I was driving home from a trail run the other day, windows down, feeling amazing, listening to my favorite radio morning show on KLove.
Ahh… endorphins flowing, sun shining… everything is just… right.
The host began a discussion that instantly grabbed my attention: “What if you could somehow write a letter to your 15-year-old self?” he said, “What would you say?”
Ha… I thought, everything wasn’t always “just right”, was it?
I started to reflect upon 15-year-old me. The rebellious, bratty, out-of-control, drug addicted failure daughter of a Baptist preacher… oh, I’d have a lot to say. So, why not actually say it? Where to begin…
Wow. I remember you so well. In fact, if I close my eyes for long enough, I can still taste that terrible lip gloss you wear. The one you think makes your lips look fuller, because that “super cool” guy told you your mouth was “fugly”.
First off, you’re not “fugly”…who even says that?... That’s a lie. Don’t listen to it, or any of the other nasty stuff the kids say. And just a quick side note, that cool boy turns into a real cool adult. He is 30 years old now, lives with his parents, has no job, apparently smokes weed all day, and posts pervy memes to Instagram every few hours. So don’t sweat that one! (Also, be very, very happy Instagram does not exist during this fundamental season of your development!) The mention of this guy, however, brings me to the real reason I’m writing you this letter….Change.
I wish I could show you who you’re going to be in less than a decade, Ashley, but I know you wouldn’t believe me.
Right now, your future seems so grim. You’re only a kid, but you’ve completely given up hope. You’re all kinds of tangled up in a web of bad people, lies, failure, and pain, and you don’t think you can get out of it. But you can, and you will. I’ll show you…
This seems insignificant now, but at the beginning of 10th grade, you’re going to have this deep inner desire to get your act together and try out for the track team. Something in you tells you that you might be pretty good at running, but you’re way too self-conscious to put yourself out there. You don’t want to try, and look stupid failing. In fact, that perspective alone dictates your entire attitude towards sports. You decide not to participate in P.E. because the coach makes you run a mile. You don’t want to try and fail there either, so you nix the TRY part, and just shoot for failure altogether. You refuse to participate. You fail PE twice because of this. TWICE. Wow. Would you believe me if I told you in 9 years, you’ll run 100 miles straight? ….Didn’t think so. DO IT, ASHLEY. Listen to your gut. Lace up. RUN. Try out for the track team, participate in P.E. Put yourself out there! This could save you from so much pain you are about to experience. You might fail, yes, but you also might succeed. You’re going to realize that you were made for running sooner or later. Let’s make it sooner.
At the end of 10th grade, you’re going to drop out of high school, because you can’t handle any more bullying, and you’re failing all of your classes. You think you have no future anyway, so you decide to quit. DON’T QUIT, ASHLEY. Stay there. I know it sucks, but tough it out. Man, how I wish you could see just how valuable a free education is. When you’re older, you are seriously going to regret not trying harder. Not cracking those books, and giving them your undivided attention. You’re going to wish all the social drama every day didn’t consume your thoughts, and instead you focused on your homework! When you’re an adult, and you need to get a job so you can make a life for you and your kids, you’re going to kick yourself over and over again for not appreciating this precious free gift of learning. So don’t give up! Do whatever it takes to learn all you can in high school. Graduate. Make it happen. Despite what you think, you will need it later, you’ll see.
While you’re on this whole failure kick of yours, you’re going to be tempted to take it even lower. One night, at your friend’s house, while her parents are out for the evening, you are going to be asked to try something called Meth. Your friend will tell you it helps you lose weight. She will tell you that it makes you more energetic and funner to be around. In your head, you will be thinking these are all pretty good ideas. After all, you aren’t that skinny, and you definitely could use some friends. You’ve already made some bad decisions, so why not? Man, how I wish I could intervene here, Ash! If I could, I would scream at you to listen closely to the other quieter voice in your head. The one that’s saying, “What would Mom and Dad think? What will this do to my body?” Listen, Ashley, listen! It looks appealing right now, but in just a few short months, you will be so grossly addicted to this drug that it will almost kill you. It’s going to shatter your life so bad, and you won’t even see it coming. Run away from this place, from this girl. Run hard, run far, and never look back, Ashley.
Pretty soon, you’re going to find yourself at the lowest of lows. Your decisions over the last year are going to snowball into one giant catastrophe that you won’t know how to get out of. You’re not even old enough to drive a car, but you’re already an alcoholic. You’re addicted to drugs, and you’re going to overdose soon. You’ve run away from home a few times, and your parents never know where you are. You dropped out. You quit anything you’ve ever cared about. Your family is worried sick, and you have no friends left in the world. Your life is in shambles. You think you will never fix yourself, and you want to end it. All of it. Don’t even go there with those thoughts! I wish you could see the beauty that awaits you. There is so much hope for you just a few short years away! You will fall deeply in love with life one day, and you will fail to remember why you ever hated it so much. I promise.
One night, you will drive by a church with some random stranger you don’t even know that gave you drugs. You think about the God your Mom and Dad love and talk about so much. Should you start over? Try again? You decide you’re too much of a mess to ever have some perfect Jesus love you, and you continue down the wrong path. In fact, you flip a bird out the window, and scream something I don’t even feel comfortable writing. No, Ash. Just, no.… That conclusion you’ve reached couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re not a lost cause, and you’ll realize it soon. You’ll learn eventually that the love they say God gives is true, real, and free, and you’ll chase it down the rest of your life–craving it like a mad person. You will change, and you will be free, and you will thank God for that second chance every single day of your life. Just wait, it’s coming.
Hey, and when you do get there to that good place, while you’re recovering from drug overdoses and idiotic decisions, a perfect guy named Daniel is going to walk into your life. You’re going to hate him at first for being so textbook flawless, but give him a second chance. He’s going to be the love of your life, and the father of the most beautiful, most adorable beings you’ve ever seen…. your own two kids. I know you think you aren’t cut out for raising children, but you’d be surprised. They’re the main reason you wake up every morning.
Speaking of kids, you’re going to get pregnant in just a couple years with that first one. People will tell you to get rid of the baby, because you just got your life back together, you’re back in high school, and there’s no way you can go and screw it all up again. Ignore that. This baby is going to be the best thing that ever happened to you. His name is Brett. He’s strikingly gorgeous. He has your eyes, huge dimples, loves science, and drops the funniest one-liners you’ll ever hear. You’re gonna love him….Keep him.
All in all, Ash, your life is going to be a heck of a lot different than you think. Even after you quit school, you’re gonna find the drive to go back and finish. You might be 5 months pregnant, but you get that dang diploma. You eventually form a solid career in something that you love — fitness– of all things! And you find genuine happiness. You even love your awkward little face, and learn to embrace every last one of your flaws, inside and out.
Yes, you’re going to go through pure Hell at times, but it’s okay. You need all of it to grow. Every hurt, every bad decision, every wrong move– it’s all going to make you stronger. You will reflect on the struggles and heartaches you feel right now when you are older. When you run up mountains [yes, you actually run up mountains], when you walk along the ocean, when you watch your husband play with your kids, you will remember. And when you are in the last hours of a 100 mile race, you will think about it all, and you will run even faster. You will become an overcomer. Everything you go through will unquestionably carve resilience straight into your soul that you will carry with you everywhere you go.
There will be more bumps in the road–painful ones–as you grow into the person you’re meant to be, but you will be fine. Whatever you go through, you will know with certainty that you can get through it. Your fear and failures will blossom into fierceness, strength, discipline, determination and love. You just need more time.
So hold on tight, Ash. Things will get better, I promise. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, and I believe it.
With SO MUCH love, joy, and hope,
Your future self
If you’re ever in a low place like I have been, DON’T GIVE UP. No matter what you think you know, you don’t actually know for sure what your future holds, and you owe it to yourself to see it through and find out. Life can change in an instant. Fight on, and live to see a better day. And hey, if you ever want to talk or vent, you’re welcome to drop me a line. I am no expert, but I’ve been down a bumpy road or two, and I’m happy to help lift you up. 🙂 ~Ash