Dear Me at 18:
You probably haven’t the slightest clue who I am. And you won’t for a while. Someday, I think we’ll find a point on the map of time and space, mind and soul that makes sense for the both of us. But for now, you simply don’t know.
That irks you, I know; you’ve always wanted all the answers up front. But trust me. In time, you’ll start to realize that this life is just one big question mark, and sometimes who we are and where we’re supposed to be is the question preceding it. (You’re going to hate that.)
You’re probably reading this wondering why I would even bother taking the time to write you. Don’t I have grand, monumental adventures to be living? Massive theories to teach and explore? Classes to teach? Books to write? Dreams to live?
The truth is, yes, I do have all of those things to do. But I also have lots of fears and doubts blocking my way, and I think you should know that.
You deserve to know that the dampness of growing up has snuffed out more than a few flames that I once burned at both ends, and I guess I’m still waiting for the wick to dry. I am discouraged in the waiting, and I feel I owed you some words of explanation as to why your to-do list of dreams and accomplishments still remains mostly undone.
I know you believe you can and will do anything and everything you’ve ever wanted. And I guess part of me still believes that, too. But I’m afraid I’ve allowed ghosts and cobwebs, dust and grime to settle in on all of the things you may have hoped to accomplish by this time in your life. Things grew stale.
I’m afraid I’ve let you down. I’m afraid I’ve let life knock me down for a time, and I’m afraid the process of standing back up has proven to harder than I expected.
To be honest, I’m just plain afraid.
You’re cringing, I know. Because you understand fear, and you thought I’d have banished it by now. I remember how fierce winds carrying in dark storm clouds used to color and confuse your mind with anxiety and panic. I remember how your heart stopped, with your breath choking and sputtering as you sucked in too quickly at the sight of Dad and Mom sick or in pain. I hate to tell you that certain fears will be part of your life forever. But I want you to know I’m doing my best to cope. Would you believe that I’ve actually come to love thunderstorms?
If only you could see me now, standing where I’m standing; I’d like to think you’d understand. I’d like to think you would smile at me and say that we still have time to do all the things we want to do, that you would extend grace to me for letting fear back in because you understand that life has highs and lows, that you’d applaud me for my new appreciation for the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder because that’s a sign of moving on, growing up.
But I can hear you in the back of my mind. A thunderstorm is just a symbol, and the point is that I’m still afraid of the things in life that really matter, like success and risk and friendship and truth and failure. I know you’re disappointed. And I have to say, you’re partly right. I need to be brave.
But I also need grace, and I know you haven’t learned the art of that quite yet. But you will.
When you’re finally where I am now, standing where I stand, I think you’ll begin to see how important grace is. More important, perhaps, than checking off all the things you’ve always wanted to achieve in order to feel worthy or important.
Yes, I know, you don’t buy it. But you’ll just have to take my word for it. Again. Consider how far I’ve come over the years; isn’t it possible we both could be right about this? That maybe the long, weary path of growing up and achieving dreams is riddled with the downhills of grace and the uphills of struggle and hard work? Of always falling, sometimes resting, and always getting back up?
If you must know, I do feel lousy sometimes about where I am, and I know it’s because I’m worried about what you might think. Your high expectations and your lofty demands did as much damage as good in me–but I don’t blame you. You accomplished so much. You worked so hard. And you’ve always been able to motivate me to do my absolute best, even when I felt anxious about falling flat on my face.
I guess at some point, a part of me you have yet to meet demanded a time of rest, and I had to heed that need. So I put your high expectations aside for a while.
But I’m ready to let you back in a bit–to let you expect things of me and push me harder.
You must trust me when I say I’m going to need a lot of grace. I know you don’t know quite what that is yet, so once again: take my word for it.
Take my word for it, and I promise I won’t forget the things you said you wanted. I won’t stop trying.
With love and grace,
Me at 24