I am a complete sap for tear jerker country music songs. One of my current favourites is Brad Paisley’s “Letter to Me”, where he writes a letter to himself at seventeen, with all the things he wishes he could have known back then.
Thinking back on my 17-year-old days, I’ve come up with several things that could have helped me along the way, too. Here they are:
I know your biggest fear right now is being alone. You’ve been without a boyfriend for two years now and I know you feel desperate. You’re not going to believe what I’m about to say, but it’s actually better to be alone at this stage of your life, because you can concentrate on who you want to be without a guy getting in the middle of it. So take this time to read, to work, to make friendships, talk to interesting people, and figure out what you like. You don’t need a guy to do that. Looking back, that hiatus was one of the best times of growth for you. So don’t cry. Your day will come.
But I don’t mean to be so callous. I know you feel lonely right now, and worry that your friends don’t understand you. Most of them don’t! But one day you’ll be in a position to find friends that are more like you. You’ll be able to choose your university, choose your workplace, choose your church. You’ll find great people there, I promise. Right now you’re stuck in a school you can’t get out of. That’s okay. It won’t last forever. Just try to be a blessing to those with you now and make the best of it.
And when you do get to university and you do make great friends, keep in touch. Don’t let distance and busyness come between you. You’re going to miss them later on, and wish you’d written more letters.
You’ve got seasons tickets to the ballet right now, and you love all the restaurants in Toronto. Careful that you don’t become a snob. In about a decade you’re going to realize how awful the city really is, and you’re going to run as fast as you can to a small town. So get ready now! Learn to play cards. Learn to like barbecue. And learn to drive! Not every place has a subway, you know.
You’ve already been overseas once on a mission trip, but more are coming. Make the most of them. Take tons of pictures of kids’ faces. And don’t turn away because the poverty makes you uncomfortable. Look at it. Breathe it. Remember that most of the world lives like that, and you’re getting the chance to see it. Sear it into your memory, so that you never let your life become about money.
Sometimes family relationships get awkward and we don’t know what to say, so we don’t say anything. Open your mouth, especially to your uncle. You’ll find out why later. And your mother understands you more than you think she does. Give her a break. She’s done a great job raising you, so try to look at things from her point of view. One day you’re going to be great friends!
You know those kids with Down Syndrome at the camp you counsel at? Don’t ignore them. I know they make you feel awkward, but you’re looking in the face of your future son. Love them and have fun with them, and it will be easier for you when you hear the news in a few years.
You’re going to cry more tears over the next ten years than you will imagine. But one day, you will see how those tears were used to build you into a strong person. So at your lowest points, believe that God isn’t going to leave you.
You’re going to fall in love in a few years with a man you will think is perfect. Take a step back. Does he let you be yourself? Does he ask you about you? Relationships can’t be based on hero worship. Run away fast. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.
And by the way, while you’re running away from your boyfriend, take another look at your best friend. Sometimes best friends really do make the best husbands!
Sheila is the author of four books, including the upcoming “The Good Girl’s Guide to Sex” with Zondervan. She blogs everyday at To Love, Honor and Vacuum.