Dear sweet you at 23…
Wide-eyed, innocent, younger you at 23…
The world is your stage and yet you live so afraid…
Oh, brilliant, wonderful, younger, bright and shiny…
I want to tell you a few things about the years to come; things you may or may not want to know now but might appreciate knowing once you get to the other side.
I know you feel like a kid trapped in the body of an adult-size body. Don’t worry – in a few years, your brain will catch up to your body. In the meantime, you may feel like an awkward teenager, even at 23.
Don’t rush life. You will find a job soon, and not long after that you will find another one. It’s okay not to know what you want to do or who you want to be. Live your life. Have adventures. Study. Take interesting classes at your local community center – take time to figure out who you are and where your interests lie. Most people go through 3-4 jobs before landing on The Thing they want to do for the rest of their lives. Don’t rush. There’s time.
People also change the most from the time they graduate from college until they are around 25-26. Keep this in mind.
You have some really wonderful best friends now, don’t you? Even your BFF from high school. You will find later in life that these are the friends who will still know you best ten years from now, even if you lose touch. (And, by the way, you will lose touch.)
Some of your friends have just started getting engaged. Sadly, many -not most, but many- of them will be divorced ten years from now because they haven’t given themselves the space and freedom to grow up on their own. They will change and grow apart.
You will be better off to wait to get married. No one ever says, ‘I wish I had gotten married younger.’ Believe me when I tell you that if life had worked out the way you had planned, you would be a twice-divorced single mom of five kids in ten years. (You really do grow and change that much. It’s unbelievable.)
It’s patronizing to hear, I know, but as the version of you who is ten years older than you are now, hear me when I say that 23 is really, really young. 33 is still young to some, but it’s also old to some. I tell you this because I love you. I care about you and your choices and how you treat yourself.
Treat nicely everyone you meet. They are your brothers and sisters, all. You can learn something from anyone, and you have something to offer everyone.
As you get more comfortable in your own skin, you may find yourself with certain liberties you weren’t expecting to have. (You are an adult, you know.) By all means, have fun. But therapy is in your future and God will use her to change. your. life.
When you are ready, I have someone you can call. She has changed my life. (And remember, I am you 10 years from now.) You’ll call her around 26-27 when you realize you have no control over certain areas of your life. People start dying around you, people you are close to. But it turns out to be a gift, don’t worry. You’ll lose someone later you’re even closer to, someone you never thought you would lose, but you won’t believe me now if I tell you who. So just hold on tight with an open hand the ones you love the most. Love them til your heart breaks.
Speaking of which, now that you aren’t preoccupied with school, you might be preoccupied with life. And you may start to question some things and wonder about some things and ask ‘what if…?’ and things may start bubbling up about your childhood, or you might start manifesting some learned behaviors that you never expected to inherit.
At this point in your life, no one is responsible for you. Your parents aren’t obligated to pay for your wedding, your insurance, your college loans, or your therapy. No one owes you anything. Life will be much easier for you if you understand that now. Quit blaming and fighting and living as if the world were out to get you and just…live.
This is your life. You are the only one responsible for it. You are your own best advocate.
The most important thing I could impart to you, truly, is to live without fear. Make mistakes. Make big mistakes, but smart ones. (The dumb ones aren’t really worth it and you don’t have to learn the lessons they teach you.) But the important ones – the smart mistakes – mean that you’re alive and open to life and all it offers. God is sovereign. Always.
I wish that you would return sooner than later to your First Love, and that you won’t be jaded when you do. But even if that’s so (because it might be), return anyway. Run with reckless abandon into His loving arms.
Your family is your family. It is what it is, they are who they are. Your parents did the best they could with what they had to give. Your siblings grew up in the same dysfunctional home that you did. Accept them, love them, place whatever boundaries between you that are necessary and then run along and find a new family if you have to (and you will). You belong first to Jesus, but remember from whence you came.
You’re going to do what you’re going to do, but I wish I could help you pick these people. You learn as you go, though, and grow as you do.
You have good instincts. Go with them. You don’t have to apologize for yourself or explain yourself away like you do. (Unfortunately, old habits die hard.)
I debate telling you that you will still be single in ten years. Believe me, it’s for the best even though I know it sucks to hear it now. You’ll have the opportunity to say ‘yes’ more than once, but in each case you know it’s not right. Life will not end and you will be glad for it.
Time will reveal that, in most cases, you are actually not the crazy one. Remember this.
People will disappoint you. Church will disillusion you. God is Truth & He is Love. Hold onto this.
Honor yourself. Honor God in you. The free, wild, wonderful, vastness of God in you.
Be FEARLESS. Go to New York. Spend a year in San Miguel. Live your dream. You are not the glue that holds your family together. You are not their Savior. They already have one. He hung the cross for them, too.
You are also not their scapegoat.
(You will realize both of these in therapy in a few years, but it won’t hurt for you to hear it now.)
You don’t owe anyone anything, despite particular people’s best efforts to manipulate you into thinking you do.
Be free, be wild, be FEARLESS.
Just don’t be reckless.
But if you are (and you might be)…don’t hide. Don’t live in fear or shame. You are meant for so much more than that. You will make the kind of mistakes that make you cringe.
And it’s okay.
Because you are Loved. Always, you are Loved. Hold tightly to this Truth in your heart.
I am cheering for you. I believe in you. I wish I could stop you from walking down certain paths, but I can assure you of this: all of it will lead you to Jesus the Christ.
Every single decision you make and path you trod will run you straight into Abba’s arms.
So, live. Be free. HAVE FUN. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Invest into your friendships. Don’t just take from them, be a friend also.
In ten years, you’ll still be you. Just a prettier, softer, kinder version of you who is more comfortable in her own skin and doesn’t care anymore what others think because you’ll enjoy your quirks and neuroses more. Plus, you’ll reach a place –you won’t believe me if I told you how- but you’ll land in such a place that you’ll be so confident in who God is that what others say won’t even matter.
Oh. About that.
Well, just wait ‘til you get here.
Don’t want to ruin the surprise.
(You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.)
I love you. I really, really love you (even more than you love yourself right now).
You are Precious.
You are Loved.
And you will make it through to the other side. I promise.
~ ~ ~ ~
Mary Kathryn Tyson was raised in the south, and she blogs over at Beauty for Ashes. She is admittedly quirky, creative, socially awkward and a tiny bit neurotic. But she is free. And she is in love. Free by a grace only offered by the creator of the universe. By a kindness that leads one to repentance. By a love that knows no bounds, conditions or measure. in love with her maker, the lover of her soul.