Stefani's most-fantastical-reads book montage

Crooked Kingdom
Six of Crows
Yellow Brick War
The Wicked Will Rise
Charm & Strange
Their Fractured Light
These Broken Stars
Big Little Lies
I'll Be There
Red Queen

Stefani's favorite books »

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A letter to myself at 20...

First picture [age 20] taken circa 2002 on Dad's weekend at WSU {and obviously not on a digital camera}, second picture [age 31] taken this fall. We are in the process of selling/packing/eventually moving and I wanted to participate in this post but wasn't about to climb into the attic to retrieve a photo from EXACTLY ten years ago. Please forgive.
Dear 20 year-old self,

As I sit here and look at your smiling face I find myself trying to think of the things that you need to know to survive the next ten years. You are so young right now - although as a new college student, finally living on your own, and experiencing life in a whole new way - you think that you've finally made it to the adult world. There is so much that lies ahead of you - both good and bad. You will experience some of the highest peaks and lowest valleys in the next decade but you will come out of it a better person - stronger, wiser, and with a vision of what you want the next ten years to look like.

You are two years out of high school and starting fresh at WSU. Little do you know, you have already met the man you are going to marry and with whom you will create a family you never dared to dream of having. You will cross paths with him several times and through mutual friends, you'll spend time together. Then, one night - when you have been careless and others have malice on their minds, he will save you. He will carry you home, keep you safe, and respect you enough to keep his distance. The next morning you will understand how much differently the situation could have been. You will start the friendship and eventually the relationship that will lead to your vows just a few short years from now. On your wedding day, you will be caught up in all the details and emotions, and the idea of being husband and wife. Shortly thereafter, you will buy your first home, start to search for a career, and begin to think about a family of your own.

During these first few years of marriage you will learn a lot about yourself and about your husband. First, and foremost, that neither one of you are perfect. You will learn to fight and make up, negotiate and compromise. You will find yourself wanting to throw in the towel somedays and others you will be hoping and praying that he doesn't give up on you. You will learn that you picked up more from your parents' relationship than you ever thought possible - about roles in a marriage, acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and you will discover that you are very much like both of your parents - much to your surprise.

You will decide that you no longer have the desire to find  your birth parents - something that you have waited for all your life. You will finally be mature enough to see that you have all the family you could ever need and that no stranger - blood relative or not - could be more important that that.

As a result of your first degree, which you earned carelessly I might add, you will find yourself unable to settle on a career. You will go to work for a small school district tutoring middle school students and working at a summer camp your first year. That experience will show you that your guidance counselor wasn't crazy and that teaching really is the profession you want to dedicate your life to. You will go back to school at night and will come out with a teaching degree and dreams of educating middle schools in literature and writing. That summer you will search for work and miss out on one opportunity after another. You will be devastated but it will work out perfectly because a language arts position will open up at the school you had been dreaming of teaching at and you will find yourself setting up your classroom that August.You will spend each year trying new things - some that will succeed and some that will fail. You will have the chance to find friendship among your colleagues and they will mentor you and guide you when you get in over your head. You will come to love your students and will learn that middle school truly is your calling. You will watch your first group of 8th graders move on to high school and you will be there in the stands, cheering them on the day they graduate.

You will decide to start a family and after two years you will begin to feel the stress and weight that come with infertility. You will meet with doctors and surgeons and specialists who will all tell you that, while having a baby is not impossible for you, it is not likely. You will suffer through tests and procedures and will again and again hear the same devastating news. You will reach a low at this point - you will feel inadequate because you can't give your husband the child you both want so badly. You'll question whether it's fair for him to have to be married to you even though he will reassure you every day that there is no place else he'd rather be. You will finally hit a wall where the options will have run out - you're young and there won't be enough money saved up for IVF. You will give up on trying to have a baby and simply try and get yourself back together. One of the ways you will do this is through acupuncture. One month after you meet with the naturopathic doctor, who is also your friend, you will discover that you are pregnant. It will be a Sunday morning in mid-January and you will go to church and cry throughout the sermon in sheer relief and awe. You will learn several months into pregnancy that, although your body was able to get pregnant, it is not well suited for staying that way. At 28 weeks you will be put on bed rest until your due date. It will be miserable but you will crawl into bed one night after watching the Seahawks game and wake a short while later to your water breaking. You and Derek will rush to the hospital and the next afternoon you will welcome a beautiful, healthy baby girl into this world. Motherhood will change you on a molecular level that there are not words to explain. The center of your universe will shift and your purpose, your life, will revolve around this precious baby girl.

It won't take long for you to discover that parenthood is both exhilarating and terrifying, energizing and exhausting. You'll forget what it means to sleep until 10am or to drop everything and drive to the beach or to a movie. You'll learn that you never leave the house without a diaper bag and a change of clothes and that any errand you run will take twice as long to prepare for and twice as long to complete. You will watch this little baby that you nurtured and carried for nine months grow into a baby, and a toddler, and then a child. You will marvel at how fast the time flies and how much things can change in week, a day, even an hour. You'll learn what it means to have a blood relative for the first time and it will give you a sense of belonging and home that you have never known before. That little girl will teach you patience {and test it} and will give you the chance to see the world through a new, fresh pair of eyes. You will marvel at snow and pretty rocks and stop to watch the leaves blow across the park. You'll take her to the ocean and watch her squeal and kick and the salt water washes over her and the seaweed tickles her feet. You will look at her and realize that you never fully understood what love was until she came into your life. You will also want her to have the one thing that was missing from your life as a child - a sibling.

You will fight the same battle to get pregnant again but after six months you will see that + sign appear. You will know in your heart this time that something isn't right but you will refuse to admit it to anyone. Less than a week after discovering the pregnancy, you will discover the blood. You will find yourself in a sterile ER room, looking at an ultrasound, and listening to the doctor explain that there is nothing there anymore. The life that was growing inside you will have vanished and you will feel the soul crushing loss of a child. You will want to curl up and die those next few days and the agony will drive you to scream one moment and cry the next and stare blankly at the wall after that. You will find yourself sobbing on the bathroom floor and a tiny pair of arms will wrap themselves around you and a little girl will crawl in your lap. She won't say anything, but the tears in her eyes will be enough for you to see that you have to be strong and you have to pull through because that beautiful little girl is counting on you. So you will start to piece yourself back together. You will reconsider for a while the idea of having another baby - the fear of another loss outweighing the potential joy of another life.

Not long after the loss of the baby, you will be hit with equally devastating news. You're dad will go in for a routine appointment for back pain and will discover that he has multiple myeloma - a cancer that is eating away his spine and bones. You will watch your dad age ten years in the matter of a few short weeks and will find yourself in mid-summer, sitting next to his hospital bed, holding his hand, and praying to God that he will pull through. You will stare at the tubes running in and out of his body, hear about the chemicals being pumped into him every day, and watch as he becomes more fragile with every passing hour. There will be a point where you believe that he won't pull through - and for the first time in your life you will begin to realize the gaping whole that would be left if he were not to survive. Thankfully, he has taken care of himself and has the stubborn, iron will that you have inherited and you will watch him slowly, painfully slowly, begin to return to his former self. It will take cutting edge science and months of rehabilitation but eventually, the dad that you have known and loved all your life will start to make his recovery.

You will decide to try to have another baby and just before your 30th birthday, you'll discover you are pregnant again. This time, the baby will stick but you're pregnancy will be wrought with preterm labor and bed rest again. You will make it to 29 weeks this time but in mid-February, you'll rush to the hospital with contractions and learn that you can either stay there for the next 11 weeks or stay at home in bed. So again, you will find yourself on bed rest - but this time will be so much harder. You will be a bystander to your daughter's life for what will feel like an eternity. She will come to expect you to be in bed, will understand that you can't play with her because 'your tummy hurts', and will turn to her daddy to meet all her needs. And just like always, he will be amazing. He will parent, keep house, care for you, work, and still manage to have a smile on his face most days. When you go into labor this time, it won't be on your own terms. The baby will be in distress and  you will be induced. It will be terrifying to watch the heart monitor for hours on end and wonder if everything is going to be okay. But you will deliver a perfect baby boy the next day who was simply wearing his umbilical cord around his neck. You will learn again what true love is and you will realize that, with each child, your capacity for love only grows bigger. You will fall in love with this little boy and you will be brought to tears watching his big sister fawn over him every chance she gets. He won't stay little for long and before you know it you'll be watching him crawl across the floor as you are searching Pinterest for 1st birthday party themes.

The next ten years will probably be filled with more change than at any other point in your life. You will have to be strong, have faith in God and the people you choose to surround yourself with, and realize that no good thing in this world comes without hard work and dedication. A good marriage is work. Being a good parent is work. Being an educator is work. Maintaining worthwhile friendships is work. Nothing good in this life comes for free... but it is so worth the effort that you will put into it. You will look back on yourself in ten years and wonder where the time is gone, wonder where those wrinkles came from, and when 9pm became your bedtime. You will still feel like you are a 20 year old impostor - pretending to be someone much more accomplished and mature than you really are. You have an amazing path laid out in front of you. Enjoy it. Savor every moment because minutes turn to hours, hours turn to days, days to weeks, and weeks to years... and in the blink of an eye you'll be 31 and left wondering where all the time has gone.




Linkin up with MamaKat


  1. WSU...we're practically neighbors!

    These letters to ourselves would have been SO trippy to read 10 years ago. I wonder how much of the advice we actually would have taken.

  2. Hi,

    I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?




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