Dear young, naïve, 20-year-old Deidra,
I know you can’t imagine this now, but you’re about to turn 40. What?! All you can see is what’s right in front of you. You think you know a lot, but wow, if you only knew how much you really don’t know, you’d be terrified. That hope, that expectation, that blissful unawareness, that faded 90’s denim you’re sportin’? Twenty years from now it will all be gone (trust me, you’ll be thankful about the denim part).
The degree you’re finishing up? Wait for it…totally useless. But not to worry, you’ll earn another one. Psych! That one’s worthless too. It’s okay though, because believe it or not, you’re actually going to work on a Ph.D. Never mind, you won’t finish it. But guess what? You’re still paying for it all. Well actually, that guy you just got engaged to? He pays for all of it, because here’s another good one. Brace yourself. You’re a stay-at-home mom.
All those dreams you have about being a world-changer? All that certainty you have about a career? Just kidding. You’ll end up going from job to job, switching from profession to profession trying to figure out where you belong only to find out after twenty years of searching you still don’t know. Those kids you aren’t going to have? There are three of them. That state you just visited on tour with Ladies of Lee, the one you hate with all of your being? You live there.
Your feelings of security, self-reliance, confidence? They will disappear. Your family? Um, yeah, just wait. In the farthest recesses of your mind you can’t invent a scenario like the one you’re about to experience. Two years from now your dad will be dead. From AIDS. He’s gay. He’s lived a double life and betrayed everyone. Your carefree attitude, your eagerness, your trust? They will melt in the fires of trial and disappointment. Your sense of worth and value and competence? It will fade.
Those kids you were never supposed to have? They deliver black the day you deliver them. Those tiny, precious hands fisted tight will punch a hole in your soul. You won’t know it at first, but a few months in you’ll begin to experience the fight for your life. There are no words to describe the pain and despair you’ll endure. You’ll try to cry and scream and beg and cut and starve and puke your way out, but you won’t be able to. And after six years of battling you’ll come to your end, too tired to try anymore. But you’ll meet God on the bloody, tear-soaked bathroom floor that day. The real God, the One you’ve learned and talked and pretended about your whole life. And you’ll find out He’s everything He says He is.
You’ll know what it means to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and come out on the other side because God carried you the entire way. You’ll have to work and work and work and work, but with His help you will get better. And the life you never imagine you’ll have—the life of messy, scary, uncertain, crazy, roller-coaster, whirlwind, unpredictable moments—will be the life you come to embrace and love. Because even though the journey is hard, it’s your journey; and even though everything you think will never happen to you does, plus some, twenty years from now you will realize that all you think you need is none of what you need and all of what you have is everything you don’t know you want.
That guy you just got engaged to? Marrying him is the best thing you ever do. Those kids you aren’t going to have? Parenting them is the purpose you are looking for. That state you just visited, the one you hate with all your being? It is the place you find your freedom to live, to laugh, to love, to be, to accept all you aren’t as well as all you are.
So, 20-Me, here’s what you need to know to make it through the next 20 years:
Never say never.
Things pretty much never go according to plan.
Everything will work out the way it is supposed to.
Nothing is wasted; everything has purpose.
God really is Who He says He is—you can trust Him.
middle-aged, done-some-stuff-and-seen-some-things, 40-year-old Deidra