#92: Write a letter to my 16-year-old self

(I've been putting this off since I made my 101 Things List. But as it is now the year 2016, and because I am, for six more days at least, exactly 10 years older than 16, this seemed like the appropriate time.)


This letter comes to you from the year 2016, ten years in your hazy, mysterious future. I'm pretty sure I recall a sardonic prediction from you that, ten years from where you are right now, you would be morbidly obese, alone, and still working at Firehouse Subs. Well, the first bit of good news I have for you is that that is not the case.

The first bit of bad news is that, here in 2016, we sometimes secretly wish we were still working at Firehouse. Making subs for hungry strangers is pretty awesome compared to some of things we'll end up doing 40+ hours a week for a paycheck. In fact, there will be several odd days ahead where we will actually miss making tasty sandwiches for people.

But don't let this introduction frighten you. I mean, we're not morbidly obese or alone. Well...not anymore. But before I say too much and rip a hole in the fabric of time and space, let's talk about you, 16-year-old Jennifer. About where you are right now.

It's 2005. Maybe 2006. You're dually-enrolled at the local community college while you're finishing up your senior year of homeschooling, and I don't think you have any idea what that means. Let me break it down for you. You're graduating high school one year early, and, on top of that, you're going to have your entire first year of college under your belt. You're so far ahead right now, it's scary. You are so flipping smart. Do you hear me? You're earning an advanced academic diploma. You've been inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, and you're still in high school. Your GPA is almost as good as it gets. You are so very intelligent, Jen. There is so much you could do with your brain right now, so many interesting things you could study, and at any college you could imagine, anywhere!

So please hear me when I say what a tremendous shame it is that all your brain wants to think about right now is Him.

I know you believe at your core that you're seeking and following God's will in your life, and you truly believe God is going to lead the two of you together. I know you feel, quite strongly, that He is The One.

He isn't. 

You don't want to hear that. It's too painful for you right now, but the sooner you grasp this, the better. He is not The One. Even in 2016, I don't understand what his intentions were, but you must know that he never cared about Jennifer Bain. And I promise you, someday, you'll be 100% okay with that, because you won't care so deeply for him either.

Don't be disheartened by this. On the contrary, take heart. Know that you can and will do so, so, so much better. Know that the way he treats you isn't how a man treats you when he loves you. Someday (such a horribly long time from where you are now, sorry) you're going to meet someone (yep, you don't know him yet, so stop trying to figure it out) who tells you you're beautiful, and when he does, you believe him. This guy is going to listen to you. Really listen. He's gonna get you. He'll notice and adore your weird quirks. This guy will wait for you. This guy will make sacrifices for you. He will make you laugh more than you thought possible, and he'll literally wipe away a few of your tears. He'll take you on adventures, he'll surprise you, he'll do everything within his power to make you happy. And you're gonna marry him.

Do you hear me? Don't waste another thought on You-Know-Who. Don't worry about being alone, because God knows your desires. So keep praying, keep trusting, keep waiting, because I promise you, everyone is right. There is someone else out there. Oh, and you know what else everyone is right about? You're going to "just know" when you've found him. So stop worrying about it. You just have to flippin' wait. Wait and know that God is working it all out.

In the meantime, forget You-Know-Who and explore who the heck you are becoming. Who you want to be. This is such a formative time in your life, and you're ignoring your instincts and following the paths of others. I mean, you're planning to major in psychology? What?!? Please. Forget Him. Forget everyone. Think about you. What do YOU want to do when you grow up? What are YOU good at? What (besides Him) makes YOU all googly-eyed and excited? Don't let other people tell you what to major in. If you do, someday you're gonna end up missing making subs at Firehouse.

There are some other big things you need to be focusing on right now, too. For starters, your health is way more important than you think it is. Do some research. Stop being lazy and start exercising. Stop turning to food for emotional comfort and pick up your Bible. These bad choices are going to lead you down roads that mess you up forever if you don't do something now.

But don't think you're fat now. Oh, 16, you are so far from it. I know you have no self-confidence, and you feel awkward in your body, but you look great. Your figure is so nice and shapely; you don't know a darn thing about arm flab or belly fat yet. So yeah. Stop putting extra cheese and extra mayo and bacon on everything. Try your best to take care of the body you're in right now.

And on a related precautionary note, do some more research into finances. Beware of contracts. Read the fine print. RUN FROM SALLIE MAE!!!!!!!!! In fact, I BEG you to look up a guy named Dave Ramsey. Do. What. He. Says. Oh, and when somebody from the University of Mobile offers you a voice scholarship, take it, regardless of how far away from Him the university is. UGGGGGH.

Sixteen. You feel like you're at your prime, like you're on the cusp of something amazing and exciting. But that high is about to take a nosedive. It's going to be difficult to get over You-Know-Who, your friends are all changing and moving away, and your family is about to endure some horrendous, life-altering hardships. Things are about to change drastically, for the worst, and there's no way I can prepare you for that.

All I can say is this: seek God. Don't turn to Antioch, to Brother Craig, to your friends. Don't turn to food. Or TV. Or alcohol. Immerse yourself in the Bible. Surround yourself with nature. Listen to clean, positive music. Keep moving. Look into yoga. Get in your closet and pour your heart out to your Heavenly Father. WRITE.

Forget the people who bail on you and hold on to the people who don't. Look over your sixteen years and see which people have been there the longest, the ones who have always been there for you. Cherish those people. Treat them kindly. And be there for them. 

16, you would be completely flabbergasted if you could take a peek into where we are in 2016. Gosh, you'd be horrified. You wouldn't believe any of my life if I told you about it. Because somehow, despite knowing better, you still believe we're married to You-Know-Who, mothering our adorable little boy named Jayden and pregnant with a second child, operating a cool coffeehouse in a renovated historic building in some hip downtown area, and managing a successful music career on the side.

Well, we're not. And I must confess, I'm pretty disappointed about a couple of those even now.

But life happens. People change. People grow up. You grow up.

And as you do, I implore you to seek God's guidance. Not You-Know-Who's. Not Brother Craig's. Not always your parents'. You can't even always trust your own gut. So pursue Jesus, and know that He'll work things out for you in the end.



Anonymous said...

Wow, this was a really emotional read. I loved it so much.

Jessica said...

I agree...I got pretty emotional reading this letter as well. Who would have ever guessed we would actually miss making sandwiches?! But I do a lot of times too. Life definitely has a way of being surprising. I'm not anywhere near what I expected to be at 24 either but I'm not ashamed of who I am or how I got here. Every hardship is an experience. And you are definitely rocking 27 so far! :)

Funny how those who should not be named played such an epic part of our lives and mean nothing to us now, huh?