A letter to my 16-year-old self

If I had the chance to write a letter to myself at age 16, knowing now what I didn’t know then, it would go something like this:

Dear 16-year-old self,

You are awesome. No really…you are. You have an important job being the oldest child in your family. And you are really good at it. Okay, maybe you and Jenny spend a lot of time fighting over stupid things like bathroom time and who borrowed what clothes from the other. But one day (don’t gasp) you will become the best of friends and will actually share your clothes on purpose! You will go shopping and sometimes buy the same sweater or top because you have such similar taste. You have a lot of fun with Beck, Ty and little JuJu, because they are still very young and not in your teenage way. Eventually, the age difference will slip away and you will more than just siblings, you will all be great friends. Try to remember that being oldest doesn’t entitle you to be bossy. Really….you could ease up on that a bit. You will be surprised how close you all are when you grow up and have families of your own. People will admire and almost be jealous of your special bond. You are going to go through some really difficult times both as individuals and then with your own families. I mean REALLY difficult times. But you will be able to lean on each other and draw from your devotion. Keep building your relationships with them. Keep being the “peacemaker”, as Bob calls you. It will come in handy down the road.

Mom & Dad really love you. So do your step parents. Keep listening to them, because they give you good advice. Sometimes they get a little preachy but they just want to save you from making some of the painful mistakes they made. When they give you a curfew, abide by that rule! Really….they know what they are talking about. And I know it sounds old-fashioned when mom tells you not to chase boys. But seriously? Sometimes you take it a bit too far. Stay close to mom, Dad, and Bob. I didn’t say they are perfect. They have made and will make more mistakes. They are doing the best they can. They all work hard to make sure you have a better life than they ever did. That’s just what parents do. Remember to say thank you. You’ll realize, some day, how much time and effort it takes to help teenagers become adults, so hang in there with them.

You are smarter than you realize. Your insecurities get in the way of your potential. High school isn’t just a waste of time like it feels sometimes. It is a great stepping stone to college. You have the brains to earn a scholarship. Don’t give up. Don’t skip class. Do your very best, even if that means reaching out beyond your fears and speaking up when you’re afraid. You know how good an A grade feels. Imagine how good it feels to have that grade in every class? It takes extra work, but it really will be worth it. And it will save you a lot of money in a few years, if you push yourself now so you don’t have to work 3 jobs later to pay for college.

Go visit your grandma. She’s never too busy for company and she really loves you. Ask her for copies of her favorite recipes. She loves to cook and bake and she is always trying new recipes. You will develop her same love for cooking. You’ll be really glad that you have some of her old recipes. Staying close to Grandma. She will be the catalyst to you adopting a baby. Don’t worry; you’ll have biological children, as well. But Grandma will help bring this one, special baby to your family and it will all come about in a simple, yet miraculous way. Great Aunt Belva and Uncle John will be involved in that miracle, too. But truly, if I told you how it’s going to all play out, you wouldn’t even believe me. Just trust me when I tell you it will be amazing! Oh…and one last thing about Grandma. Be prepared, because someday she will forget who you are. I know that seems impossible right now. She will slowly fade inside of herself and a disease will overtake her mind. Cherish the time you have.

You are going to marry a great man who will be your best friend. He will be a gentle giant who loves you and will always do his best to support you in everything you do. He won’t always understand why you do some things, like the times when he’ll come home from work and you have completely rearranged the living room furniture for no good reason or your really weird habit of buying yarn that you don’t really need. And when you grow you hair long, only to cut it short again year after year after year and change it from brown to auburn to brown to blonde, he will simply tell you that you’re beautiful no matter the color or length of your hair. You will not have a perfect marriage because there is no such thing (you need to know that right now). However, you will have a strong marriage. It will be one that goes up and down like a roller coaster with good times and bad times and then even worse times. Hang in there, because that roller coaster always goes back up eventually. Your husband will be an AMAZING father who comes from a really special family himself. His parents will love you like one of their own and teach you many things about a happy marriage and raising kids. You and his mother will become really close friends. Glean every possible lesson and hold onto the advice she shares because she is very wise and a great teacher. She will leave this life earlier than anyone planned and a big hole will be left in the family from her passing. But her influence will run deep in her children, so she will visit often in her angelic way. It will be hard and it will be sad. But in the end, it will all be okay.

Grow and develop your creative talents and don’t ever stop. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re not good enough to paint a piece of art or to write a book. When you get a wild hair to create art out of something as random as wall joint compound…just go with it. Trust me, it will be a fun adventure for a few years and will teach you a lot about yourself. Your children will witness you trying something new and your bravery will show them that anything is possible!

I hope I haven’t given away too many secrets. You won’t have a charmed life, but you’ll be a really happy person. And Carol, you will go through some tough stuff, but you are strong, so I know you can handle it.

Your 45-year-old self

P.S. If you could please keep running and make it a real habit for life, so that when you are older you don’t gain so much weight, that would be great.