i heard a radio bit the other day that really resonated with me. it was simple, really. if you could write your 16-year-old self a two-word letter, what two words would you choose to send?
of course, being the loquacious person that i am, my first thought was ONLY TWO? i only get two words to tell that shy sophomore twelve years my junior about what the next decade has in store for her? fine, if i was only given a pair of words, i better choose wisely.
so a two word letter to your sixteen-year-old self:
dear sixteen-year-old shawna,
first of all, congrats on the license! glad to see you were actually paying attention in driver’s ed class.
oh wait, this is only supposed to be a two-word letter, isn’t it? i already kind of blew it. whoopsies. sorry to tell you sweets, you aren’t so good about keeping things short in your older age. in fact, your boss tells you frequently, “don’t tell me how to make the watch, just tell me what time it is.”
i’m supposed to be writing you a two-word letter. that’s all they’re giving me. i know, how in the world am i supposed to give you 10+ years of advice in two little single-word syllables? welp, here it is sister, the best i got for ya:
i know, that’s it. just be kind. to everyone. honestly, everyone. you’ll soon discover that the world is about the size of a fishbowl and while we don’t subscribe to karma per say, trust me on this one, bridges weren’t meant to be burnt. even in the face of adversity or just flat out cattiness, keep your cool. kill ’em with kindness, my(your?) mom always says. you’ll never know when you’ll run into that high school acquaintance or former co-worker again. and more importantly, you’ll never know if you’ll need to call on them for advice and/or a favor.
now don’t mistake this counsel to mean that you should keep relationships purely for future self-advancement or gain. people will figure out really quickly where your true intentions lie. but in my(our) experience, it’s more about who you know than what you know and maintaining a friendly rapport with those who have weaved in and out of your life will only serve you in the long run.
now this whole “be kind” thing is two-fold. the obvious interpretation is just as i’ve stated above -be kind to others. to your family (seriously, do you know how lucky you are to have scored this clan?), your friends, your co-workers, the starbucks barista and trader joe’s employee and basically anyone in the restaurant industry (hello, they hold your dinner’s fate in their hands). but aside from extending the love of Jesus to every acquaintance and stranger that crosses your path, i need you to remember to be kind to someone else, too.
please be kind to yourself. you are extremely hard on yourself and i get it, turns out 12 years later, you’re still kind of hard on you. you’re a tad bit of a perfectionist. which can be a good thing sometimes, but it’s also your downfall, too. you want to get it right, and on the first try, no less. but that’s not always how life works. you’re going to fail. a few times. and you’re going to get hurt. a few (dozen) times. but chasing this unrealistic concept of perfection is a fleeting endeavor. you’re human, things will never be perfect. there will always be things that are beyond your control. so the sooner you learn to extend yourself grace in the face of adversity, the better.
if you’re not fine, don’t pretend that you are. i mean there is a time and place for emotional unravelment (try to hold it together at work), but if you’re in a funk and you need a good cry, by all means, get it out. don’t allow someone else’s timeline for how long you should grieve or wait or do this or that dictate what your insides are telling you. people mean well, they really do, but the only person who knows just what you need and how long you need it is YOU (and God, so don’t forget to talk to Him about things, too). so tell yourself you love you. because you’re a really spectacular human. one little set-back does not diminish your worth in this world. if anything, it allows for God to shine and to make better use of your story on earth.
the next twelve years are going to hold some of the most amazing moments of your life. they’re also going to unfortunately hold some of the hardest, too. and while you may not always be able to control whether or not your days are marked by amazingness or hardship, you can choose to be kind in every season. to those around you -known or unknown. and most certainly yourself.
hang in there, sister. the best is yet to come.