Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Letter to My Teenage Self From 20 Years in the Future

Dear Teenage Self,

This letter is to be read by you the day after you graduate from high school.  It is being sent to you from your older self in the future after you have just gone to your 20th reunion. Today (in 1995) your friends will take you to the airport and you will leave the place where you were born and grew up. You will look down on the desert ground as your plane ascends and your life will change forever.

You didn't get into some prestigious university, but that would have actually stood in the way of your calling - so it all works out for the absolute best.  You will end up transferring around to different schools until you are done with college, and you will do exactly what you need to do, so don't worry.  You don't have to do what everyone else is doing.

You came of age in a city that was stunningly beautiful with July monsoon thunderstorms and fluorescent pink sunsets, yet it is full of a dark and haunting and relentless undertow.  You got pulled into that undertow, but you made your way back to the surface.  This will be part of the reason you will be able to overcome enormous adversity in your life.  All the things that happened led you to something better, they were for a reason, they were to help you become the next thing you needed to become each time you needed to become something else.  Even the darkest things of your life eventually find their way to a place of redemption.

Get used to the feeling that there are more questions than answers.  Get used to the feeling that you aren't completely at home in this world.  In all your years on this planet, something deep within will continue an echo that you were meant for a world beyond much better than this one.  In the meantime, through the decades, you'll have to make the most of your surroundings.  Through every Death Valley that you travel, always remember the way the New Mexico summer rain dotted the desert sand and each small cactus would drink up the water.  In your life there will be many droughts.

You were blessed with good friends in your growing up years who will find again even when you have lost touch for a while.  They will be there to help you when you de-rail, to bring you back to the real you when you get swayed by something out in the world that doesn't have your best interests in mind.

Work hard and try not to leave things unfinished with people - while growing up seemed to take an eternity, the years of adulthood, and of life, somehow are very short.

You will find that you are much braver than you thought you were.  You will find a way to use your voice.  You will rise beyond your circumstances.  You always did.  You will find a way to cut ties with people who do not respect you, and once you work through your anger, believe it or not, you will find ways to move on from all the disappointment you experienced in your youth.

Here is the most important thing: listening to your heart instead of your head.  The heart, the core of the heart, is where God speaks, the head is where ego speaks, and within your mind, your deepest anxieties are the echos of people telling you how to live your life even though they don't know how to live their own.

Eventually, people will stop telling you how to live your life.

You will find an extraordinary connection to your generation that you will not have enough context to see until you are much older.  You will realize that a lot of the suffering you endured in your younger years was not all that uncommon - all the things you went through were the things that many people went through - this will help you to no longer feel sorry for yourself, all of that energy will eventually go toward using your own story to help others.

It never gets easy, but it does get easier.  In every dusk that seems darker than it should, in every night that seems longer than it should, the sun will rise - it always did, it always does.

You find love, eventually.  You have a daughter who is just as strong-willed as you are and that is what will give you the confidence to know that she will also make it in this world.

Through long term relationships, and parenting, and by years of quiet observation, you will begin to see people differently.  You will start to see that people that you viewed as gods while you were young, were really just fragile and even broken, and that is why you will start out in life angry, and stay deeply angry for a long time, but eventually you will end up forgiving.  You will realize that even though there were people in your life that were monsters became that way because of the monsters in their own lives.

You are about to put your cap and gown into its storage box.  You are tired because you just walked out of your graduation party at 2am and felt like you are in free fall because everything that was ever familiar to you is now going away. But it is those moments of feeling completely lost, that if you reach to the depths, you will know what to do, and you will end up exactly where you are supposed to be.  So don't worry so much, and hold your ground, and tune in to the deepest parts of your heart.

U2 will still be your favorite band all these years later, and to quote lyrics from a song that you will not hear for twenty years,

"Every breaking wave on the shore tells the next one there'll be one more."

Leave your mark on the shore, with both hands.

 -From your Thirty-Something Self

(c) 2015 Writing and photography by Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved

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