Dear Stacie (the younger version),
I went to a restaurant tonight where once upon a time you went. You were 17 years old, fresh with hope and full of life. I walked past the booth where you sat and I could see the ghost of your seventeen year old self, laughing with friends, sitting thigh to thigh with your boyfriend. I saw you throw your head back as you laughed, your eyes bright with delight yet hesitant at the moment. I saw the way you looked at that boy as if the world danced just at the sight of his presence, your mind thinking of a million ways to save his soul, as if you actually possessed the power to save him from himself. I saw the way you pushed your hair behind your ear, insecure at your own presence, wondering what you’d say next. I saw you hesitate after you spoke, wondering if maybe that was the wrong thing to say. I saw how you chewed on your lower lip, leaning in to listen to your friend across the table. A nervous habit, one bred from years of being different, unable to relate to the conversations that teenagers typically indulge in. Yet there you were…trying. Not quite ready to accept who you were, but not quite ready to conform either.
I want to pull you aside and offer you the wisdom that I have now with age. There are so many things I wish I had known then that I know now.
I want to tell you (you, the people pleaser, the eternal optimist about broken people) that you can’t fix it all. It isn’t your job.
I want to tell you that YOU are defined not by what others think, but by what you think.
That moral compass in your heart? It’s guiding you. Listen to it.
Don’t sell yourself short. You are amazing just as you are and anyone who wants to change that should be ashamed.
The way you can carry on a conversation about literature and ideas? That’s not weird. It’s beautiful. Too bad for the people you meet that are too shallow to converse that way.
Your insecurities? They are rooted in deception. You are light, dear girl, shine.
This path that is paved with peer pressure? Sadly it will follow you your whole life. Right now it’s drugs, partying, drinking (Don’t give in! Hold firm to whatever it is you hold dear!) but later it will be careers, money, child-rearing. There will always be some fad, some trend. Hold steady…it’s not about them…it’s about you. It’s you that you have to lie down with each night. Only do the things that bring you peace.
Your soul isn’t to be gambled. Hold tight to your beliefs.
Have no regrets. Allow your mistakes to change you, to refine you, to guide you, but never allow them to dominate you. To drive you. To lead you to regret. There are no shoulds in life…only the promise of a better tomorrow.
Trust in yourself. Stop questioning your every move as if you don’t have an ounce of intelligence. You do. Trust it.
Be grateful. Every day. Find five things you are so grateful for and wax poetic about them.
Stick close to your family. They know you now and they’ll know you twenty years from now and they’ll know you forty years from now. And the amazing thing is…they’ll love you the whole way, so don’t push them away. Let their love lift you up when you feel lost.
Keep a journal. Always. You’ll want to look back and see how much you’ve changed and grown. You’ll want to see the big picture.
Choose wisely. Choose prudently. Choose carefully. But for the love of all that’s good, choose. Just choose something. And then stop second guessing yourself.
Fashion trends change. Inner beauty does not. Spend more time worrying about cultivating your core, not worrying about your hair, your clothes and your make-up.
Make your bed. Every day. Trust me, a well-made bed makes any day look brighter.
Stay busy. Productive busy. Playful busy. Relaxing busy. Just stay busy.
One day you might find yourself in a position that requires self-less love. Give it freely. Don’t hold back. But remember you need nurturing, too. And I don’t mean you need to be nurtured (although that certainly won’t hurt). YOU need to nurture you. Give yourself a break. Cut yourself some slack.
That perfectionism that is driving you today? Yeah, years from now, it’s going to cause some major upheaval in your life. Let it go. Take Voltaire’s advice: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The world will still spin despite your imperfect attempts. Plus, no one is really paying attention. So LET IT GO.
That book you want to read? Read it. That movie you want to watch? Watch it. That place you want to visit? Visit it. That dream you’ve been keeping close to your heart? Live it. Carpe diem. Really.
There are moments you’ll want to relive. And there are moments you will not want to relive. Savor the good memories, release the bad. It’s okay. You are not defined by your moments. You are defined by the essence you emanate.
Your kindness, your creativity, your thoughtfulness. Let those be your allies. Let them stay close by. Even when someone down the road mocks your goodness, hold tight. The world needs more kindness, more creativity, more thoughtfulness.
Your worrying? Some days it is what drives you. But just remember that what you’re spending hours worrying over right now will be replaced by some other worry next week, so is it really worth losing sleep over?
That desire to control? It’s elusive. Learn to go with the flow.
Your heart needs to be guarded. It’s not meant to be given lightly. And it’s only meant to be given to someone who truly deserves it. So stop breaking off chunks of it to hand out randomly. Save it for that someone who will, one day, earn it.
18 years from now your life will look very different than what it does now. You will have grown up, gone off to see the world through idealistic eyes, had your heart broken, experienced college life, fallen in love with a man who actually earned your heart, had babies of your own that make your world seem a million times brighter than you ever imagined. You’ll have changed your mind, questioned your beliefs, doubted yourself, believed in yourself and ignored yourself.
The question is will you find yourself?
Sweet girl, you are the essence of naivety, the spirit of hope, the eternal fountain of believing in good. Don’t lose that. Just learn to be smart about it.
Hold steady to your values, your beliefs, your dreams. Even when you give away your heart and your soul to a man who adores you and children who call you mommy, tuck a little piece of the old you in that newly transformed woman. Because that girl that was once seventeen years old? She was pretty amazing just as she was. Let her light shine. The world will be a better place.
Love, Stacie (the older but wiser version)