Dear Younger Me,
I am standing outside the apartment building in Washington, D.C., where you lived 27 years ago. You had just turned 25, and you were young and married and looking for your first job. You had been working in D.C. for about nine months, in internship positions. You had two cats in the small, two-bedroom apartment on the right-hand side of the second-floor walk-up in this unassuming white building just off of Dupont Circle.
You were unsure about a lot of things.
What will my job be like? Where will we live? When should we have children? And the ever-present: What if I’m no good at my job, at my relationships, at life? Everything felt so up in the air, so uncertain. You felt scared and exhilarated at the same time. The possibilities seemed endless, including the possibilities of failure.
I’m standing here, 27 years later, thinking about what I would tell you if I could meet you today.
Would I tell you that everything has worked out, that you are happily married with a grown son, engaging in a satisfying career that has taken you to places you could never have imagined all those years ago? That you have lived in Arkansas and Florida and California and forged unforgettable friendships in all three places?
Would I tell you that many things will be a lot harder than you could ever have known as you gazed from that second-story window? Would I tell you that, three years from now, you will lose your father when he drops dead of a cardiac arrhythmia? That a few years after that you will struggle with your health and spend time bedridden and in a wheelchair? That eventually you will divorce the father of your child, the man you lived with in that second-story apartment? Would I tell you that sometimes work won’t work out?
Would I tell you that even with all of this, your life will be richer than you ever could have imagined?
Would I tell you that your struggles will make you a stronger woman, that every single tear you shed will add up to the person you are today?
Would I tell you that you will learn to ride the rhythms of uncertainty with grace? That one day you will recognize that you only ask the question “What if I’m no good?” When you are about to stretch and grow and learn?
Would I tell you that sometimes your seeming failures create a stairway to success?
Would I tell you all of these things?
Or perhaps, instead, I would put my arms around you and simply let you experience the marvelous, mysterious uncertainty of your future.