Friday, July 17, 2015

A Letter To my 18 Year Old Self; A Hind-sighted Reflection andIntrospection

In a few short weeks it will be 16 years since I graduated from high school. It’s hard to believe how fast these years have gone by. Yes, I have aged a bit, grey hairs, wrinkles and lumps and bumps in places that would have horrified my 18 year old self. More importantly, I have also gained so much. These 16 years have brought wisdom through life experiences, a greater sense of self as well as self-confidence, and the realization that my own happiness is important too. I could not have imagined, while walking down the aisle that rainy September day that this moment would mark monumental life changes.

 I was inspired to write this honest and genuine letter to my 18 year old self, by the photographer from my wedding. How fitting. His honesty and introspection was moving. I wonder what would happen if that fiercely independent and focused 18 year old would have been able to listen.

 Dear Fierce Girl Full of Hope and Wonder,

You have waited for this moment; the moment to get out of the confines and small-mindedness of Ajax High School. You know it all. You feel ready for the world. I want you to be excited about what lies ahead, believe in the goodness of others, and don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. I would like to offer some other words of advice to help you along the way. Realize what a beautiful person you are, how genuine your heart is and how intelligent and thoughtful you are. This will save you from many years of sadness, insecurity and heartache. Quit thinking that everyone else is more important. Find your voice. People will listen. Believe in yourself, because your whole wonderful life lies before you.

 Listen to mom. Hug her. Be patient with her. 

 In a few short weeks you are going to find her dead in the garage and you will later wish you had seen things from her perspective. Her intensity and advice comes from a place of love. I know it is hard to see that right now. When you have your own children you will feel that intensity and wish you could have shared in these moments with her. You will long for her advice. You will ache for the relationship you could have had with your mom.

Be vulnerable. Be generous. Be strong. 

You are very sensitive and your feelings are easily hurt. Try not to take everything so personally. And, though it may seem like the world is watching your every move, most of the time people have their own issues and problems going on to notice your faults and missteps. Don’t feel like you have to fix everything. You have always felt the need to make sure everything is perfect in everyone else’s world. This is not your job. Try to focus on your own happiness for once.

 Love with wild abandon. Ask for what you need. Give generously.

 Date guys who will lift you up, instead of pull you down. You're already strong enough to be able to stand up when you are being treated well. Good girl. But, I mean more than that here. I want you to seek elevation. Don't settle for "good enough" nor complacency. It's ok to expect passion and it's ok to ask for what you want and need. It will take you many years to learn this lesson. Hang in there, because you will eventually find someone who will treat you well, make you laugh and never be a cause for tears. Yes, he does exist. Natalie, please don't be a passenger on a train that doesn't serve you. Drive it, dear girl.

 Take time to know yourself. Don't lose yourself in other's expectations of you. 

 People will come to expect a lot from you and fulfilling this need will fill you up. I want you to remember to take the time for you. Spend time with friends. Spend time with yourself. You can not connect the dots looking forward. You can connect them looking backwards. So I need you to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something. Destiny. Life. Karma. Your instincts. Fate. Whatever! Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart and instincts even when it leads you off the well-worn path and THAT will make the difference.

 Your time will be limited and sacred, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't get trapped living with the results of other people’s thinking or expectations. Don't let the noise of other people’s opinion drown out your own inner voice. You have got to find what you love. This is as true for work as it so for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. It will be hard work and you will often question your stamina. The only way to do great work is to do work that you love. Don’t settle. Don’t become complacent. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. You will constantly try to reinvent yourself and figure out who you are.

Slow down and focus on your life today. Enjoy your life’s journey.  Love but don't lose yourself. Experience people. Kiss some frogs. 

Andre has become your everything. I have hindsight to enlighten me, but take a step back. Be with your friends. Have the confidence to walk away instead of pushing so far that it hurts him. It will hurt to end it, but you will grow wings. Natalie, DO NOT jump right into a relationship. You'll fall for Ryan.  You'll get married and be deeply in love and you will love him forever. But, when you're in your 30s you will regret not having the life experience of dating and kissing frogs, and having awkward first dates, and first kisses that take your breath away.

Stop anticipating the next big thing. Smell the roses. You spend so much time right now, waiting to move out. Waiting for university, to move out, to live together, to get engaged, for the wedding, for the job, for the kids. Please stop and enjoy the beauty that is in this day. It will all happen in time, and you don't want to look back and say your whole life has been in anticipation. Don’t worry about events that may not ever happen. Even if negative things do happen, you are stronger than you think. You will be able to handle it. Try not to be so hard on yourself about mistakes that you have made and will make along the way. There will be many, but these experiences will shape the young woman that you will become.  Don't be afraid to cry and be vulnerable.  Heartbreak teaches us a lot. Be vulnerable. Don't let this heartbreak stop you from letting other's in.   In addition, do not regret these lapses in judgement or regret the mistakes made. Learn from them instead.

 Live from a place of gratitude. Embrace the moment because there will be loss. 

 I hate that this will be a hard lesson for you. You will suffer losses that will threaten to consume you. Some of the hardest and most alienating losses will be the babies. You will become part of a horrid sisterhood of pregnancy loss. You will feel alone. Please don't be too hard on the father. He is doing the best he can. Don't put up a wall to keep him from seeing your immeasurable pain. Let him in. Also, please know that you will have two amazing boys. Without, giving away the ending... Kingston will have a giant heart that will remind you of the generosity of spirit that you have. He will pull you out of the sadness with his hugs and sweet, gentle nature. Camden will make you laugh when you need it most and will remind you of the easiness of their daddy. Be grateful for the gifts that your loved ones bring to your life. You will suffer as you witness them leave your life, through death and distance. Say "I'm sorry". And mean it. Say "I'm so grateful for you". Mean it!! Realize that it gets better. You will endure many times when it seems like all hope is lost. Hang in there.

Life is going to be so good, you just have to experience a few rough times, so that you can fully appreciate the good ones. Don’t be afraid to go after what you want in life.

Many of your greatest opportunities will be disguised as challenges and obstacles. Never give up. Break through them and you will find many successes.

 Always remember that you are surrounded by people who love you and believe in you. These people will be your sources of strength whenever you need them. Lean on them and don’t push them way. 

So, you naive, beautiful, strong girl, embrace your future. You are blessed with so many wonderful gifts. Don’t get in the way of your own happiness. Live in the moment.

 And in case you’re wondering, in 16 years, everything is going to be ok. Go for it! Life is good.