Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dear Little Jen

Dear Little Jen,

With the benefit of knowing you for sixteen years, after having experienced all of your successes and all of your failures, all of your friendships and all of your broken hearts, I have a few important lessons to share.

At five, you are too precarious and headstrong for brushing your hair and dressing up. But, for all the years that you spend crying over dresses, tights and straight-cut bangs, your love for them will grow stronger. You will fight against them for the longest time, spending most of high school angry at a boy who insists you wear makeup. By the time you start college, you will insist on wearing tights nearly every day. (You will also realize that you are worth more than a boy telling you how to dress.) Style will never be your thing, even if that means missing out on the fashion blog niche, but only because you have more important things to concern yourself with.

You will always be different but you will eventually learn that this is a good thing. Don't be too hard on yourself, in the meantime. It may take pink hair and a move to Montana to show you that this is a good trait, but when you finally realize it, it will change you.  Don't give up your spontaneous and silly nature, even though some may dislike you for it. Your true friends will love you for your quirky style, your never-funny jokes, and your sense of adventure. At twenty-one, being different will be your biggest strength, and you will have accepted that not everyone will like you.

Your love for adventure will grow as you do. While everyone around you seems so similar now, you will learn that the world is a great big place filled with more personalities than you can imagine. You will become passionate about other cultures, foods, and languages - you will want to visit new places. What is now a love for playing and exploring will turn into a passion for traveling, a passion that will take you to wander the streets of Paris, to rebuild homes in New Orleans, to hike through the red rocks in Arizona, and to live a quiet life in Montana. Traveling will instill in you a great sense of respect for others but will also plant the seeds of many big dreams. Seeing the world will teach you more about people and the world than any of the classes you will sit through over the next sixteen years.

While learning and reading thrills you now, you will grow bored and tired in school. Don't let that discourage you. You will realize that these two things are an essential part of you. You will go through hobby after hobby and frustrate your family as you go, but don't worry, your flighty nature is not due to a lack of commitment or your inability to fit in. Instead, it your curious nature and passion for learning that will propel you through countless sports, activities, and passions. At twenty-one, you will be proud of yourself for all the things you've tried, all the things you've succeeded in or failed at, and you will have learned that sports just aren't your thing - and that there's nothing wrong with that.

But more than anything, I want you to know that you will spread your wings and you will leave your little town. You will go on to do big, bold and meaningful things. Still, don't let your yearning to grow keep you from enjoying your hometown, your high school friends, and most importantly, your family. Eventually, you will fall in love with a guy who makes you forget that you were ever awkward, different or unhappy, but that love will take you far away from everything you've ever known.

You will miss the things you hated about home. You will miss having a holiday dedicated to farmers and fried food, you will miss having your mom nearby for lunch and shopping (even if she complains about it the entire time), you will miss fishing with your dad and his insistence on keeping your childhood artwork, and as surprising as it may seem to you now, you will miss Sean as you find yourselves on opposite sides of the country.

Appreciate the gifts you have been given, realize that home and family are a big part of who you are, but also know that you were meant to grow, and that opportunity can be found anywhere.

Your older and hopefully wiser self.

To celebrate Valentine's Day, Savannah of Maiedae started a movement asking us to write love letters to our younger selves. As she explains, "This idea stems from one of my favorite quotes by Kris Carr, 'Picture yourself when you were five. in fact, dig out a photo of little you at that time and tape it to your mirror. How would you treat her, love her, feed her? How would you nurture her if you were the mother of little you? I bet you would protect her fiercely while giving her space to spread her itty-bitty wings. she’d get naps, healthy food, imagination time, and adventures into the wild. If playground bullies hurt her feelings, you’d hug her tears away and give her perspective. When tantrums or meltdowns turned her into a poltergeist, you’d demand a loving time-out in the naughty chair. From this day forward I want you to extend that same compassion to your adult self.' This Valentine's Day, take time to write little you a love letter. What are three things you would tell yourself? Show yourself some fierce love this month. ♥"

So tell me, what advice would you give your younger self? If you take the time to write your five-year-old self a letter, leave a link in the comments - I would love to read it.

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