7 years ago, I was a 16 (almost 17) year old girl with big plans to run away. I had been flirting with the boy that I thought I had wanted to marry all summer, I was preparing to start my senior year of high school, and I my life (and body) had drastically changed since the year before. Big things were coming my way, I was finally going to get out of the small town I had called home. I didn’t know where I was going – probably the U.S. Air Force at the time – but I knew it would be at least 300 miles away from Nowhere-Eastern-Washington.
Then, on my 17th birthday, my life changed. I met a new boy. Slowly, my life started to throw me closer to him. We worked together, but I thought he had a girlfriend. The boy I was flirting with all summer broke my heart, and the boy at work turned out to be single. By October, 2008, we were going on dates (basically courting) and all of a sudden my life planned changed. No more Summer-Boy, no more running away, no more Air Force, no more leaving, just Calvin.
By December 2008, only two months after we officially set our relationship to boyfriend-girlfriend, I realized that I didn’t want to be anywhere in the world that this boy wasn’t. I could live anywhere, in any condition, as long as this tall, kind, and lovable person was next to me. In June 2009, mere days after I graduated from high school, I moved (the rest of) my stuff to his place; which was a room he rented from a friend of his in a huge house full of other people. Then a few months later, we got our own apartment. A dingy, one bedroom with lots of space for our few things. We didn’t have a couch, so we put two chairs next to each other, threw a blanket over them, and called it a love seat. Slowly, our lives grew. We got a dog, we changed jobs, we moved back to my mom’s to save money, we moved again to get out of my mom’s, we moved again for school, we moved again because of mold, then we got a cat, we moved across the state, and then we moved back. And now, 7 years later, we’re back in the town where we started.
Trying to get rid of the crap we’ve accumulated that doesn’t support our relationship (extra books, knick-knacks, etc.). We’re trying to find that simplicity we had when we were broke; but so far, all we’ve found is being broke again. But this time, I have a Master’s degree and he’s dropped out of college. This isn’t the path we set out on, but it’s the one we’ve chosen because those plans – the steps you’re supposed to follow – they weren’t working either. I honestly think we’d be happier if we’d never incurred the car or credit card debt we got as we followed those arbitrary rules of growing up. We were looking at house that cost half a million dollars, wondering how we’d ever be able to afford something like that. The answer, the one we stopped pursuing, was what brought us back here: a bigger “better” job to pay for the crap we have and the crap we thought we were supposed to have.
Something that hasn’t changed in 7 years, something I wish I could tell my 16 (almost 17) year old self? You’re never really going to know what to do, and that’s okay. You still want nothing more than to be around that boy – now man – no matter where you are, except now you have a cat and a dog you want to have around too. You still crave being held by him when things get tough, because it’s like everything melts away when he holds you. You’re still scared, and you still want to run away, because you don’t know where you belong; except this time, you don’t want to do it alone. And that boy that broke your heart, and the 5 or 10 others before him, none of them matter because you found the one that wants nothing more than to make sure that no one – including him – ever breaks your heart again; and you feel the same way about him. You both work so well together, it’s why you’re trying to start a business together. You don’t have that smooth, give-and-take ability to work with anyone else the same way you can work with him. And yes, he will marry you. Sure, he waits longer than you think he should, but then you’re glad you both wait as long as you did because you discovered things you never thought possible. And the most important thing is this: you’re going to be okay. RIght now, I’m terrified, but I’m also amazed at how far I’ve come. It’s been 7 years, and I’m still terrified inside, but it’s because I don’t want to let that 16-year-old girl down.
Sometimes I’m worried about disappointing others, but that lasts only briefly because I’ve never really cared what others thought of me. I’m more concerned about liking me for I was, am, and will be. I never want to look back and be ashamed that I was too scared, or too rude; I want to be a good person, someone that I can always be proud of. So this is as much a letter to 16-year-old me as it is to future me. I’ve written many of these letters, remembering the tears that ran down my cheeks and the fear that swelled inside me, and I’ve always seemed to find them at a time in my life where I’ve finally turned whatever bad situation I’ve encountered around, but this is my first public letter to future-me.
Dear Stephani, are you still scared? Because right now you’re sitting in the basement in College Place wondering where your life is going. You’re crying because you can’t tell if you’re proud, disappointed, or a little bit of both. You’re wondering if you’re going to be able to pay the bills, if you’re going to be able to buy groceries, or if you’re going to be able to take care of the pets if something bad happens to either one of them. You’re worried about whether you’re worrying too much, or just the right amount for your situation. You’ve just finished your master’s degree, and you’re scared, but all you want to do is change the world. Did you do it? Have you made the changes in your life, in your community, that you wanted to make? I think you have, because you always do.
PS – I’m proud of you, wherever you are right now.
Some people might think it’s weird for me to talk to myself, but these letters have kept me going more times than I can count. They’ve reassured me, and they remind me that I need to celebrate every battle I win against myself. I haven’t written one for awhile, and with everything that I’ve accomplished in the last year, I really needed the reminder that I am here, I am proud of myself, and I deserve both.
I hope that this inspires everyone that reads this to believe in themselves. It can be grueling to truly believe in ourselves, to love ourselves, but we should never be ashamed to do either. Having confidence, and pride, in our accomplishments is not narcissistic, it’s fuel for our future endeavors, it’s survival, it is how we remind ourselves to keep pushing when we feel like giving up.
Thank you for following my blog. Thank you for following my journey. I look forward to sharing many more of these roadblocks with you in the future.
I love you all!