greatest blessing of your entire life. It will pull you out of your bully situation at school and teach you that family, friends, and your faith in God are so much more important than what any 13-year-old girl says about you. It will provide you with quality time with your parents and will build your empathy and grace.
Don’t be concerned with the boy that teases you in the hallway, writes stories about you in creative writing class where you burn in a fire and tries to run you off the road. When you are older, he will write you an email that will change your life. He will tell you that the only reason he treated you so poorly was that he didn’t know what to do with all of the strong, positive emotions he had towards you. He will tell you how much you inspired him, how much you meant to him every day he saw you walking the halls at school. He will tell you how sorry he is, and you will forgive him.
Love your first love so true. Love him as though you will spend your entire life with him. Believe you will be one of the lucky ones in love. Love, love, love. Soak yourself in the vulnerability and unfailing hope of true love.
Enjoy your high school graduation present (a trip to Italy) from your parents, even though it is mere days after your first love breaks up with you. Revel in the affection of the Italians and the history of all of the lives that came before you.
Don’t listen to the doctors that tell you that you will never be able to physically make it through college, especially a college that is out of state and away from your family. Don’t listen to the ones that tell you that you need to stay on bed rest, and take some quality time off of school. Push through, study hard, and apply for your dream college in Florida.
Date the first guy you meet in college, even though it seems too convenient. While it might not work out with him, he will introduce you to the best friends you ever will make in your life.
Don’t be too mad at your second college boyfriend that does drugs (which you never do or even try) and doesn’t tell you before a night out. He will be stupid, and unable to get into the club because he forgets the info on his fake ID, forcing your whole group to go to a house party near campus instead. You will meet someone that will change your life at that party.
Don’t be concerned about that guy at the house party that you just completely hit it off with, who you lose touch with for the rest of college. You will reunite in New York after college when it is a much better time for both of you.
Go to breakfast with your sister the day after Christmas even though you are so pissed off at her. Hug her, kiss her on the cheek, and wish her the very best.
Push through your pain from surgery and move to NYC anyway. Love living there alone. Love the grittiness and all of the unexpected hardships of living in the city that Sex and the City never told you about. Embrace being completely on your own, because it’s such a finite amount of time in life that you will have completely to yourself.
Irritate the hell out of the CEO at the research firm that you really, really want to work at. Just as you are packing your last box to ship back to Wyoming, he will call you and say he has an idea for a position for you. Just as your flight is delayed and you are flying back home, he will call you and offer you the job.
Know that your sister’s death was her choice, and she is at peace with it, so you should be at peace with it. Love your parents through it. Be patient with them, and take everything they say with a grain of salt, understanding the unimaginable pain that they are going through.
Go to your mom’s chemo treatments with her, and hold her through all of them. Pay close attention to the quality of her care, and believe that there is a better solution out there for cancer care. This will inspire you to find your dream job that ignites your passion to care for others.
Maybe think twice before agreeing to elope with someone.
Be strong in Kansas City. Reach out to anyone and everyone you can and accept their love. Know that every ounce of pain you are enduring is chiseling you into something so wonderful. Have faith that one day you will have the strength to walk right out of that door into a world that is so ready for you.
Take the job in the small town in Wisconsin. While it seems like the end of the world after living in big cities for the past few years, it will be an amazing time where you will get to spend nearly every weekend with your grandpa and mom. Visit them as much as possible, and always bring baked goods because Grandpa will eventually give you a brand new KitchenAid as a thank you gift.
Go back to NYC for a brief stint. You need to face the ghosts you left there.
Move back to Florida, even though it reeks of memories. Reclaim it as your own, and make new memories. You will meet incredible people that will show you what it truly means to love someone. You will find an amazing church that will wrap its arms around you and accepts you exactly as you are.
You’re going to go to a meeting in Austin, in the middle of relocating to Florida and unpacking your things into your new place. You will become irate the first night you are there because you will end up having to wait with your team for someone you’ve never met. You will be starving, and will not understand who this guy thinks he is making everyone late for dinner. Forgive him, and stay in touch with him, because two months later he will move to Florida and become your everything.
Most of all, have faith in the future because every tragedy you have experienced so far has had a beautiful aftermath that has shaped you into the woman you are. Enjoy 28, my love, and know that your story is not over yet. You have so many lives left to help and inspire.
[bctt tweet=”Have faith in the future because every tragedy you’ve experienced has had a beautiful aftermath.”]
Love, forgive, and have faith that God has a beautiful future planned for you. Sometimes you just need to let go.
[bctt tweet=”Love, forgive and have faith that God has a beautiful future planned for you.”]