An Open Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

When I was 14, we all had to write letters to our 18-year-old self at a school retreat. For some reason or another, I didn’t actually write the letter. I remember being in a fight with my best friend at the time, and I was sulking. And I guess I thought the activity was stupid but when I turned 18 and everyone else next to me was crying over their letters and smiling, I felt extremely let down by my past self. It’s a weird memory that washes over me from time to time. And now, I realize … I cannot offer advice or wisdom to my future self. But I could try to heal some of the past. Reexamining the events of the past helped me to make peace and realize how far I have come from that hopeful 18-year-old girl. I encourage everyone to take a few moments to write a letter to your past self. 

An Open Letter to 18 Year Old Me

Oh, sister. Glimmers of hope, desperation and loneliness. I know your heart.

You are about to embark on the next phase of your life – and while I know you don’t really feel like that is what is about to happen – I promise you, it is. Literally everything will change. The people you talk to every day … you will barely know 4 years from now. I know it’s scary to think about but trust me – you are days away from meeting the platonic love of your life. And the depths you will go with this woman – standing witness to each other’s most vulnerable and raw moments, the highs and the lows – all of it – will complete you in ways that you never thought possible. You will scream at each other in a parking garage. You will unwittingly go to class with her vomit on your foot. She will give a speech at your wedding that will bring everyone to tears. You will go 20 miles over the speed limit for 5 hours on I-10 to make it a mere 15 minutes before her son enters the world. You will publicly embarrass yourselves at the DFW airport by running up to each other and embracing because you were apart for just 3 months.

In short? She completely reinvents the word “friend.”

I know that part of your heart that you guard fiercely. Because I know who hurt you. And while you may not realize it now, it has affected you more than you realize. And, unfortunately, that very tiny shred of hope you are clinging tightly to … will be stripped away when you are roofied a few months from now.

And your heart will close. And your defenses will fly up. And you will spend the next few years cautiously optimistic. Until one day, a Russian comedian in town for a gig at school respects your boundaries. Your heart will peek out. A few more boys around and you realize that you are in control. Looking back, I think this is how this needed to happen. Because what happens next, is something that we never even dreamed.

I know how you picture your 20s and 30s – alone. Focused on work. Maybe you will have some flings and maybe you will decide to have a baby on your own. Maybe you will finally marry at 40.

But that doesn’t happen. Not even close.

You get married at 24. I’m serious.

Because when you are least expecting it, you fall hopelessly in love. You won’t be expecting it because you are actually not going to be spending the first semester of your senior year at Loyola. You will be in Lafayette with your best friends. And a dark haired stranger seated a few chairs down from you in class will – in a few short years – be in a birthing pool with you helping bring your first son in the world.

And the connection you have brings you both to your knees with awe. But it is a delicate thing. And it only worked because you were open to it in a way that you have never been open to love before. You freely give him your heart – which you never thought possible. And he still guards it to this day, with great care and ease.

People still talk about your wedding – even 10 years later. Oh yeah, you have a wedding. Did you really think your mom will let you elope?!

What is to come is amazing and exciting but it’s also hard. The main thing you need to know is that you get where you are in this life by being open. Open to new experiences. Saying yes when you really want to say no (by the way, this is how you land a job at the Superdome). Allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Saying what you need and asking for help. Just when you think all is lost – remember that everything is temporary. When you are worrying late at night wondering when your husband will finally find a job after college something will happen out of the blue that will change his entire career path – and yours – for the better. But it cannot happen if you are not open.

Don’t expect a linear timeline this life. Your first child comes before a house. You take a very scary leap in your career that will leave a lasting mark and define you. Your second child takes you by surprise. You realize that you are not in control. You cannot plan for everything. And you finally find your peace in that.

Love,
34-year-old you

Laurel Hess is a mother to 2 young boys, a rescue pup, an off-balance cat and likely a few foster pups. She spends her days as President of a local marketing agency, helping craft integrated digital strategies and leading a team of creative collaborators. Once at home, however, Laurel is just trying to find peace with being the World's Okayest Mom. A Dallas transplant in a Louisiana world, Laurel graduated from Loyola University New Orleans in Broadcast Production. She met her husband while she was evacuated in Lafayette during Hurricane Katrina. They lived 5 wild, kid-free years in New Orleans while Laurel served as the Sales and Marketing Manager for the Superdome, Arena and Champions Square, before finally returning to Lafayette and into the wildest phase of life yet ... Parenthood.