It started as little notes, things I wish I could have said to my teenage self while I was hurting, lost, scared, and searching. The list was everything I had learned and every bit of love and light I had picked up along the way.
I didn't know all the beauty that was coming my way and all the beauty that was already in front of me and was being overlooked. Sometimes reflection doesn't happen until the tough (and wonderful) moments pass us.
I was never sure whether I would share my list- it's personal on deep levels and feels very much "mine". But my struggles were not singular. They still aren't.
Here is my list: 15 Things I Would Tell my 17-Year-Old Self.
2. Don't let insults and shame be rent-free tenants in your one and only home. You are enough. Say that phrase often. There is something you need that only you carry. (I know-that's complicated stuff). Loving yourself as you are will be the toughest and most rewarding job you have.
4. Listen to your guidance counselors when they say you are important and can do hard things. One day, you'll know it to be true.
5. Enjoy the time you don't pay rent, bills, and tuition. Enjoy the time where you *think* you have cellulite and are clueless about W-2 forms and car payments.
6. I wouldn't change what is going to happen to you but I would be lying if I didn't say sometimes, it's too much for even our fierce frame.
7. That being said, there are moments I am so eager for you to sit in. I can't even sum them up for you. They are magic and forgiveness and radical love, wrapped into one. You'll get it when it comes to you but until then, I'll tell you: this life of yours is without a doubt the most beautiful gift you'll ever receive. Not everything has to make sense to work out in the end. Clarity and time will bring you understanding that no one was trying to hurt you- you can't expect someone to be your life raft when they are also drowning. (Can I tell you something? When you are treading water for what feels like years, place your feet down. The ground is closer than you think. Stand tall, my sweet.)
8. This year reveals what you have always known- he's sick. The apology doesn't come. The wounds from his absence don't heal in one summer. They don't heal while you stare at his empty seat the first, second, thirdfourthfifthsixth Thanksgiving. You are more than the glass in his hand. You are more than tiny white pills and decisions that shatter a family. Longing for someone and losing them are two heartaches you'll revisit often. The good news? You get stronger with every season.
9. When you retreat to your room to write and tell yourself, "it's just a hobby"- you're wrong. You are a talent. Sing praise to yourself like your mother does in your birthday cards. The voice you are hushing? That's yours, my dear. You are the goodness of your own story so write it.
10. When your sister is in the hospital and you stare at her wondering if you could lose her forever, when you wash her hair in the shower and hold on to it a little longer because the doctors said The Word, when you drive through Red Rock and stop at the overlook to scream at the top of your lungs because someone, somewhere has to hear you, my goodness, I wish I could hug you as I write this. Because everything will be okay and sometimes it won't. You'll spend the next few years holding your breath every time she hurts or gets sick. You'll learn about the fragility of life and the art of handling it more carefully. Lizzie proves to be everything that hope and redemption are made out of. So when she looks at you from her bed of tangled wires, beeping monitors, new scars and says, "Kate, I'm still so lucky" - believe her.
11. In high school, you and your friends will have sleepovers and talk about dream homes with his and her sinks and how you'll have a sweet hubby by 22... I'm here to break the news: you don't get married by 22.
23 isn't looking so hot either. But, your early 20's are a beautiful adventure even with a ring-less left hand. (Also, Ryan Gosling gets married in 2014 so you can let go of that dream).
12. You'll find your faith in the mundane. It's not always where you would think to look. You learn the most about words and the weight of them by living in a country where you don't speak the language. You will feel the power of forgiveness on damp cliffs of Ireland. You will share some of your most meaningful conversation drinking out of old pasta sauce jars with a new friend. Your mom's hugs will prove to be the safest place to retreat and rest. The little moments reveal the biggest truths.
13. Let go of what is too heavy to hold on to.
14. You spend so much time feeling too big for your body and too wordy for those who just stare blankly and too forgiving for those who reserve their apologies and too emotional for people who never cry. Just be. Be all those things because it's who you are. Be the girl that cries when a stranger is hurting, be the girl that forgives because you've been given radical grace and you know all are deserving, be the girl that doesn't judge because you learned a long time ago that people and their lives don't have to look like your own to be worthy. Be the girl that doesn't turn down a chance to listen. Be the girl that ignores the world when it claims you are a little "too" much of anything.
15. You are loved beyond measure so love back beyond measure. Live in the blessings spoken to you. Be kinder than necessary. I wouldn't change a thing about this life of ours because *spoiler alert* everything unfolds just as it should.
Thank you for reading my novel of a list. If you liked mine, check out the beautiful, vulnerable women that shared theirs too,15for_.