How do I start this letter?
I always feel a little awkward when writing letters to younger versions of myself but today it makes sense. Today I know this letter is necessary. Today you are six months into being 21. You are a senior in college. You are applying for programs across the country because you have a dream of helping others your first year out of college.
It is one of the last nights before you go home for holiday break. You’re so close to being done with finals. Chances are, you just piled into the back of a car with your closest girlfriends and came out of Starbucks with peppermint mochas in hand. You are heading back to the campus center to study together. Years from now, you will look back and you will be thankful you took the study break. You’ll be thankful for this group of girls because they helped you become who the world needed you to be. Sit in the moment and don’t wish it away. Don’t bully yourself with thoughts of how you could be doing more, or how you should have your life figured out by now, and just go with it. Say yes to the midnight breakfast. Blast the holiday music. Stay up way too late. Be young. Be wild, and ridiculous, and at peace, sweet girl. Stay that way as long as you can.
There’s a reason “future me” is writing to 21-year-old you. The year is 2009. You are sitting at your small Acer computer, the one you bought at the start of this year to invest in your “writing career.” You just created a blog on WordPress. You are calling it “As Simple As That.” You don’t really know what you will do with the blog– what you will say– but you know you want to help people. Keep that conviction.
Words have always meant everything to you. They’ve been balm to you. Healing for you. Words have convinced you that you mustn’t live ordinarily. You must be wild enough to go after your dreams and then, maybe then, you will become those dreams.
So go for it, girl. Publish that first blog post. Don’t be fearful and don’t hold back. You’ve got a voice inside of you but you will learn, in the next 8 years, that a voice must be honed and trained. it must be poured into and refined. Create as much as you can when no one is watching. Read as much as you can.
A voice doesn’t show up one day, it develops through tiny, miraculous experiences and mistakes. Make all your mistakes, girl. Don’t be afraid when life knocks the wind out of you. The first time you learn how to breathe again– after the first big heartbreak comes– is when you’ll realize you are alive and it’s a gift to be here. Write it all down, girl.
You’ll see pretty soon, in the next few years, that you were quick to name your blog “As Simple As That.” The thing about life is that some days it feels simple and other days it is anything but. Don’t grow up and hate the girl who believed in world peace. Don’t divorce yourself from her in your mind or wish she wasn’t so naive to think things like love letters could change the world. Who you are, right now, is beautiful. It’s necessary. Like I said earlier: stay young as long as you can. Believe that people are generally good. Develop hope over cynicism. Develop a voice of love over one of fear. Make the world better by and because of your love.
So many good things will come to you, girl, because of this one blog. So dig in. Do the work. Invest. Put in the long hours. Meet other bloggers. Maybe even fall in love with one or two of them. Get your heart-broken. Get back up. Forgive your ghosts. Say “yes” to things that will make you work harder than yesterday. Put your skin in the game. Lead with honesty. Possess a spirit of integrity. You are going to walk into so many experiences in the next few years where you will meet people who lead with anything but integrity. Don’t let them get you down. Remember how your mama raised you. Be a light in a dark world.
Never believe you deserve what is coming to you. It’s a gift. It’s borrowed things from God. Always stay humble and faithful to what He gives you. If you take care of the little, more will come. This is the truest recipe for success. Don’t play a numbers game. Don’t care about the metrics. Instead, find the broken hearts. Sew into those. Answer as many emails as you can from people who need to know someone is reading them. It will never be about who, or how many, like your content. Stay true to creating content for the sake of creation.
Be a lighthouse but never a lifeboat. The two are very different. A lighthouse stands there tall and shining. A lifeboat is hellbent on saving people. There is a savior mentality stitched into most of us. We want to save. We want to fix.
You will learn in the next few years that you were made to love and protect, dig and dream. You were made to stare at the sky and ask questions about God. But you, my girl, were never created to save anyone. Be careful not to drown in the effort of trying.
What you are creating will require sacrifice in the years to come. Not everyone will understand it. Some people will give you crazy eyes, tell you not to care so much. You caring too much isn’t your weakness, it’s actually your greatest strength. Lean into it. Vow to learn as much as you can about the world you live in and the life you want to create.
Be good to people. Keep the ghosting to a minimal (if you can). Don’t Taylor Swift people on the Internet. In the words of the wise prophet Beyonce: don’t diss people on the internet because your mama taught you better than that. Leave space and room in every sentence you write for grace and redemption. The most beautiful thing about characters is their ability to change. Don’t ever steal that from someone by writing a story they can’t grow out of one day.
I’m writing to you from eight years away. Oh, so many stupid things you’ll do. You’ll kiss people when you shouldn’t. You’ll walk away even when you’re not sure. It’s all field work, babe. In the next years, you will fall in love and fall out. You will say stupid things for the ones you love. This is growing up.
You will get a diagnosis of depression and it will rock you, steal from you, and then give it all back to you in a newer, more durable package. You will find your dream job but then you will learn that the dream job isn’t that something you walk into, it’s something you create.
You will move to new cities. You will tweet the dumbest stuff. You will say “yes” when you mean “no.” You will try yoga. You will shake hands with celebrities and you will sign books for strangers. It’s going to be wild, beyond what you think you ever could have. And here’s the wildest part: it begins here. It starts right here, on this last night of finals, as you publish that first blog post.
Stay faithful. Say yes. Move the damn mountains for whoever you love. Find your truth. Pray for wisdom. Run towards the storm and see what it makes you into. In Macklemore-fashion, put your skin and bones into everything you produce. Be a participant. Choose to create over complaining. Fall on your face and let grace lift you back up. And then come back here, come right back here, and write it all down.
I’m cheering loudly for whoever you’ll become.
tying you closer than most,