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Cindy did a wonderful post recently – actually a re-post – that was in response to one of the daily prompts from Word Press.  The prompt was to have a five-minute conversation with your younger self.  What would you say?  Cindy re-posted a letter she had written her younger self, and that letter really got me thinking!  This post will be a letter to my younger, just graduated from high school, 18-year-old self, and tomorrow’s post will be a letter to present-day me from that 18-year-old naive kid.

Dear Paula:

I know how relieved you are to be out of High School.  School to this point has not been much of a pleasure, I know, and I congratulate you in some respects for getting out of there alive. If you had ever carried through some of those plans you made back in Jr. High School, I wouldn’t be writing this letter. I’ve got some advice for you, and it would make me a lot happier if I thought you would really heed it; but I know you all too well.  You firmly believe you know best, that you are right concerning your own well-being, and you have your own best interests in mind as you make your future plans, all the while giving the appearance of a wise woman who always listens.  You can quit right now playing that role.  You might be a good actress, but no one who really knows you is buying that act!

Paula, let yourself off the hook every once in a while.  Your admirable bent toward taking full responsibility is often confused with never forgiving yourself for anything regrettable.  When you make missteps, acknowledge them, but then don’t take off on a life-long path of self-flagellation.  If you really accept that God forgives you, then you must learn to forgive yourself.  And the sooner you learn that the better!  I’m getting tired and bruised.  Snap out of it, girl! 

Your physical appearance is the least important aspect of who you are.  Time spent obsessing about it is wasted time.  Take care of your health and treasure it – the rest doesn’t matter.

Once you decide on what you want to do with your life and your talents, then do it! Putting it off until you think you are good enough means you will never do it, because you and I both know that you will never be good enough in your own estimation.  Besides, the act of doing is very instructive, and the times you have stepped out in faith have proven themselves over and over again.  We learn by doing and not by dreaming.  I’m pleased to tell you that you get better at acting on your dreams, but I want you to stop wasting your time sooner rather than later!  Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  There are lots of things you can do that will bring you joy and fulfillment, and you never know when one of them might be taken away.  If that happens, you don’t want to spend time moaning and groaning over your “fate.”  Get on with living and doing!  Only by opening your eyes will you see how truly wide your horizons are.

I want you to learn to trust the words of those people who love you just the way you are – warts and all.  There is no good reason for dismissing those words of encouragement, and taking to heart, instead, the thoughts and opinions of people who do not care for you or about you one single iota.  The lack of their investment in your well-being does not automatically lend validity to their feelings, any more than it does to those who do care about you.  As a matter of fact, those who truly love you will tell you the truth, and the truth does not have to hurt.  It can heal and instruct as well.  But above and beyond that, learn how to give yourself a genuine self-appraisal.  Give yourself praise when it is due, and learn to improve yourself when it isn’t.  Your own estimation of your worth is far more valuable than that of anyone else’s; it allows you to listen to other opinions, take what is valuable from them, and toss out the rest.  Life is a lot easier that way!

Long before you reached this age of so-called majority (not to be confused with maturity), you learned the value of listening and responding to the “still, small voice of God.”  Don’t ever underestimate that value.  Keep listening.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking that listening is enough.  Listening and responding go hand in hand, and you will save yourself the future regret of not havinv done what you knew you should have.  Oh, and forget about the whys.  Face it, girl – sometimes you will never know why you were given the opportunity to do something – either for others or for yourself.  You will go a long way toward learning to trust in the God you profess if you will quit with so many questions, or living like you know better what is needed or what should be done.  Stop building boxes around God and trying to fit God into an image of your own creation, rather than the other way around.

Stop worrying about a future that is not set in stone.  Your life is going to turn out far better than you ever dreamed it would, and it will be filled with possibilities you never even knew existed.  Your present situation is not a forecast nor a model for your future, it is merely preparation for a future that is unknowable.  Take each step and each action in your life with purpose, and as though you really mean it, because all your steps lead somewhere and all your actions have consequences.

A couple of quickies that are nevertheless of great import for you:  learn how and when to shut up!  In your case, from a verbal and written standpoint, “less really is more!”  I don’t want to give too much away about your future, but take it from me, a lot of listeners and readers will really appreciate your ability to abbbreviate and synopsize!

One other thing:  Whenever you see “4711 Kölnisch Wasser” for sale, buy it!  You’ll discover that it is not readily available everywhere.

Treasure those you love, tell them so, don’t forget to be thankful, and to let others know of your appreciation.  Treat each moment with those dear to you as though it were your last chance to be with them.  For those that are not dear to you, remember what your mother told you (as I know you will):  Make all your words sweet.  If you have to swallow them later on, at least they will taste good going down!

I love you, Paula – both the good parts and the not-so-good.  Who you are right now, at this moment, helped me to be who I am today and will continue to resonate in our future.  You have much to offer.  All that you are, all that you have been, all that you will become: it is acceptable, it is good, and it is good enough. . .

Love always from your best friend,

P. S.  Please write back.  You haven’t always been a very good correspondent. Try to do better, will you?