At sixteen I made a list of things I wanted to do or be by the time I was 24. That was my favorite number at the time, plus it just seemed like a fairly settled age. If I didn’t have my life together by then, it would mean something was wrong.
On my birthday I looked over it again. My deadline had come, and how many of those wishes had I granted?
The list said:
WHAT WE NEED TO DO BEFORE WE’RE 24*
-Work at Moe’s for some amount of time.
-Work at camp every summer until then.
-Definitely have at least one kid, probably two, unless we got married at like 22.
-Visit at least 25 states.
-Write a book.
-Go to a Red Sox game. Preferably at Fenway, but an away game is enough.
-Be legitimate BFFs** with Leighanne. Try not to let everybody else go, but life without Leighanne is not the life we’re about to live. So when you’re reading this at 24, you’ll have a kid or two who calls her their aunt.
I thought I was making such reasonable requests of myself. Most of the 24-year-olds I knew at the time were married and plenty of them had a kid, or kids. Although, I don’t know what I planned on writing a book about at the time, because nothing had happened to me yet, so that was kind of a lofty goal.
If 16-year-old me met current me, I don’t think she’d recognize me. If I told her I was her in eight years, she’d slap me. Her world is perfect. She’s happy and confident and full of hope. She doesn’t know what depression is, she doesn’t give half a care how much she weighs or what she’s eating, and she can’t fathom the idea of being paralyzed with fear anytime she walks into a room full of people. How can this popular teenager with a beautiful life grow up into that triple crown of mental illness?
She wouldn’t understand how or why I’m so thankful for my life. She wanted the Sistine Chapel, I got a mosaic of broken glass. And it’s perfect.
I’d tell her the story of our life. She’d listen, and she’d probably give me a hug, because that’s what she does when people are sad and I never outgrew that, and then she’d ask what I wanted her to do differently. How could she change it and make all the hurt not happen?
I could tell her not to go to CSU. I could tell her to keep eating. I could tell her never to move in with her best friends and not to take statistics and to reach out to the people I thought were too cool to be my friends but would actually probably have loved me.
But I wouldn’t tell her any of that. I’d tell her to quit watching scary movies, and let everything else happen exactly how it did. And I’d remind her that she survives it all and makes it this far and she’s beautiful even though we’ve never had a boyfriend.
Because our life is a good story and I’d be afraid to change a single page.
I didn’t even completely fail at her list.
I do work at Moe’s, but I don’t think she expected that would be my career at 24.
I did go to a Red Sox game! At Fenway no less, and they stomped the Orioles 5-1, and David Ortiz hit a home run, so everything was perfect.
Leighanne is still my best friend, and every year it becomes more clear that she always will be. We’ve survived every stage that would make normal friends naturally drift apart. We are truly BFFs.
Also notice that 16 had no ambition to leave the country. She didn’t even want to ever get on a plane. And if she did go to college, CIU was the last place she wanted to go.
The joke’s on her, because all those things are the best things I did.
I found a Chinese fortune buried on my desk last week that said “The greatest adventures are not those we go to seek.”
Linda At 16 didn’t seek out anything that Adult Linda has gone through and I love that.
My 16-year-old dreams were all well and good…but God’s were so, so, much better.
I’d heavily bet that when I’m 30, I won’t have anything that I’m imagining right now(they’re a lot like what 16 planned for 24…I don’t always learn very fast). But I’d bet just as much that I’ll be this thankful once again for what God did instead.
*”We” being my current and future selves. Since one self is talking to the other, but they’re both the same person…this makes perfect sense in my head, but I wonder if it makes me sound crazy to everyone else.
**By “legitimate” I meant keep the forever in “best friends forever.” And we have.