|17 year old me, with the most important man in my life at the time, after my Daddy.|
I've had some rough patches the last few years. I started college in a relationship that would end badly and shatter a lot of my self confidence. I tried to be part of the Virginia Tech Riding Team for a long time, but I wasn't what any of the teams or coaches had in mind, and that, combined with a bad fall gave me a lot of fear and anxiety in the horse world. I lost some good friends along the way, both to life circumstances (as in we're both still living, but we're not friends) and to some untimely departures from this earth. I failed to consistently take care of myself and I feel as if I'm paying for it now. I worked at a job that left me exhausted and questioning my career path.
It wasn't all bad, far from it, life has mostly treated me well since high school and given the chance, I still wouldn't change most of them. They got me here, and I am beyond grateful for where here is. However, there are a few things I would like to tell 17 year old me on my graduation night. I did chance some names (look for the *) to protect the (mostly) innocent.
Dear Mini Me,
If you're wondering if this is really you, go look in your purse (it's pink with lobsters on it) and you'll find a bottle of pink hair dye that you're planning to use in a few weeks, but only told Allison* and Amy* about. Your mom told you it was OK, but not telling her when still feels a little rebellious.
As I write this, I think you'd be, on the whole, satisfied with who you've become. I know you weren't planning on teaching Special Education, but the next few years will show you that this is a great place for you to be. Your work at Camp C.H.I.L.D. will be some of the most fun you will ever have, and you will learn more from your campers than you ever thought possible. Make sure you REALLY listen to them, and try to remember what they say. Write it down! Those children will give you more to think about than any homework assignment ever good.
I'd like to encourage you to be careful who you give your heart to, as well as who's heart you break. I'm not saying who you're dating is your soul mate, but I am saying to be kind. I'm also not saying not to date the person who keeps creeping into your thoughts. However, I would like to point out that being single for a while never killed anyone, and that it might be a better option for you. No matter who you date, put yourself and what you want out of life first, and choose someone who actually fits into that role, not just someone who says they will. Look for common sense over book smarts and work ethic and kindness over everything else.
I'd tell you to be careful when driving to Stanton, but even the judge will tell you that it was more or less not your fault. In any case, that incident is very revealing of the person you actually belong with, as well as who your real friends are, so honestly, I'd hate to take that "accident" away from you. Consider it divine intervention from a God who needed to start me on a different path.
That's another thing. I know now you have some faith, but you're too afraid you're doing it wrong to share it with most people, and you don't have much courage to say a prayer. Six years later, I believe almost the exact same thing you did then, but now I say prayers, mostly ones of gratitude. At the beginning of this year, that wasn't the case, but you started saying prayers when no one could figure out what was wrong with you. Turns out you have chronic pain syndrome, which is MUCH less scary when it has a name and every doctor isn't telling you you're nuts. Don't worry, your meds work great, you have an amazing physician, and you don't think about it most days, and on not so good ones, you've found a way to distract yourself and having an amazing husband and great friends doesn't hurt either.
While we're on the subject of friends, I know you're going to be crazy busy with college, but make sure to notice those that are there cheering you on. Don't forget to take time to be their cheerleader as well. Call, text (wait, you're practically the only 17 year old that doesn't do that yet, and that's a good thing), e-mail and write. Oh, and embrace your parents, as friends. They're really amazing.
And don't waste time trying to change or help people that don't want to change or help. In time you will see that friendship, like any relationship, needs two people to make it work. If you find you're putting in all the work, please, as painful as it may be, step away. You can't fix everything and that only makes you human, not a bad person. And when you find yourself discouraged in your friendships because it seems that everyone is either leaving town or making choices that lead them down a different path, take comfort in knowing that you just met a terrific new group of people to teach with.
Please take time to love yourself. Avoid putting yourself down. Other people will do it enough, and if you give yourself permission to do it, you're practically inviting others to as well. Keep your head high, wear a big smile, and trust that while you may not always be perfect, I have never known you to make a decision without the best intentions in your heart. Work hard, but remember to have fun and enjoy life. Treat your body and your health as a top priority. When you find yourself stuck, look for help, don't try to carry the weight of the world on your own. After all, you aren't Atlas.
That reminds me. Your Latin and English teacher, Mr. Woodford, is one of the best people you will ever meet. I know you aren't the world's greatest note taker, but if you remember now some of his advice, please go write it down. He will always be the Mr. Feeny of your educational career, and you will never meet another teacher more dedicated to his students. You may not realize it now, but he knew you better than you knew yourself at times, and he helped you to become a better person.
Only a few regrets I have for you, actually, and I'd like you to improve upon. Take that Harry Potter English Class at Tech. I know it's not part of your course requirements, but it's fun I wish I'd had. Exercise more, you'll thank me. Love more, smile more and don't be so hard on yourself. Oh, and groom that old horse, Squire while you have the chance. I know you loved him with all your heart, and time will show just how much he taught you. Know that he's happy and will take his last breaths in love and safety, so you can stop worrying. Oh, and Anna turns out OK, so stop fretting over her so much.
I'll see you in a few years. Good news, no grey hairs yet, although your Rivermont kids did give you a few worry lines. Take care of yourself and keep your head up. I love you.
Older and I Hope Slightly Wiser You