An Open Letter to My Younger Self
First of all, I love you and I am so proud of you.
For so many years, I have focused more on what I wish you didn’t do.
I wish you didn’t diet.
I wish you didn’t spend so much mental energy on trying to control your food and the size of your body.
I wish you realized your worth more when it came to boys/dating…
But then on Saturday… I opened up an old iPhoto library and went down a path I never expected to go down.
I forgave you, completely. And not only that, but I realized I am so proud of you.
So proud of you for surviving. For being so young and for pulling through. For caring enough about yourself to try and feel better – to try and find fulfillment (which you have now done, by the way, so good job).
I love you so much. I am so proud of you, and I could say it over and over.
I know that you carried a lot on your shoulders. And that was okay with you.
You tried to make the most of things – even when they were really really hard.
You started shifting into an adult really early.
I think God prepared you for this from a very young age. When you were tiny (seriously, this probably started at 5), you were always excited to grow up.
When you drove your toy car, you stayed within the lines. You honored the stop signs. You used your blinker. But not because you had to… but because you were training for the real thing. You were excited to get to make all of your own decisions one day.
When you were in sixth grade, you and a friend set up an entire room as an office and did charity work out of it. You went around the neighborhood and collected cash. You kept track of it. You were creative. You were excited that you could do this. Then, with the help of your mama, you chose your charities and gave it all away.
When you were in third grade, your teacher had a drawer just for you. She’d put all her extra worksheets in there so you could take them home and play school with friends. You always wanted to be the teacher, always. You loved to teach. To share what you learned with friends.
You still love this. Coaching is the perfect blend of teaching, listening, motivating, and encouraging. It’s the best, really – I think you’ve been preparing for it your whole life.
Something strange happened… and I’m not sure why…
Up until 4th grade, you felt pretty well loved by your peers. Pretty liked. Boys would chase you – you liked it. You felt pretty. Your friends were nice. You didn’t get teased much. It was safe.
And then 4th grade happened and something shifted… you started to feel a little bit more “outcasted.” Boys didn’t give you much attention. The teasing increased. Did everyone feel this way around this time? That felt strange and scary. You didn’t like it very much. This went on through 7th grade.
You kept to yourself and to your close friends who you did feel safe with. You stayed happy. You were okay. In sixth grade, things got a little bit better, only to become completely awkward again in 7th grade. Gosh, 7th grade was awkward.
Around 7th/8th grade is when your home life started to shift, like you’d never seen before. That was hard, really hard. For a couple of years, it was just plain hard. You struggled with it. You didn’t know how to deal with it. You were grasping at different identities to try and find what felt most “right.”
By the time you were 12/13 you started to find your comforts more outside of your home. Boys. Going to friends houses. Texting/phone calls/instant messaging (AOL).
When you were 13 you fell in love for the first time – you were infatuated. You poured 100% of yourself into this young love. I think it felt safe to you. A distraction from home. It was a place to put all of your focus.
When that love started to feel messy and uncertain and less safe – you needed to find a new safety. And that safety was in dieting.
Dieting was sure. It could be controlled. It was math. It felt like consistent forward progress. The more weight you lost, the more praise set in. The more boys started to notice you. The more attractive and noticed you felt. The more others looked up to you. This was a good thing, you thought. People trusted you more, you thought.
And this is where I completely and 100% forgive you and I say, of course you did. And good for you for doing what it took for you to stay above the water at this time. Good for you for finding focuses that allowed you to survive during this time. I’m okay with you not having chosen the “best” or most perfect routes. You did it, and now you’re here. You’re safe, you’re happy, you have love in your life, and you found God, eventually.
All throughout high school, while you did have loads of fun, you poured yourself into getting good grades, dieting, exercising, working, and trying to be the absolute best version of you. You liked yourself. But you always had an empty hole. You knew you had an empty hold. But you didn’t know how to fill it.
You tried to fill it with usually, the boy of the moment. You had a few serious relationships, but you always seemed to have someone who you were interested in. Someone you were flirting with. This is another area I wish you knew you didn’t need it… but how could you have known? You were looking for that need to be filled. And you felt most vulnerable when you were alone. So you tried hard to not be alone.
It wasn’t until you turned 18 and went to Church for the first time that you felt that hole completely and utterly filled. It surprised you. You didn’t expect it. You expected to go and “do something good” for a day and then leave. But you loved it, and you stayed. You found love, safety, meaning, importance, value, and for the first time in a while, you felt completely and utterly cherished. You didn’t need the boys, you didn’t need the dieting, you were full. You were safe.
This was your turning point. The point to which you were so full that you could finally start to create some meaning and purpose and point yourself in the direction that you wanted to go. And from there, it’s been golden.
No, it hasn’t been easy. But Lord, you’ve made it through. You’ve gone through some more tough stuff, but in going through it, you have not had to turn back to food or dieting. Instead, you’ve leaned on God. You’ve trusted. You’ve felt your emotions. You’ve acknowledged yourself. You’ve become your own best friend.
I’m writing this today to let you know that I don’t hold it against you, how you handled your high school and early college years. No, instead, I’m proud of you. I know you were only doing what you knew to do.
In this time, you built independence. You created your own safety, even if it wasn’t the safety you’d know to depend on forever. You got through some of the hardest things – I feel for you so much.
I also just want to share that… that best friend of yours, Marco… yeah, HE’S the one. You know how he’s always so sweet to you? Tickling your back? Watching movies with you? Meeting up with you while you’re babysitting? Walking you to your classes and to your car? Girl… you DO NOT SEE IT (I mean, hello!) but he’s the one you’re going to choose for forever. And he is the best. He is the same in marriage as he is now, in high school, but even better. I wish you could see this now, but I know there are more lessons you need to learn before you recognize it. I’m okay with that too. This is your timing. And God is working everything together – and you don’t even know it.
Thank you. Thank you for teaching me. In writing this to you and in reflecting, I can so clearly see the things that you put in the place in your heart that was reserved for God: boys, dieting, being liked, doing a really good job.
And it teaches me how easily you can let other things seep into this place, that is reserved for God, even now. Instead of boys and dieting to make you feel safe it’s: (still) doing a really good job to make others proud, having enough money in your bank account, having all things feel/be perfect. Not that you believe in perfection, you don’t. But sometimes you crave so much order (order in your relationships, home, work, etc.) that you don’t allow for anything to be “untidy.” You feel uncomfortable when something is unsettled and you want to fix it right away. This, again, is the space where God goes. Not a space that you need to fill with perfection. Instead, trust God. Let Him come and fill that place. HE is your safety.
Maybe I’ll write more to you later, but for now… I want you to know that I’m proud of you. I’m not ashamed of you. You survived, and you got us to where we are today. I’m *so grateful* that you found God. Thank you for going to Church that one day. Thank you for going in with an open heart and for letting that service speak to you.
I’m really happy we’re here – we did it together. Keep trusting God. Keep allowing Him to be your safety. Trust Him. Not an app, not success, not a diet, not money, not human-love (even though this is great too), trust Him. HE is the only one who can fill that special place in your heart reserved just for Him. Let Him rest there, so that YOU can have rest.
More to come on this later…