I’ve read a lot of articles where people write letters to their high school selves. Almost all of them are advice-giving, in very vague terms. I find them to be a lot of the same: save your money, travel the world, don't settle, etc. While yes, I would absolutely tell myself to be a lot smarter with money and other aspects of my life…I don’t want my story to be any different than it has been. I believe my road since high school has been the perfect one to shape me into who I am. While I do not love certain aspects of this journey, I love how much I've grown in 10 years.
I decided to take a little bit of a different approach to my letter. I decided to just lay it all out there and give specific advice that I wish I could have used for each and every curveball thrown my way.
Dear 18 year old Molly:
It’s 2019, which means it’s been 10 years since we graduated. You are never going to believe the life we are living now. We had so many plans and sadly, we hardly followed through with any of them. It’s been a challenging road, but I promise you that we end up so much better for having to endure those challenges.
Your parents are going to get divorced.
That’s not a huge shock, right? I mean, we all knew it would happen eventually. It gets really messy and really complicated quickly. You’ll try to take sides and I’m here to just tell you that you should really try to stay in the middle of the ground here. Don’t take sides. It’s not going to be easy and both of your parents aren’t going to be the easiest to reason with … but just try your hardest to stay neutral. It will save you a lot of years of fighting and resentment if you do.
Your parents both get remarried.
You’re not going to be on board in the beginning with either spouse your parents choose. It’s going to be weird and awkward for a while. For someone who welcomes change, this isn’t a change you deal with easily. Your mom will marry one of your childhood best friend’s father and your dad will marry a woman barely older than your brother. You’ll come around to your step dad because he treats your mom well and he’s a really good person. You’ll find it funny that your childhood best friend actually does become your sister, since it's something you both dreamed of growing up. As far as your acceptance of your father’s wife goes…we will get to that later down the page.
You’ll only keep one best friend from high school.
Your circle of friends was pretty tight in high school. You’ll all remain friends for a long time afterwards. But you’ll only keep one as a best friend. Don’t be upset when you lose the others. Everyone sort of pursues different lives and that’s totally okay. You’ll still cheer each other on from the sidelines as social media will help keep you connected. Andie will be someone who stays by your side through all of the hardships you will face throughout your 20’s. (Spoiler alert: there’s a lot!) You will even become ordained and marry her to her sweet husband, shortly after they welcome their first baby. It’s a friendship that will stand the test of time. So enjoy the time you have now with all of your girls. You’ll be thankful for the memories you all had during your teenage years.
Your soulmate is waiting for you on the other side of the country.
You’re not going to marry your high school sweetheart, like your parents and all of your aunts and uncles did. Prince Charming isn’t even close to Flushing, Michigan. In fact, he’s on the other side of the country. So don’t get hung up on this notion that the only way you’ll get married is by marrying this person you spent your teenage years with. It’s a strange mindset to have, especially when marrying your high school sweetheart is just “what everyone does”. It’s hard to imagine that there’s any other way to finding the person you will spend your life with. But trust me, he’s not even close to this place you call home. You’ll be the first in your family to break this cycle and it’s a beautiful tradition to change. You have your own story to unfold far, far away. Go west my dear and don’t waste your time with anyone here.
You actually do want to be a mom.
I know, I know. We never wanted kids. Well…we do. But in our head, they’re going to be little babies we adopt from Africa. But I hate to break it to you sister… The truth is, you become a mom shortly after your 21st birthday. The baby you birth changes your entire life. This baby sets you on a path of motherhood that you never even fathomed. You’re good at the whole mom thing. Your parenting style will gradually change from modern to traditional. You’ve always enjoyed the simpler things in life and it really presents itself in how you parent your babies. And sweet, sweet, naïve Molly…you will have six children before you turn 29. Did your jaw just hit the floor? Pick it back up and make sure to sleep now because sleep in your 20’s rarely happens!
Your dad is going to die.
This is a gut-wrencher, I know. Your heart probably just sank a thousand times in one second. But it’s true - your best friend will die shortly after your 25th birthday. It's a super sucky road. It's a shitty one, honestly. So enjoy him now. Take a million more videos with him now. You’ll miss his laugh and the facial expressions he makes. You’ll miss him nicknaming every one of your friends. Record him. Take more photos with him. You’ll get the chance to say goodbye, but it’s not going to be an easy one. Breathe him in. Learn more about his childhood and his life. You won’t get the opportunity to know all of it unless you ask now. This will be one of the hardest things you will ever go through, but this storm does give you a pretty amazing rainbow in the end. Hold on sister, his death will change your entire life.
You actually will adopt a child.
I hate to give you a huge spoiler alert here, but you do adopt a child. He will be your 5th. This child isn’t from another country, nor is he someone you just stumble upon. He will be your brother – the 4th child your dad has with his new wife. Your dad’s wife will die unexpectedly, followed by your dad just days later. Before your dad dies, he will sign over custody to you. You will fight tooth and nail through the courts for this child. You will spend thousands of dollars for it, but you will win. The entire experience will rip your heart out and defeat you to your core. This is your rock bottom. But somehow you will rise from the ashes and you will come out stronger for it. I need you to remember that other people’s words do not define who you are as a person or who you are as a mother.
You will not live in Michigan.
You grew up there. Part of your heart belongs to the lakes. Part of your heart belongs to your family. But you will not raise your own little tribe there, or even in the states surrounding. You will find your own place to call home. You will move to many different cities in many different states before you finally settle down. So enjoy the state for what it is now. Stay at your grandma’s condo in Traverse City with her. Take your bike to Mackinac Island. Visit Higgins Lake. Make the memories now because your visits over the next 10 years are going to be very few and far between.
We’re on track to buy a house before we’re 30.
Almost all of your friends and family will buy houses in their early 20’s. You will rent. A lot. You will move. A lot. It will get tiring and annoying. You will search Zillow a thousand times in different cities, dreaming of owning something yourself. We haven’t done it yet, but we are finally in a place where we can. Stay focused on YOUR journey. It’s easy to get jealous of others but I want you to know that everything will be worth it. The truth is, the houses your friends are buying for $100k in Michigan are no less than 5x that in the place you settle down. You pay for what you get, and your forever state is worth the extra cost. But you need patience. Your time is coming.
Your 11th grade creative writing teacher was right, you do have a knack for the whole writing thing.
You’ll write a children’s book that you’ll be too terrified to send off. But I’m hopeful that we can get that confidence to do so here in the next year. You’ll start a blog that will be a fantastic outlet for you. You’ll enjoy sharing your parenting journey as well as different aspects of your life. Eventually we will write a book, so start writing down the details of your life now so we don’t leave anything out. Writing is therapeutic for you, so don’t stop.
In more general terms, I want you to know a few more things:
Trust your gut. It’s never been wrong in the last 10 years.
Follow your heart. You know what you want. Don’t stop chasing it.
Learn to change your attitude about the things that happen to you. We can’t change what happens, but we can learn to change how we respond to those things.
Learn to meditate. It’s calming and re-centers you. It helps a great deal with the anxiety you develop over the next 10 years.
Be open to criticism, but know it doesn’t define you. People are going to judge you and say things, regardless of what you say or do. Breathe in the words and then let them go. Remember that you don’t need others approval.
Your life will be messy and complicated for a bit, but once you climb those mountains? The views are amazing.