Hi there. Don't be shocked to receive a letter from yourself nearly 10 years in the future (I turn 35 Wednesday). My reason for writing this is to offer you some encouragement while you sit waiting for your life to begin. It's also to encourage myself because, frankly, I've felt a bit under attack the last few days as I approach my birthday, and I think I need a reminder.
So here's a possibly hard truth: you're life has been going for a while now. You're in the midst of it. I'd like to tell you that when you get to where I am, in 2013, you'll have no regrets, that you're married to an amazing man, you have several kids, have written a novel or two and life is perfect, but that isn't the case. You're still single, so no husband or kids. You're too busy to write those novels at the moment. Fortunately, your regrets are few, and none of them major.
This doesn't sound at all encouraging, does it? Hold that thought.
I know right now back in 2003 you're feeling a bit stuck, living at home with mom and dad post-grad school while you job hunt. Dad wants you to take any job that comes along (if I remember correctly, he's pushing a job at a local insurance company), but you want to write, so stick to your guns. The job you get isn't perfect (and no job is), and it's not the highest-paying gig, but you learn a lot. I'm still there, and there have some pretty amazing coworkers.
You see all your friends are pairing off, getting married and having babies. You've been to a load of weddings lately. You share their joy, but you want that joy for yourself. And you are in mid-crush on Patrick. I know he seems like the be-all and end-all of Catholic guy perfection: prayerful, cute, engineer-smart and writing you those witty, lengthy emails from where he is in New Mexico. You're thinking about a possible future with him. I know it's too late to say don't get so caught up in the whole thing, but try to curb it a little. You spend way too much time daydreaming about him. Nothing comes of it. I don't say this to be discouraging or cruel, mind. I just want you to realize that sometimes, crushes can come close to idolatry. If he were really invested in you, he would show it. Give your heart to the Lord instead, and He will care for it so devotedly.
So you're wondering where the upside is. From where you sit, you're probably thinking I'm some washed-up spinster. But you're not alone. You have a pretty amazing roommate. I know you have no kids of your own, but I do have five -- yes, five! -- wonderful godchildren. People still think I'm in my late 20s. I am loved and appreciated and supported by so many. I don't feel old at all, so let me tell you, 35 is hardly the end of the world. And speaking of the world, you know how you want so desperately to travel? There is plenty of travel in your future. Hawaii is coming up pretty soon for you, actually. Then there's a fair amount of domestic travel in the contiguous 48, too. You're heading to Oregon, Nevada, D.C., to name a few. And Italy. This will be the most amazing gift and help you grow in so many ways. Puerto Rico is coming on the horizon for me in the next few months as well.
I want to encourage you to take advantage of this time that you have. Learn new things. Take up some new hobbies. Volunteer. You're going to have a great time working with the youth group at church soon. This may not make much sense to you, but your friends with kids? A few of them are actually envious of you. You can read uninterrupted for hours, and run into the store for 20 minutes without hauling what seems like a week's-worth of camping supplies with you to keep the kids happy and occupied. You can travel. Don't waste this time. There is so much you can accomplish, so much help you can give, just as you are.
Finally (although this is probably the most important thing), at 35, you're going to be much deeper in your prayer life than you are now. This is a good thing. God deserves your attention. He longs for it. Be open to His guidance. Although it's an ongoing struggle (and I'm hardly a pro at this), I can say that trust Him so much more now than you do. His plans are not yours, and while you are going to be frustrated about how things work out sometimes, ultimately that is a very good thing. All those things you hope for? It's not that you don't deserve them, because you -- I -- do. Take it from me when I say you weren't ready. I still may not be. But I know that God's plans are all for the good, and He watches over me.
The future is unwritten, ultimately, and only the Lord knows what's in store. Have faith in that. Take some chances, because he won't let you fall. And when things look cloudy, lean into His embrace, because He will hold you fast.
"The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior,
Who will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
Who will sing joyfully because of you."
Anne at (practically) 35