You are twenty-three, and I am twenty-four.
In the scheme of things, it’s a tiny, infinitesimal difference that I’m sure forty-year old Kristen will find incredibly amusing. Nothing could possibly have changed so much to warrant a letter. But I must write it anyways because I want so desperately for you to know a few things.
You and I are alike, by all outward measures. We take our coffee the same–no sugar, a splash of milk. We keep our hair long, even as summer approaches, and we dream of the same things–travel, writing, marriage, even children someday.
Your days are occupied by the family business. Mine are too. We work hard and stay late and sometimes after a particularly long day, we both accidentally fall asleep in the bathtub. But somehow, despite the difficulties, it’s all worth it.
You can’t see it now, but you’ll move into your first place in just a few months. You’ll pack your car and drive away from the home you’ve always known. You’re worried about bills and rent and insurance, but you’ll pay everything off every month–and even keep saving a little. You’ll decorate with the things you love and make simple meals in a new kitchen. When you walk through the front door every evening, the tension in your shoulders will release a little.
As for matters of the heart, well, let’s see.
At twenty-three, you have put one great love behind you. In a few months, you’ll even drink a beer with that man and reminisce, reconciling the last remnants of that era. He will seem good and happy and you’ll hug goodbye beneath the glow of a streetlamp. Parting won’t hurt this time.
But that second love. He’s the one you’re still mulling over–the one on your mind when you sit down at a blank screen for a long writing session. I’ll let you in on a few things.
He’s gone. He left and never looked back. I know you’re hurting still, and that’s okay. You’ll need time to heal and process and ponder the what-ifs and how the hell it all went wrong. But the hard truth is–it doesn’t matter. He simply wasn’t your guy. You’ll see him at a wedding soon, but you’ll have eyes for a different man. A man really worth your time.
Pay attention to what comes next.
Because something will come next.
You don’t believe it now and can barely see tomorrow, much less the year that lies ahead. But those tears will dry and you’ll emerge from the fog of heartache.
You’ll be enveloped in the love of your friends and your family. You’ll tell jokes and take long road trips and his name won’t even cross your mind anymore.
You’re going to travel alone for the first time. The courage will come, as it always does, and it will be one of the great adventures of your life. One of those stories your grandchildren will hear and find hard to believe. Grandma flew to the Pacific Northwest once with nothing but an overpacked suitcase. She said she was scared shitless.
When a friend from the hostel invites you to tag along with the group going out for drinks, say yes. Sit on the patio of a bar in Portland and talk about culture and youth and love. Listen to the other voices, the other ideas from all over the world and whisper a prayer of thanks for this beautiful life.
And finally, the part you’ll never see coming. The part that will blindside you in the best way.
In July, when you’re basking in the lazy twilight of summertime, you’re going to get a text from a guy you knew years ago. You’ll smile at the message but wonder if you should even reply.
If you hear nothing else, hear this:
Text him back.
You’ll tell your mom and sister about it the next day, laughing at the random exchange. You’ll honestly think it was just a fluke, a brief walk down memory lane.
But the two of you will meet in San Antonio for a date in August. You’ll take a photo in front of the Alamo, both of you still a little unsure of where things are going. Just relax.
By April, you’ll be engaged.
Your father will give his blessing. The love of your life will propose just steps from where you took that first photo together. His hands will tremble only a little and he’ll say your full name and you won’t remember much of it very clearly, but you’ll remember the way his eyes looked.
Soft, full of hope, asking for a life with you.
And it’s this third love story–this final one–that you’ll truly know.
He is everything you’re dreaming of right now. He’s even better than you can possibly imagine.
You’ll look at your engagement ring and not see the diamonds or the gold. You’ll see the promise. The man who never once hesitated. The man who saw you and made you laugh and stayed up late to hear your voice and thought, I want an entire lifetime with that girl.
So I know you’re sitting in a coffee shop right now, tapping at a keyboard, wondering if you’re worth a damn. If you’re a good enough writer or woman or friend.
Stop letting that thought tumble through your mind.
You’ve been good enough all along.
Enjoy this next year where you realize it. It’s going to be the best one yet.
All my love,
// photo by Emily Blasik //