I know, I know…everyone is writing one of these in their blogs. They’ve become cliche…BUT…
I have been thinking a lot this week about perfecting time travel and going back to warn my teen self about the years to come. I would have laughed at you if you’d told me just a few short years after high school graduation I would be dealing with a close family member being incarcerated, cancer, strokes, the death of a parent, creating a multi-generational household all while managing to stay married, finish a PhD, getting tenure and the most amazing journey of parenthood.
I know, I know…we grow through our trials. We become stronger people. We learn how to handle the world effectively when we are challenged. There are some days I just call bull crap on that line of thinking. Suffering sucks. This idea of getting no more than we can handle is a joke. And, I’d like to knock out the next smiling, happy go lucky person who tells me that garbage. The truth is that pushing through wears you out.
I’d first warn myself not to make myself crazy wondering why. There is no “why.” There is no rhyme or reason to the way some events unfold. Some is just bad genetics. Some is just bad decisions. Bad decisions made by you, bad decisions made by others, bad decisions made by the man on the moon pulling all the strings. Hell, I don’t know–there just is no why so don’t ask.
I would also say you are going to be scared–a lot–18 year old self. That’s the thing about challenging times. They do not come with instruction manuals. No one can tell you everything is going to be ok and if they do they are lying because they have no clue. You will be scared on that first trip to visit your family member, you will be terrified with every new doctor’s appointment for your father with cancer, you will be scared making big decisions about the future of your father, you will be terrified as you try to parent a precious daughter. You will be scared that your spouse is secretly considering putting you in a straight jacket when you become just a little too much to handle. Fear comes with the territory. It is normal. Just do not let fear paralyze you. Push through…whoops…just had to slap myself for saying that one.
Sleep is overrated. Don’t expect to get a whole lot of that over the next 18 years. Whether it is late night worrying, cramming and writing for your PhD, caring for your parents, up and down with Munchkin and just taking the only minutes you can with your husband even if that means it is 2:00 in the morning–just don’t expect much sleep. Enjoy it now. Savor it. I envy you.
Keep your circle of people tight. You will need each other. Not everyone deserves to be in the circle. This is going to be a hard lesson. This will break your heart because there are people who are going to let you down. People you never thought would let you down will. You will learn who is truly there for you 18 year old self. You will also learn who is sucking you dry and only want you when you can do something for them. Cut them out. Cut them lose. Say goodbye and just go on.
Keep your family closer. Do not take for granted that they will be there the next day. Call, text, Facebook, Instagram, send letters–just do whatever it takes–stay in touch. They will be your backbone, sounding board and cushion. They will love you unconditionally. Your aunts, uncle, and cousins will circle you with love in the hard days ahead.
Marry the guy you meet in the bread aisle at Wal-Mart. Trust me. Marry that guy.
Finally, 18 year old self, you will survive. Not only will you survive but you will thrive. You will become freaking Super Woman. No matter what comes your way you will figure it out and you will handle it. You will take care of business. In 18 years you will be sitting on the couch of the house you bought with that guy from Wal-Mart, mother to a wonderful 4 year old daughter, caring for your mother, mourning your father, cheering your sister on and doing a job you love. You will also start daring to see a calmer future. You will start to see more light in that tunnel.
Most of all, you will feel hope.
Oh, and surprise that you freaking survived it all…