“God asks us to jump from our secure perches, to stop calculating the risks. Jesus bids us, “Take up your cross, follow me. . . . Don’t insist on knowing exactly what comes next but trust that you are in the hand of God, who will guide your life.” Henri Nouwen —Turn My Mourning into Dancing
My niece Jessica turned thirty recently; seems like she should still be my little four year old shadow. Her birthday takes me back to the thirty-year-old I was. Sometimes I think about that naive girl and wish I could tell her what only time and maturity can.
I found a worn photo from my thirtieth birthday; I worked for KATT radio in Oklahoma City then. I was holding my birthday cake with a sleepy KATT mascot iced onto it. The clock above her head read 8:15; I was supposed to be at work by 8:00. Still don’t like that morning thing.
My expression in this photo clearly says “bite me”. I was newly divorced, on my own for the first time, and had just begun a new commission based sales job. I was poor, persnickety, and pale. Also a smidge insecure and overwhelmed.
That day I received deep purple roses in a beautiful cut glass “Valentine” shaped vase (that I still have) from a secret admirer. I learned later my dad, Doc Valentine, sent them. He felt my distress and sent them to cheer me. If I could speak to that overwhelmed young woman, there are things I would tell her.
Most important, is that she is precious to God just as she is-and that will never change.
I would tell her that life will be richer if she invests in her spiritual life starting right now. There is no other way to tap into deep strength, love, hope, wisdom and calm unless you do the work. Don’t be fearful of self-examination; begin to uncover your core beliefs. Cultivate a faith practice that belongs to you. The spiritual path of your parents will not sustain you, it must be your path.
The more exposure you have to different belief systems and the more discipline you employ, the richer and more grounded your life will be. Inside the confines of organized religion, or outside them.
I would tell her that her that her family members are deeply in love with her and differences between her and them are not enduring, so be vulnerable with them. Let them know how dearly you love them.
Spend as much quality time with your parents as you can; do things with them that are important to them. Your social life will survive if you give up a week in Cozumel and spend it with Mom and Dad. When they are gone you will feel the profound heartbreak of knowing there is no longer anyone on the face of this earth who is crazy about you in that same way.
I would look into her eyes remind her that life is about what she can give, not what she can get.
When I see photos of my younger self I am always struck with the same thought. You looked good girl! I would tell that fresh faced girl that obsessing over her imperfections to move the “prettiness” barometer the right direction will just stress her. At sixty three, there is a sweet freedom in going to the market now in sweats with no makeup that makes me grin.
I would tell her to relax; vegging out is sooo therapeutic! The work ethic police are not going to give her a ticket because she had a glass of wine and ate mass quantities of chocolate one evening. When I was young I could not simply sit and chill. I had to be doing my nails, the laundry, baking cookies, writing a proposal and exercising the dog at the same time. I was a constant storm of “doing”.
Yes, have a ball; try everything you have the moxie to. But please consider this, you must live with the decisions you make now for the rest of your life. What seems reasonable right now can haunt you when you are sixty-three.
She needs to know that shyness will never serve her well; it will limit her life. Get out of that comfort zone! If she does the thing that scares the crap out of her, eventually it loses its power.
If she continues trying to live under her own power, she will endure daily fatigue. She does not have to rely on her own steam; the power of God is within her. Let go dear one.
She should trust her intelligence and intuition. I was in my forties, in the pharmaceutical business, and taking masters level medical courses before I believed I was smart. Raise your hand at that meeting; express your ideas. They are sounder than you think and have as much merit as the next guy’s.
Her fear that because she is not brilliant she will not thrive will be proven wrong. Over and over it will be she who flourishes because she works like crazy, is more creative than she realizes, and has a grateful heart.
That young girl felt such pressure to stay flawlessly in the prescribed box. I would tell her to stop waiting for the universe to give her a permission slip to live the life she really wants. Her parents are never going become less conservative and approve of her decisions. Make them anyway! Live life on your terms and accept the consequences and rewards.
I’d tell my younger self to move into that apartment with her college girlfriends, take that job singing in the Memphis nightclub, go on the road with the band, wear that tight dress to the party, backpack through Europe, and tell that critical boyfriend to drop dead! Today!
I would congratulate her on what she has done well, invested deeply in solid friendships, let herself fall in in love, kept her GPA up in college, won good jobs, exercised regularly, read voraciously, kept a journal, traveled, maintained a healthy weight, experienced life in several different cities, and worked her nearly flat ass off. She always assumed she would take care of herself and never expected anyone else to. She has taken responsibility for her own health-this will serve her well in later years.
I would tell my younger self that her DNA does not necessarily include the marriage gene, nor is it a prerequisite to a full life. Yes, let yourself be vulnerable, but your health and your emotional well-being are worth protecting. Be clear about what you are willing to do for someone who cannot, or will not reciprocate.
Struggling through a relationship with someone whose value system is worlds from hers, or who is emotionally immature or mentally unstable will suck the energy, peace and creativity completely out of her. And, it takes two mentally and emotionally healthy people to nurture a relationship into depth and maturity.
She also needs to know that sometimes it’s a good thing to cut your losses and move on, call it a day.
Finally, I would tell her to vote-even when the pool of candidates is not collectively capable of ordering a pizza.
“Women who want to be grown/up will have to come to a blatant self-acceptance. ”Dance of the Dissident Daughter”—Sue Monk Kidd