Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dear 20 Year Old Me

So, 20 Year Old Me, it’s been 11 years since I was your age, and today I’ve been thinking a lot about you. There’s this thing on the internet (you haven’t gotten into blogging yet, but just you wait you will know way too much about “social media” very soon) where people write to their “Teen Me.” But I think I have a lot more to say to you, 20 Year Old Me, than to myself as a teen.

Besides, Teen Me wouldn’t have listened anyway.

But you? You’ve at least figured out you don’t know what the hell you’re doing (Sorry, I say “hell” now, you are surely appalled). And I know you thought the whole “being an adult” thing would be a lot easier than it has been thus far.

You’ve been doing well in college—something no one is surprised about. School was always something you could figure out, with your high GPA and over-achieving ways and crushing guilt at not turning in assignments. (You will probably be shocked to know I do not miss school one bit and would never go back now.)

It’s the life stuff that you have always struggled with. Making friends. Going out and trying new things. Meeting guys and attempting dating. Having a career or whatever. You have but a year of your undergrad left at this point, and you are fairly terrified of what happens after you don’t have school to focus on.

You’ve just gotten out of an emotionally abusive relationship. Though you broke up with him three months ago, you are only starting to realize how messed up it all was, how scared you were of a guy you thought you loved.

It wasn’t really the best way to experience your first kiss, first relationship, first thoughts of spending your life with someone.

But hey, you dodged a bullet, and you will forever be grateful to that roommate who sat you down, showed you the cycle of abuse, and told you that you needed to get out and not marry that guy. And I promise that you will start dating an awesome guy, get married to him, have kids, and do all those things that seem completely impossible to you right now.

In fact, you already know the guy. You just don’t think of him in that way yet. And you might have sworn never to date someone with feet as ugly as his…and you will be eating your words.

What I really want to tell you, though, my dear 20 Year Old Me, is that you will make it. All those things about being an adult that seem like you’ll never get? You get them. And it’s pretty awesome. I’d tell you to stop worrying about it, but I know you won’t stop so I won’t waste words there.

Here’s the thing, though—it’s not going to be easy. Actually, your 20s are going to be probably the worst decade of your life. I don’t know what’s in store for us in the future, but I’m hoping things even out.

Because getting all those things you want is just plain hard. And being the wife, mother, and author you want to be is hard. (Yes, I said author, you’re probably freaking out now. One sec.) Achieving your goals has been easy for you up to this point—you have never really failed at school or work or anything, but you’re about to learn a lot about failing. You’re gonna become a pro failer, and somehow that’ll be more fulfilling than all the time you spent being a pro over-achiever.

You’ll be a mom, but you won’t be nearly as good at it as you thought you’d be. It won’t be natural. You won’t want to be “just a mom” like you expected. You’ll want more and it’ll be confusing and guilt-inducing. You’ll get over it. Kind of.

And then you’ll start writing. Because it’s always been your dream and it will never go away like you hoped it would. You have always wanted to be practical and you know writing for a career is not…and you will be very right about that but you’ll do it anyway because you must. You will try your ass off (sorry, I say “ass” now, too). You will fail just about constantly.

And all that failing at motherhood and writing will break you. Like, actually break you. You will contemplate leaving everything you love, emptying the bank account, and disappearing a la Breakfast At Tiffany’s. You will resent your family and faith and wish you’d never tried to do anything with your life. You will…start hitting your kids though you know you shouldn’t and you’ll feel horrible about it. You will stop going to church, stop wanting your husband, stop wanting anything you used to love. You’ll be consumed with escape, with being someone else with less problems. You will, for some stupid reason, still think you’re okay.

Until you realize you’re not, and that the pressure in your chest isn’t normal but panic attacks. They’ll happen daily, and you’ll get so used to it you don’t know it’s a problem. You’ll be really grateful to that doctor who explains to you that you have anxiety, and you’ll admit you need help and it’ll be shameful and liberating all at once. The medication will save your life and the life of your family, and you will be able to cope for the first time since you turned 20. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken so long for me to figure that out, and I’m sorry you have to suffer so long not knowing there was anything wrong with you.

I’m sorry that it has to get as bad as it got before things get better.

But hey, things do get better. And though you aren’t some huge bestseller, by the age of 31 you are the author of multiple books. That have been on store shelves. That have been published in other countries. That have been read and loved by some people. I know, 20 Year Old Me, that this is a big deal to you. Sometimes I forget it’s a big deal, but then I remember you and your dreams that felt impossible and I am living the life you wanted. You even have friends that have stuck with you through all this. I know how hard it was for you to make friends, but here we are—we even have that. And don’t get me started on how incredible your husband and kids are.

It’s awesome.

So hang in there. It’s going to be terrible for awhile, but so far the 30s are treating us much better. I really like the 30s. Or maybe I just like not being in that horrible 20s decade. We made it, okay? And that’s what matters, even if the journey was messy.


P.S. Just dye your hair red now—it’s better that way and you never go back to blond.


  1. I considered writing a letter to my 20 year old self for a few minutes but decided that I don't want to spend any time with my 20 year old self, just thinking about it makes me feel tired.

    I'm 44 now and, so far, my forties have been the best years of my life. I have also struggled with depression/anxiety for most of my life but it has gotten easier to manage the older I've gotten. I honestly think that life gets better when you're approaching or solidly within the middle of it.

    That is definitely something the 20 year old girl I used to be would have never believed.

  2. I love you so much, and I hope we're friends through future decades. :)

  3. I imagine, having had written things along these lines, that writing all this out has a cathartic feel to you, doesn't it?

  4. My 30s are the best years of my life so far too, my 20s were terrible! thanks for the reminder though.

  5. I feel like if I wrote a letter to my 20-year-old self, it would be one big BEWARE letter.

  6. What an encouraging and thoughtful letter! I wish that there was a way for our younger selves to read letters from our older selves; it's too bad that time machines aren't real, right? I'm also glad to hear that I'm not the only one who didn't view her 20s as the best years of her life; they were actually very difficult for me too, and I always used to think that my 20s would be like they are for young people on TV (which I know isn't a realistic portrayal of people's twenties at all).

  7. Thanks for this brave and honest post. And you make a fantastic redhead. ;-)