Letter to 18 year old me (with pictures. Shame.)

Back in November, I wrote a guest spot for Jamie’s If I Could Turn Back Time series.  I responded to her prompt:  If you had the oppor­tu­nity to sit down with your 18-year-old self, what would you say to her?

Jamie’s series is celebrating its one year anniversary, so I’m reposting my letter to myself here.  Enjoy the bad hair.  You’re welcome.

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I’ve seen some pretty amaz­ing let­ters gen­er­ated from this prompt; the emo­tional, the inspi­ra­tional, and the down­right gut-wrenchingly truth­ful.  There is a thread that con­nects our let­ters; we all agree that while we made mis­takes, they ulti­mately led us to our vastly improved real­i­ties today.

And isn’t that the point of being 18?  Mak­ing mis­takes — big ones — so that you learn and grow and your future is brighter because of them?
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My mis­takes as an 18 year old weren’t par­tic­u­larly unique. I was arro­gant and judg­men­tal. I thought I knew every­thing. If I ran into my 18-year-old self today, I’d prob­a­bly tell her to wear less hair prod­uct.  Find lower rise jeans.  And to stop being so sure of .…everything.
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18-year-old me…back when I used an iron to first straighten and then curl my hair.  Because that makes sense.
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Dear Ryan,
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As an 18 year old, you think you’ve got a lot fig­ured out.
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Yes, you just grad­u­ated high school in a for­eign coun­try.  Yes, you are headed off to col­lege back in the States. Yes, you think you know SO much more than most Amer­i­cans because you’ve seen the world (for a year).  You’ve been places (5 coun­tries out of 196).  And you’ve expe­ri­enced things (from behind the safe walls of a wealthy expa­tri­ate community). You know who you are going to be.  And who you’ll never ever become. 
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What you don’t know is that the uni­verse has a fab­u­lous sense of humor.
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To my sweet 18-year-old self, below are your words.  I warn you, some of these words will come back to haunt you.  For example…
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I will never sub­scribe to the patri­ar­chal insti­tu­tion of marriage. 

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Best deci­sion I ever made.
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Cor­po­ra­tions are evil.  

This is me.  I work for a large finan­cial insti­tu­tion that cares more about me, my fam­ily, and my work/life bal­ance than any of my pre­vi­ous employers.
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I will never, ever live in the suburbs… 

That would be me lead­ing the 4th of July parade in our Pleas­antville ver­sion of sub­ur­ban utopia.
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or own a mini­van.  

Not only do I have a mini­van, I pack it with crap.  I mean impor­tant kid stuff.    I mean crap.
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I do not run unless chased.

That’s me at the fin­ish line of the Mon­u­ment Avenue 10k.

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Reli­gion is for peo­ple who don’t under­stand spirituality.  

Me deliv­er­ing a ser­mon at the church I reg­u­larly attend.

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I refuse to raise gender-identified children.

Funny thing about kids– they have opin­ions when it comes to their gen­der.    Imag­ine that.
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Oh arro­gantly cer­tain self, I wish I could hold your dewey-complected face in my hands, look you straight in the eye, and say, “Stop being so sure about every­thing. Leave room to expand your hori­zons, open your­self to new per­spec­tives, and don’t be afraid to change your mind.”
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But you and I both know you wouldn’t lis­ten.  Because you “know” better.
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So instead I’ll sug­gest that the next time you go to the cam­pus cafe­te­ria en masse with 20 other col­lege fresh­man, smug­gle out a fork. Because the uni­verse is going to send you more than your fair share of hum­ble pie.
I hope you’re hungry.
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Love,
Your Very Happy and Dis­tinctly Less Cer­tain Future Self
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Your turn, dear readers:

What would YOU say to your 18 year old self?

Leave a comment below!

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