To My 18-Year Old Self:

I’m here to tell you that you survived.

18 is a tough year. Hell, anything in the teens in a tough year. They say that high school is the best four years of your life, but I’m here to tell you that this is far from true. College isn’t even the best time of your life. The best is yet to come.

You survived. You survived it all. College applications, broken hearts, fights with parents, breakups from friends. And yet, you are still here, alive and breathing. And happy. I know that the tiniest, most minuscule things seem like they are the end of the world, but they aren’t.

I wish I could go back and hug you for all of the times that you help hopeless about your future. I wish I could hold you and let you know that it all turns out okay in the end. I know that you feel that any time failure is a direct reflection of who you are, but they aren’t. Don’t ever look at your shortcomings as failures; they are lessons. Learn what works and what doesn’t work.

I want you to know that this life is for the taking, and that you don’t have to settle. Don’t settle for friends that treat you like crap. Don’t settle for the guy who doesn’t respect you. Don’t settle for a job that you despise going to every day. Please, PLEASE. Don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve.  Because you deserve the world, my dear. And this world is yours to conquer.

I’m going to be completely honest with you here; this is a bull-shit free zone. There are going to be a lot of tough times coming your way soon. Things that you never even imagined are going to eat you alive, spit you out and try to swallow you whole. You have to keep fighting. Hold onto every ounce of courage and fight within you and know that you can make it through. Your freshman year of college is going to be the worst of your life. Even though I know that right now, at the sweet age of 18, you are so incredibly excited to start a new life. But that first year is going to be Hell. Believe it or not, you are going to be very homesick and miss your parents. You are going to get sick and have no one take care of you when you check yourself into the ER. You’re going to miss your high school friends and that old familiar town where everyone knew your name. You know, that town that you cursed you’d never return back to. You are going to wish that you could go back to being 18 just for a little while.

At age 18, year are going to learn some very important lessons. That success doesn’t come easy, and that you have to work for what you want. You will spend hours on end applying for scholarships, even missing out on fun events with your friends because you are stuck in your room writing away. You will think it’s a complete waste of time, but you will be surprised to learn that all of your hard work will result in your tuition being paid for your entire first year of college. It was worth it.

You are going to learn about forgiveness. Some people are extremely cruel-hearted and will aim to destroy you. You will never be able to fully bounce back until you learn to open your heart to forgiveness and move on. You will learn that spending time hating someone is a waste of energy, and that there are better things you could be doing with that energy.

I know at this time that you are still trying to find yourself. You probably want me to tell you that in five years, you will have found yourself. The truth is that I don’t believe you ever will yourself because Self is an ever-changing concept. Instead of finding yourself, you will learn to love yourself for exactly who you are, no matter who that Self is at the time.

I’m happy to tell you that you will learn to be more confident in yourself. You will dye your hair purple and not care what people think. You will share your writing with others even though it makes you feel extremely vulnerable. You will learn to accept constructive criticism, which was always a huge challenge for you. You will wear those high-heels even though you used to feel silly doing that because you are already very tall. Your junior year of college you will dance on top of a bar with your best friend and have the time of your life. You will be a Maid of Honor and continue a beautiful friendship even after college when you both go your separate ways and live on opposite ends of the country.

Fortunately, despite hardships at the age of 18, the seasons of life are always changing. All of a sudden you are going to wake up 23 and be engaged to someone who loves and respects you more than you could have ever imagined. You are going to find solace living back home in the same place that you once hated at age 18. You are going to become part of a new, incredible family that cherishes every moment with you. You are going to be accepted into grad school for counseling and start a writing career on the side. That was always your dream.

I want you to know that despite what you may think now, everything is going to be okay. You are going to love your life 5 years from now. I’ll admit; nothing is ever picture-perfect, but you will be much more effective with your coping skills. Do you remember back when they used to ask you on your college admission essays, “Where do you want to be 5 years from now?” The answer you wrote back then doesn’t do justice to where you are right now in your life, 5 years later.

It’s better than you could have ever imagined.

Signed,
Your 23-year old self