Yesterday was my 34th birthday and after, like, my second or third glass of celebratory wine, I started thinking about how I’ve now spent the last 17 birthdays away from my parents. Half my life! If I didn’t feel like an adult before, that little realization certainly did it for me. And then I started thinking about what I was like 17 years ago and what 17-year-old me would think about 34-year-old me. (And then I had another glass of wine.) And then I woke up this morning and decided I’d write that younger me a letter. I wrote 16-year-old me a letter last year, but that was back when I was 32 (so much younger then!) and, well, now I’ve got more to say. So, after the jump, read my letter and then feel free to leave a note of your own in the comments.
Only 275 days until graduation, which I’m sure you already know since you spend most of your moments counting the time left between now and when you’re free, free, free from this place and these people. But you know what? Life’s too short to wish away any of it. And maybe high school is the pits, but there’s always going to be something to drag you down — just wait til you have to work for a living and you get two weeks of vacation for the whole year and that’s it. Just wait til you graduate from college and you can’t find a job and you don’t even know what you want to do with yourself anyway. Wait til you have student loans! Wait til your first heartbreak! Wait til you have to pay movers thousands of dollars to move your stuff across the country. But, if you go through life wishing away all these unpleasantries, you might miss out on the silver linings — the sunsets that come at the end of a long, hard day, the moments that make all that other stuff worth it.
You’ve got less than a year before you leave home, fly to another continent and start a new life. You’ll never see your family on your birthday again. You may never sit at your mother’s table for Thanksgiving again. Your grandmother isn’t going to be around much longer. So, don’t wish away these final days you have to just be a kid. You may not be free from the demands of school or the pressure to fit in with people who you think are so unlike you (really, they’re not that different), but before it’s too late, you need to relish the freedom you do have — freedom from money worries, freedom to believe your family will be healthy forever, freedom to make silly mistakes because you’re 17 and the world grants you immunity from serious judgment.
Besides, for all the things that’ll bring you down over the next 17 years, life is actually really great to you. You’ll be at the right place at the right time, meeting the right people so often, your head will spin. You’ll have lonely days, but overall, the love and laughter in your life will far exceed the sadness. And the challenges you do face will make you strong — so much stronger than you feel right now. And get this: one day you’re going to live in New York (I know!), and you’ll be married to a man whose heart is so big and who loves you so much, you’ll wonder what you did to deserve him. You’ll have great friends — near and far, and cats you adore, and a beautiful apartment with a dishwasher. You’ll write an advice column that lots of people read! And you’ll travel a lot. And you’ll finally learn to make a mean lasagna.
Life is good, my dear. Even where you are right now. You just need to pull your head out of your ass and appreciate it.
(who still doesn’t feel “old”)