To My 18 Year Old Self

My little brother graduated from high school yesterday. It was a surreal experience for me. He is ten years younger than me. And although I call him my little brother, he is much taller than I am and has been for years now. I remember the excitement I felt at that point in time-finally finishing high school, ready to move on to college, not knowing how difficult life as an adult can be. This is an open letter to my much younger self, on the cusp of adulthood and college and so much more...

Dear Kelly,

What an accomplishment! I know you are excited to move on from high school. But I want you to take a few moments to recognize your place of privilege. I know that it seems obvious that you would be graduating high school. Your worries were always, can I maintain a 4.0, will I get into a good college, will I get a boyfriend before I graduate...But there are so many kids out there with far greater worries and stressors in life. Instead of fretting about grades, they're stressed about getting enough food, or their electricity shutting off, someone leaving for the day and never coming home, an abusive parent or caregiver...Graduating from high school is not always a given, or a right, for everyone. You are so fortunate to have a family that supported and encouraged you unconditionally along the way. 

The friends that you had in high school will not be the same friends you have as a adult. And that is ok. Life moves you in different directions. The important people in your life will stick. Those few people know who you are, and they love you anyways. Remember that those few meaningful relationships are better for you than having numerous surface level friendships. You guard your heart pretty fiercely. Trust few, but be open to many. 

College will bring its own challenges and excitement. Do not get caught up in comparing your university to theirs. You are meant to walk your own path, as are they. You are meant to be on a specific university campus with peers and professors that will play parts in your life you may never fully recognize. Do your best to settle your lonesome and envious heart. You are here for a reason, and hopefully one day you will see that more clearly. 

Work hard. Take risks. Be brave, and be compassionate. When the weight of responsibilities gets you down, reach out for advice and wisdom from those who have gone before you. Do not open a credit card. Live the broke life and learn about yourself in the process. These years of struggle and stretching yourself thin will teach you so much. Do not compare your story to someone else's. No one has it all figured out. And if you think they do, they are either fooling you, or themselves. Everyone is scared. Everyone is lonely. Everyone wants more love and less doubt. Everyone is deserving of love and kindness. 

Open your heart and your mind-intellectually, spiritually, socially. Be open to new experiences. You do not have to play the role of the good girl or live up to impossible standards of perfection. Life is messy. Even those messy parts can be fun. Do not judge others for living differently than you. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you let go of judgement and the need to be in the right, the sooner you will attract people into your life through love. You never know the battles someone else has faced. Do your best to give benefit of the doubt, to give second chances, to act instead of react, and to listen and be present. 

This life is hard. This life is uncertain. Stay true to your heart. Get into a little bit of mischief. Push yourself in every area of life. Mess up. Fail. Get down and dirty. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is life. This is growth. This is being present. 

Yours Truly,