In a handful of days, I will being entering the third decade of my existence. I thought I'd take a break from bookish things to write a letter to myself when I was 20 years old. I wrote a similar one when I was 19 as I was turning 20. That was way before I had the blog, of course. Boy, how things have changed.
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Dear 20-year-old Me,
Yeah, I know. You're used to using proper grammar and avoiding slang. That's understandable, since your grade sorta depends on how well and fast you can put together a sentence. And you cannot afford to not graduate from your Ivy-League-wannabe university on time. The parental units' finances are already maxed out, and once that grant and scholarship cash is gone, it's game over. You knew this was your one shot going in, and you're busting your last ass to make it count.
I've got good news. You make it. Not beautifully. Not brilliantly. Not with honors. But you get out with your head held high and your dignity intact. Win.
But after you've had a moment to bask in your two minutes of glory, I have to warn you that you're going to have to make one of the toughest decisions of your life. And no matter which way you go, you will lose. The only difference is whether you make others lose with you or not.
There will be some bright moments, but then you're going to have some crashes. Literally. Don't worry, you'll survive them, but not without scars. Both on your body and on your heart. And because you didn't have the money or the know-how to take care of the ones on your body at the time, I'm paying for them now. Don't worry, though. I can handle it.
I wish I could tell you things are going to get better. And in some ways, they do. But in other ways, things will get difficult again, and there's not really anything you can do about it. You will get frustrated. You will get angry. You will feel sad. You will feel abandoned and disappointed. You will feel like a failure (a lot). You will feel like you're trapped. And then you will feel guilty because you know others have it harder than you. And then you will want to give up, call it quits, and just shut it all down.
But hold on. Just hold on. You will think that you can't, but you can. And one thing to remember is that fire refines gold and pressure makes diamonds. Even in the midst of the mess, you will make the most of your situation. Because that's who you are. The people who disappoint you will not matter, and some of the people who do matter, you've not even met yet. And trust me, they are worth waiting for.
You're also going to realize that that dream you're wanting to chase is not going to come true. That's another thing that will be out of your control. Instead, you're going to catch a vision. And it'll be bigger than anything you could've dreamed up. It WILL be impossible. But it will worth it. And the good thing about not getting that dream is that you will have learned and grown A LOT in the process, and you will be able to transfer those skills into other things.
And then, just when you feel like giving up again, something will happen and everything will change. You're going to realize just how much oppression you were under before, which is going to make freedom feel real and sweet.
So, that's what 10 years has in store for you. It's going to suck. But it will get better, and you'll be richer (not necessarily in dollars and cents) because of what you've been through. You're going to change your definition of success, you're going to see people differently, and you're going to be more sure of who you are. You won't have everything figured out. In fact, you'll feel like you know less than before. And that will be a good thing.
Some words of advice:
Don't listen to everything everyone says. Hear what they have to say, then use what is useful and leave the rest.
Keep learning from others' mistakes so you don't have to make your own. And if you make a mistake, give yourself some grace to be human and accept responsibility, make amends as much as possible, and then move on. You don't have time to be distracted.
There will always be haters. It's because they don't understand what you're trying to accomplish. Ignore them and keep living on your terms.
Don't ever lose your inquisitive nature. You will still be too afraid to go sky-diving or bungee-jumping, but never stop being curious.
Learn from the past and look to the future, but live in the moment.
Don't let anyone else define you. Understand your strengths and use them, and don't dwell on your weaknesses unless you intend to turn them into strengths.
Keep following that Still Small Voice. Even if He takes you through hell, you know it's because He's refining you.
What makes you beautiful can't be seen. What makes you strong cannot be hurt. What makes you live cannot die. Never apologize for that.
Peace. Love. Hope.