Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I'm not sure why I am sharing this letter to me with all of you...

I've been reading through a list of daily prompts that I received in my inbox and decided to jump in and actually do one of them today. The prompts are part of the Health Writer's Activists Month via this site- wegohealth.com. I'm not even sure how I got on their email list, but the daily prompts have been interesting and I would like to even go back and catch up and blog about more of them if I can get time and energy to do so. They are good starting points or just fun/interesting topics. So hopefully I'll play along besides just this one for today.
Today's prompt is to write a letter to your 16-year old self. The prompt can be interpreted however you like and used to jumpstart a post. My first thought wasn't to sit down and write myself a letter, but instead I wanted to find a picture of my 16-year old self. You know what? I don't really have that many pictures of me from junior high or high school. Or of my four years in college either. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that I didn't have a camera around very often, or loaded with film when I did have access to a camera. Things have changed with the digital age and the ease and storage space for taking lots of pictures. Secondly, I didn't really like myself very much for most of those years of my life. I hated my height, my weight, my hair and it all added up to not having many photos of myself as a result.
The picture above is of me and my mini poodle, Beau {he was such a great pup!}. I think I was about to start 10th grade when this picture was taken. I was living in the church parsonage- which is the home the church provides for the pastor's family to live in- right next door to the church. It was a beautiful piece of property where we enjoyed living on a small piece of lakefront and we were right in the metro area of the Twin Cities. I was happy living at this house and surrounded by a loving family and two golden retrievers and a poodle. I pretty much had life made.
But if I were to write myself a letter it would go like this:

Dear Jody,
You have no idea what a lucky teen girl you are to have the life you are living right now. You may not have a big, sprawling home and access to world travel or the latest designer clothes or nicest car, but you are a very fortunate young lady to have things far more important and much more difficult to attain. You, by no choice of your own, have all the love, security, support, guidance and access to great education and the ability to grow and learn in a safe environment. These are things many teens only dream of having in their life. You have them all.
Yet, in spite of all these excellent things, you carry a heaviness or burden inside. I wish you knew that the things the media portrays and the things that kids at school talk about and the things that society seems to think are important and worth striving for and selling yourself short for are so not worth your time, effort or energy. Things like the way you look, and how you style your hair and what kind of jeans you own really don't matter all that much. If you are taking care of your body and making good choices about how you spend your time and money- those things will bring far greater rewards or hurts in the long run.
My dear, I know you aren't into sports. But that doesn't mean you're fat. It doesn't mean you can't go on long walks or bike rides and guess what? You go swimming almost every day in the summer- so you ARE good at a sport! You just don't play on a team right now. But being on a team isn't everything. You were great and had so much fun playing soccer and girls softball. You were even a pratty fast runner in elementary school. I just wish you realized that playing on a team is supposed to be about having fun and making friends and learning about sportsmanship and how games work. It doesn't mean you have to be the best or fastest or never lose. I wish you could just enjoy playing instead of feeling like you're no good and then believing it is just easier not to try. Trying means you care. Somewhere along the line you started to not care.
You have so much to offer in other realms too. Your passion for writing and journaling and poetry is something a lot of kids don't have. You should love that about yourself and push yourself to do it more. In college you will feel like everyone else is better at writing and speaking and once again, sports and even music too. You will let your judgement of others cast a darkness on the dreams in your heart and little by little the things you really love and want to do will feel like a chore. That professor who makes you feel inept and small for sharing your thoughts and ideas is just one person. And just because she is the professional and gives you bad grades doesn't mean you have to throw away your dream and love of writing and language and stories. It means you need to keep doing what you do and learn and grow and take one person's critique and grades as they are- ONE person's. If you could simply step back and see that a few grades don't have to change your plans for your future you would find your path to happiness and the things your hearts wants to pursue much easier and smoother as a result.
Sadly, you will instead choose to let your light and passion dim in some of the areas of your life that you were just starting to shine in. But you know what? The good news is that life has a way of twisting and turning and if you could just roll with that a bit more you would find that often times there are wonderful surprises you would have missed along the way. This is certainly going to be true for you in your future more times than you would believe as a teen. If I could tell you to hold on- it's going to be a bumpy ride- it would be an understatement. But if I could also tell you that there will be a wealth of loving and learning and that the tears you shed along the way are sowing something into you that you never could have found anywhere else along the way, I would hope you would find the strength to keep fighting hard to find joy and happiness.
Oh dear young self....
If you saw a picture of your life now- 20 years into your future, you wouldn't believe you could get through what you will endure. But I want you to know that you will. You won't just get through them and survive, but you will shine. You. Yes, you! The girl who doesn't like herself when she looks in the mirror. The girl who thinks everyone else is smarter and skinnier and faster and prettier and sings better and writes better and paints better and all the other things you feel inferior for- you will shine in your own way. Maybe not in the way you would choose. Maybe you don't even see it yet. But you're doing it. You're a fighter. You've got a heart that really wants to do the right thing. You're sensitive and caring- even though you put up a wall and try to keep people out of that part of you. You don't have to pretend to be something you're not.
Remember what I said in the beginning of this note? You are living and filling your heart with a wealth and riches that many only dream of in this life. I want you to soak up the love of God and your family and the small group of friends that you trust and believe in the knowledge and learning you are storing up in your heart and mind and know that one day all the love and security and support you have now will be multiplied and that will be enough to see you through life's biggest storms.
You're just a kid. I don't even want to tell you this, but maybe it will help you down the road. The fact is you have no idea because of the sheltered, wonderful life of ease you have only known til now will one day be shattered. Life is going to throw you a big curve ball. Everything you believe will be tested. You will wonder and ask yourself what and why and how come and for how long and you may wonder if the pain and hurt will ever end. I'm sorry to tell you that there is coming a day when one of your favorite people in all the world will lie lifeless in your arms. It will be so astounding and surreal that it will seem like a nightmare over and over again. But it's real.
I wish I could tell you to hold her in your arms and take that reality in. For it will seem so unreal. I wish that you knew to cut a lock of her hair and to take a photo of her pinky finger in yours as you promise to love her forever one last time. I wish upon wishes that this part wasn't going to be the storyline of your life. But it is what it is and only God knows why.
You don't need to know why though, and that is the very thing that will free you from living the rest of your life in pain and unforgiveness. You will want to sit in that sorrow and hurt and ask the hard questions over and over. As you begin to let go of the need to know why, therein will you find the 'new pathway' to life again. Not a new life free from hurt or sorrow- for you will forever be changed and carry her love and your grief with you. But you will be free to embrace happiness in a new and profound way. It won't be tied to the things it once was- death and sorrow will actually give you "new eyes" from which you will see things through.
So, young self, there are some things that are important to take note of. Never stop being grateful for the things which you have been given- the people and comforts and education and protection are rare gifts. Appreciate them always. Be thankful that you were spared a life of hardhsips early one. Those dreams that you have- the things you love to do and make you laugh and cry and that bring out the best in you- live for them. Do things that help make them possible. Don't let your own fears hold you back from finding your dreams. They are out there and worth going through challenges and falling down for. You will know something is worth pursuing when it brings out the best in you. God has made you for something that only YOU can be/do. Seek Him and you will find what it is that He made you for. Take more photos. Even the ones when you don't think you look your best. Take photos of the days you ask questions and wonder and take lots of pictures of the people around you. They won't always be with you.
Lastly, never let anything- no matter how big or how small or how hurtful or how intimidating- never let it keep you from being you. Because that you that you are on the inside? That's what makes you shine.
A wiser, more mature, but still very much learning and growing still Me


cat said...

This is beautiful. Simply beautiful. Do you know that two books have been published by well known people writing for their 16 year old self?

I have been planning a post like this for a while but my 16 th year ws partivulalry harrowing so its taking a bit of time.

Jan C. said...

I suppose we were all uncertain of our beauty and our talents when we were 16, and maybe a bit overwhelmed by the idea of going out into the world in the not-too-distant future. I hope now that you are a grown woman, you have admitted to yourself that you are beautiful in form and spirit, and talented in scrapbooking, baking, and writing, just to name the things I know about you. Oh yeah, how about strong? And kind? And loving?

Great letter to your teenage self. Write the next one to your "now" self, just to make sure she knows she's fantastic, too, just as she is this moment. XO

Anonymous said...

Poignant, beautiful. I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face. This hit me deeply and I don't know why. Or maybe I do.

Anonymous said...

I was going to leave a comment when you talked about your wedding a few blogs back but after a wrote it I did something wrong when I posted. We have the exact same Anniversary~ 8/12/95~wasn't it so hot and humid? Anyway I made the cake recipe you put on for your sons birthday~thank you! Today again I can relate with your blog~I feel like we share many things in life~you are a very great mother and wife:)Nancy

Laurie and company said...

that is awesome, Jody.
beautiful, just like you!
hugs to you, from Indy,

Ashlee said...

I absolutley love this...
I did something sort of like this, but I haven't really said all I can say...I was only 16, five years ago so not much has changed..but in a way A LOT has. Okay, I take that back, TOO MUCH has changed...Maybe i will wait a few more years to write a ltter to myself. :)

Thanks for the Inspiration. Your words, even if they are to yourself, are uncanning. Beauitful. Breath-Taking.

Your 16yr old self should be VERY proud of whom you are now. :)

Cheryl said...

Beautiful post. Once I became a mother everything touches me more deeply. I want to hold you and tell you that everything is going to be ok when you describe your 16 year old self. It is so difficult to see our children go through tough times and life is full of them. You are a multi-talented person who has a heart of gold. Maybe some day when your children are going through difficult teenage years you can have them read that letter to let them know that they aren't alone and they will come out on the other side some day, sooner than they think.

With Hope,

Adrienne said...

Such a great letter to your teenage self...and it could have been written to my teenage self, too. What an inspiring exercise. I'm going to have to do this...and then take my grown-ups self's advice.

You are wise. And so very strong.

Thanks for sharing this!

Erin said...

Bawling. I needed that letter. What a wise, bold, and God-fearing woman to write that. Looking forward to meeting you in June!

Michelle said...

Your post had me in tears, Jody! Thank you so much for sharing!!

the plaid sparrow said...

You know... I just stumbled upon your blog.
I kept reading through all your posts because I just couldn't stop. Those are the moments you realize you have stumbled across someone whose heart is true and honest. I love those blogs, which kind of makes me adore you. :)
Thanks for sharing this post especially.
I hope you have a lovely weekend!!
much love, colie.