Dear 16-year-old Kala,
Hello. It’s you. Your future 27-year-old self is putting fingers to keyboard to reach out to you. I know you desperately wanted to know me just 11 short years ago. I know you wish you had the answers and you wish you could just take a glimpse into the future. You probably want to see what you look like at 27, if you are successful and if your life has turned out the way you had always imagined it would. I know you want the reassurance that each and every decision you are making right now pays off in a big way.
Well… I can tell you this… Your life didn’t turn out the way you planned it.
Like, not even remotely close.
Those 5-year, 10-year, 20-year plans you had for yourself? Yeah. It’s admirable that you set expectations for yourself, your future and everyone in it – but you forgot to factor in one thing – life. It’s adorable that you think as long as you check the boxes (graduate high school – check! go to college – check! meet future husband in college – check!) that everything will go according to plan. But it doesn’t. At least not for you.
Let’s have a quick recap shall we? Because it wasn’t too long ago that I was you and we made this beautiful life plan. It goes like this – graduate high school, go to Purdue University, graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, find your future husband at Purdue and fall in love, get married shortly after graduating high school, enjoy a fulfilling nursing career, pop out three beautiful kids (preferably in the order of boy, girl, boy) and then live happily ever after. Happily ever after entails remaining married until death, having very low financial stress, taking vacations to exotic locations once every two years and enjoying watching your children grow into adults and having children themselves. Oh, yes, and retiring at 65 to spend every morning thereafter sipping coffee and reading the newspaper on your wrap around porch swing with your husband next to you.
Alright. What did we learn here? Lots of detail. Lots of chance. Lots of rolling the dice and just hoping everything works out.
Now, let me recap for you what your life has looked like so far.
You graduate high school – that is one box you checked. You went to Purdue but you only went for a year. You succumbed to the pressures of drinking and partying. Your grades were embarrassing. So, you moved back home. You went to a local community college and you were very dedicated to your academics from that point on. You traveled – A LOT! You went to NYC three times, Connecticut, New Jersey (the Jersey Shore to be exact – AND you were on the show – you were blurry and in the background but you were on the screen for three seconds behind Snooki and JWoww), Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri, Chicago, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach just to name a few. Not bad for a Hoosier girl, right?
Posing in Times Square. This is your second trip to NYC. You discovered that Manhattan is one of your happy places.
On the Boardwalk at Seaside Heights, NJ.
Lets see – you graduated college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Services Administration, started a great career serving the mentally disabled population and made pretty decent money. You dated several men that you thought would turn into husbands but they didn’t. You were left heartbroken at the end of every relationship. You have been cheated on by every single man you dated in your life except for one but he wasn’t that great to you either.
You are still unmarried at the age of 27.
But you did have a child – you have the most beautiful daughter. She is almost 2 now. One of those men that cheated on you? Yeah, he is the father. You got pregnant about two years into the relationship and when she was only eight months old, you left the emotionally abusive relationship and became a single mother.
So yeah, your life has turned out NOTHING like you planned. At all.
And I’m so glad it didn’t.
Yes. Obviously there are some things that I wish had turned out differently – but you should see the woman you are at 27!
You are bold.
You are daring.
You are brave.
You are confident.
You are free-spirited and loving.
You are still slightly overweight from your pregnancy but you LOVE yourself.
You are all of these things because of how your life turned out. You are everything you have always wanted to be because you didn’t get what you thought you wanted. You went through a lot of hard times and were pushed up against the ropes more than you would have liked but you came through every single time. And you surprised yourself at how strong you were. You never knew it. You were privileged when you were young – you never had to be strong when you were 16. But since then, you have survived a lot of disappointments, dropped balls and missed opportunities and you are now stronger because of it. I absolutely adore myself and I don’t think that would have happened if I would have been granted everything on your life plan.
You ran two half-marathons. I don’t think I told you that yet. You pushed yourself, you created yourself and you are so incredibly happy. You found people that love you, support you and fill your life – you are lucky enough to call them friends. And you have been blessed with the best. You aren’t lazily going through the motions and checking the boxes just because that is what your 16-year-old self decided you wanted. You genuinely appreciate everything you have because you have had to work so hard to have it.
And your daughter? Please. She is literally everything. She is sassy, intelligent and loving. And she is beautiful. I won’t go into too much detail here because I wouldn’t want to spoil what is easily the best thing that ever happened to you. All you need to know is that you now know what it feels like to unconditionally love someone. And you wouldn’t trade that beautiful baby in for anything – not even for the perfect life void of all struggle.
So go ahead, young me. Make your intricate life plans – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. At least it gives you somewhere to set your sights – you must always have goals. But please do not panic when things don’t go your way. You will always make the best of it and find happiness in the imperfections. You are on a journey of discovery – if everything goes perfectly the way you plan it, you fail.
So take a deep breath, young 16-year-old me. Nothing turns out the way you want it to. But you wouldn’t want it to anyways. These next 11 years are going to fly by. You are about to love this ride.