a letter to my 16-year-old self

Dear 16-year-old Dallas,

Hi there. It’s me—well, you, from the future. Thirteen years in the future, to be exact. I just wanted to pop in and tell you that everything is going to be okay. I know you’re having a hard time right now. Two of your best friends have quite suddenly ditched you, and you’re feeling unmoored and wondering how everything could have unraveled so quickly. It wasn’t one big fight, but a lot of little things that drew the three of you apart—or, rather, that separated you from the two of them. I know that right now you feel confused and hurt and angry. School used to be filled with laughter and inside jokes, and now suddenly the social logistics of each day is a puzzle without an answer key. Where to sit at lunch? Who to talk to at cross-country practice? You’ve cried more over the loss of these two friends than you’ve ever cried over a boy. I know you are tempted to just turn your back and write them off forever. I know it’s hard to see this now, but listen to me: they’re not bad people. They do care about you, and your friendship with them was real. All those memories you shared together are not fake. It was good, until it wasn’t. High school is messy and confusing and full of changes, and the three of you are in different places, wanting different things. And that’s okay. It’s okay that you have no interest in going to parties and drinking—no matter if that means you aren’t “cool.” Even though this is painful, it is better for you to let go of your friendship with them now, rather than stick around and feel bad about yourself all the time, or turn into someone you don’t want to be.

Listen to me: in six years, you will go to the wedding of one of these friends, and all the angst and hurt you are writing about in your journal right now? It will all seem like a long time ago, I promise. It will seem like a novel you read about someone else. The other friend will get married around the same time you do {yes, you are in fact going to get married—I’ll get to that in a minute} and you will genuinely wish her well. You will wish both of these girls the utmost happiness.

I know you are feeling supremely uncool and unsure of yourself. Your self-confidence has taken a beating, and you feel so awkward all the time. But let me tell you something important, something true: you did nothing wrong and there is nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to be concerned about what the other kids at school think of you. {Besides, the other kids at school aren’t thinking bad things about you—that’s all in your head. The other kids, even the popular crowd, respect your straight-lacedness. Just wait and see what nice things they write in your senior yearbook.} Take a deep breath and lean into the parts of yourself that feel the most true and real and YOU. Those are the best parts of yourself. Those are the parts to cultivate, to nourish, to nurture. When you find sprouts of self-consciousness and comparison and shame? Yank those roots out of your soil. Don’t waste any time watering those weeds.

Want to know a secret? Want to know the silver lining to this painful period of time? When these two friends ditch you, it will open up your life for other friends to come in. You will become closer with people who love and accept you exactly as you are. Remember how close you and Erica were in middle school? Reach out to her again now. She is kind and steady and she truly cares about you. She is a lifelong friend. One day, she will be a bridesmaid in your wedding. Be grateful for her and soak up these everyday moments with her. Stay home from a school dance and have an old-fashioned sleepover with her instead. You never have much fun at those school dances, even though you try. You go because you feel like you’re supposed to go. But I’m giving you permission, right now, to stop doing things because of the opinions of other people. If you want to stay in on a Friday night and eat popcorn and watch Robin Hood: Men in Tights with Erica, do it. Do it with no regrets.

I want you to know that you are enough exactly as you are. Mom and Dad know what they are talking about. When they tell you that you are beautiful and kind and strong and worthy, when they tell you that you have no idea how loved you are, when they tell you that one day in the not-too-distant future you will indeed meet a boy who appreciates you for exactly the person you are—listen to them. They are right.

Sixteen-year-old Dallas, you don’t need to change anything about yourself. Your nose is not too big. Your hair is not frizzy. You are not—repeat after me—you are not the least bit overweight, and you never need to feel even the slightest twinge of guilt for eating two or three of Mom’s chocolate-chip cookies, still warm from the oven.  She makes the best cookies, doesn’t she? Thirteen years from now, her cookies will still be the best you’ve ever tasted.

And okay, I’m getting to it, I’m getting to it. You’ve probably skimmed the rest of this letter, eager to get to this part. The part about getting married one day. Right now, I know it feels like you’re never going to meet a boy who like-likes you, much less loves you. Right now, you haven’t even had your first kiss. All of your ideas about love are based on Sarah Dessen books, your weekly TV obsession The O.C., and your favorite rom-com Serendipity. Here’s what I want to tell you about love: it’s bigger and better, more complex and yet more simple, more consuming and yet more ordinary, than you imagine it to be. Love is going to break you apart and put you back together again, stronger and braver and more content in your own individual, lovely wholeness. Love is going to take you by surprise and take your breath away.

Right now you alternate between despair that you are never ever going to get your first kiss, and a desire to plan out every detail of your one-day, future relationship. But, dear one, love isn’t something you can map out. It’s not a short story you can revise and revise again. It’s not a physics problem you can solve. It will sweep into your heart without warning, announcing itself to you boldly, and even though you might feel a little bit scared or unready, you will not be able to ignore it. When love is right, it will continue to grow and grow inside of you, and you won’t have to make excuses for it, and you won’t have to twist yourself to fit into what doesn’t fit. The right love will become a part of you, like your breath, in and out, in and out, and like your breath it will give you life in little moments every single day, with you hardly even realizing it. Right now you think that love means grand gestures and passionate kissing in the rain, but real love is in the ordinary, everyday moments that connect you to another person. When you feel seen and understood and accepted and cared for, little by little, day by day. If you really want an example of the love that is waiting for you in the future, look at Mom and Dad. You will get married on their wedding anniversary, and they are the best blueprint out there for a beautiful, sturdy, lasting love.

To be honest, 16-year-old Dallas, your first kiss won’t come for another couple of years, and it isn’t going to be all that spectacular. But your first kiss with the guy who will become your
husband? Woah. It will be worth the wait, worth all the mess and tears and lonely nights and uncertainty it took to find him. Here’s what I can tell you about your husband: he is amazingly kind, and generous, and thoughtful, and compassionate. He makes you laugh every day, and he is a wonderful listener, and he supports you with all of his heart. He is so handsome, and he tells you that you are beautiful, and he loves every detail about you. {For the record, he thinks you have a great nose.} He is better than any of the loves you imagined for yourself before you met him. He is better than you could have dreamed.

I know, despite your heartbreak and pain, you do realize how fortunate you are, and you’re grateful for what you have right now. You’re grateful for your parents, and for Greg, and for Erica, and for your teachers and your Gramps and your books and your writing. Lean into that gratitude. Lean into those things that fill you up. Savor them. As Mr. Enfield, the drama teacher, will tell you next year before the curtain rises on the final production of the play you wrote {get excited—it’s going to be an awesome experience!}, life is ephemeral. It is always changing, and even those things that feel permanent about your life right now are fleeting. So soak it in, every day. Even the hard days. Be confident in the person you are now and the person you are becoming. Don’t get lost in self-doubt or worry. You have no idea how much you are going to grow, and stretch, and shine, and love, and explore, and how big and wide and incredible the world is. You have no idea of the wonders waiting in your future, in this life you are building. Trust in me, your 29-year-old-self. And trust in yourself, as you are here, now, at sixteen. Everything you need is already there, inside of you.

Love,
Your Future Self

p.s. Give Gar as many scratches and loves and doggy biscuits as you can. He’s a really great dog, isn’t he?

Your turn {if you want}:

  • Write a letter to your sixteen-year-old self. What advice would you give?
  • Write a letter from your sixteen-year-old self to your self today. What would that previous version of yourself want you to remember?
  • Sign up for The Letter Project to write a letter to a real girl or woman who could use a little extra encouragement. Your words can make a real difference in someone’s life!

Questions for Deeper Conversations: Judgment

Happy Thursday, friends! I have a bit of a lower-key day today. Planning to do some writing + editing work at home, and then I’m meeting up with my sweetie for dinner. Thinking about whipping up a batch of these classic cookies as a treat! Allyn is heading out tomorrow for a boys’ weekend with his best friends from high school, and I’m going to drop him off at the airport in the morning. It’s a rowdy sports weekend, so I’ve got my fingers crossed nobody hurts themselves. #rememberyourenot18anymoreguys 😉

air hockey, guys, games, guys weekend

Allyn and his friend Justin played an intense round of air hockey at my birthday party.

Moving on to today’s topic… a few people have asked what questions we are discussing in the Young Adult Community Circle I am leading at my church, intended to spur deeper, more meaningful and authentic conversations. I thought I would share these questions here on the blog, in case they spur some deeper conversations of your own — with longtime friends, new acquaintances, family members, loved ones, or even perhaps with yourself! These are great questions to journal about as well. 🙂

Week One Topic: Home

sunset at home

Community Circle Questions : Week 2

Theme: Judgment

  • In what ways do you notice yourself judging others?
  • What are you most judgmental about? What do you get annoyed by? Why do you think this is?
  • What do you judge yourself most about? Why?
  • What do you feel others judge you about? Have you ever had an experience with someone else negatively judging you?
  • How does your self-perception differ from others’ perception of you?
  • How can you step away from judgment and give others, and yourself, more grace?

“When you judge others, you do not define them; you define yourself.”
Earl Nightingale

mid-week meditation #5

Hi, everyone, and apologies for my {unexpected} blogging break! I was not really planning to take time off, but life just worked out that way with my visit home, teaching final classes and then prepping to teach a couple summer camps for Communication Academy. And THEN Holly visited me all of last week which was absolutely wonderful and the perfect excuse to unplug for a bit. We lounged, talked, cooked a delicious impromptu frittata, ate lots of veggies {and yeah, some pizza too!}, talked some more, explored San Francisco, met up with Dana for dinner, had a sleepover with Arianna, skyped with Allyn, and just generally had a magical time.

holly and dana

So special to have two of my favorite ladies together in one place! ❤

Whenever Holly visits me or I visit her, it always feels like we instantly fall back into our rhythm from when we lived together in college — it feels so normal to be together in everyday life. Now it’s weird not to have her here. I love you and miss you so much, Holly!

me and hol brunch

Now here’s a quick mid-week meditation to hopefully brighten up your Tuesday!

gandhi happiness quote.jpg

Have a joyful day, friends! I’ll be back again soon, I promise. 🙂 Thanks for sticking around and being patient with me. I missed you guys!

mid-week meditation #4

Hi from Ventura, friends! I’m home for an all-too-quick visit to see my parents and my brother before he heads off to Washington D.C. on Saturday for a summer internship. {Suuuuper proud of you, Greg!}

Just wanted to pop by and share a mid-week meditation, inspired by my favorite yoga teacher Rosalyn.

yoga meditation

 

Are you holding onto something that isn’t serving you? Are you feeling guilt or shame over some past action or mistake? I love this self-forgiveness meditation by Heather Waxman. Try it out, let go of the pain you are holding against yourself, and move towards inner peace and healing.

Questions of the morning:

  • Do you practice yoga?
  • Is there something you need to forgive yourself for?

a year of Wooden: week 18

Hi, everyone, and welcome to all the new subscribers! Thanks to all of you for spreading the word about my blog … it means so much to me that you let me be a part of your life. Thanks for reading!

Monday means it’s time for this week’s year of Wooden challenge. Today we’re introducing a new challenge for the month of May: Be true to yourself.

a year of wooden

  • January: Drink deeply from good books.
  • February: Make friendship a fine art.
  • March: Help others.
  • April: Build a shelter against a rainy day (financially).
  • May: Be true to yourself.

For the month of May, we’ll be focusing on the very first item of Coach Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Be true to yourself.” Each week, I’ll be posting a question for you to reflect on, perhaps through journaling or meditation. The goal is that by the end of May, you’ll have a clear idea of what it means to be your happiest, most authentic self so that you can work on being true to that self.

This week, here is your question to consider: If you won a zillion dollars and no longer had to work for money, how would you spend your time?

know yourself quote