Chapter Five: A Letter to My 16-year Old Self
Dear Sixteen Year Old Me,
Let me begin by saying I can understand why everything seems so hopeless to you. You're a junior in high school, newly licensed and ready to move, but nowhere to go, and no money to spend. You have so many friends who seem to love you, but every day is a constant battle to try to keep them happy. Everyone wants something from you. Your parents want you to be a good girl; do well in school, do chores and go to church, be a part of extracurriculars, and eat all your vegetables. Your teachers want you to learn all day, starting at 7 am until 2 pm, and then go home and do three hours of homework while still maintaining your sanity. Your friends want you to have fun and party and rebel and do all the things you shouldn't. But what do you want? All these people expect you to juggle all these things while still having a smile on your face. It's enough to drive anyone nuts, and you're only sixteen, so keeping it all together doesn't come very naturally to you.
High school is an uphill battle. You can't always come in first place when it comes to things like popularity, intelligence and athletics. Let's be honest, none of those are your strong suit. But I promise you, when you graduate and go out into the real world, none of those things will seem to matter anymore. There are so many other things to worry about, like how you're going to make money to survive, if and where you're going to college and what you'll study, and how in the world you'll ever learn how to survive on your own. And while you're struggling with all these hard decisions and fears piled on your plate, you're not paying attention to your own personal needs, like feeding yourself properly, getting enough sleep, or taking a break once in a while to reflect and meditate. Believe me, I understand how hard it is to keep yourself in check. I was you, remember? I went through it. I know it seems hard to believe, but things will get better.
Remember when you were younger, and people always asked you what you wanted to be when you grow up? Well, it's time now to start thinking about it for real. You have so many hopes and dreams swirling around in your mind. You want to be a teacher, like your mom, but a business person, like your dad, but you also want to be able to sell your art, sing in a band, play with your 100 dogs and sip cocktails on the beach with your husband. Then you think maybe you want to open your own bakery, or a nail salon, or you want to be a movie star. You're young, so you have so many ideas, but you know that almost none of them are very realistic. So what do you want to be when you grow up? I'll let you in on a little secret. None of those things are what I am doing today. I still have many of those dreams, but I STILL don't know what I want to be when I grow up. 21 years old, and I don't have a damn clue.
So many things will change and happen in the next few years. You'll get a car, you'll have a German exchange student and it will be an amazing experience for you, you'll get your first job, and get laid off within a month, and get a new job the same day, and then you'll go through four more jobs before you stick with one. You'll graduate from high school (finally) and say goodbye to your classmates and Timberlane High School (GOOD RIDDANCE), and you'll go to college for all of a semester and a half, only to drop out like an idiot. Your brother will marry your best friend, who will become your big sister, and you'll become an Auntie twice. You'll make new friends, and lose some. Many of your friends and family members will pass away, leaving the world behind. You'll get your first new car all on your own and be so proud of yourself. You'll fall in love, and have a great relationship for three years, only to have your heart completely shattered, and then an amazing man will swoop in and pick up the pieces, and you'll fall in love again. But the most important thing that will happen to you is that you will gain the best things of all: peace, happiness, and love. You will have an amazing support system, and you'll realize that you do have value, you are worth something, you are beautiful. The only thing holding you back from your dreams is yourself. I've only just realized this, so I'm sorry that it's going to take you so long.
Five years later, when you are finally 21 years old, you will be finally happy for the first time in a long time. You will have the confidence to begin to set your mind to things, and get your ass in gear to become everything you want to be. I know now that I owe it to myself to figure out what my purpose is in life, and to become fulfilled. So please, don't be scared anymore, don't be sad about where your life will end up. I have hope for the future, and trust me, you WILL succeed. WE will succeed. Because I'm not offering up any other options. Just get through these next five years, and I promise you, you will be surprised at what's in store for us.
Jessa Elizabeth Williams