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38 Years Old.
This year I celebrated a birthday milestone.
And no– I didn’t turn 30, nor 35, and not quite 40. I turned 38.
Yes. 38 years. And while most people would look at year “38” as “just another” birthday, I can’t help but celebrate the fact that this year was really special. This year officially marks 20 years since I graduated high school. 20 years of being a grownup. 20 years that I’ve been trying my best to do this thing that people with more experience call “adulting”. So while most people would just turn the other cheek and look ahead to the BIG 40, I have found that this year I have an immense reason to celebrate! Why? Because I can’t help but reflect on what I have learned since I started this journey through adulthood– and I can’t help but think of all the things I would finally tell 18 year old Jessica.
Flashback. It is June 3, 1999 (I think). This evening you will stand upon the stage at Purchase Line High School as the Senior Class President, and try your best to inspire your classmates with a motivational speech reflecting on the last 13 years of what many will forever call, the “best years of your life”. When your journey through adulthood officially begins tomorrow, here is what I would tell my younger self…
Dear 18 Year Old Jessica,
You WILL figure it out.
I see you standing there without a clue as to what you will do with the rest of your life. You look so confused- and I just want to tell you this- You will figure it ALL out! It might take a lot of time… but one day- you will wake up— and look in the mirror– and think to yourself… I was born to do THIS. And speaking of time, I’d like to tell you a little bit about that.
There is NO set timeframe of living.
Yes. In your 20’s you will follow society’s timeframe of how life is “supposed” to fall into place. You will get engaged at 21, graduate college at 22, be married at 23, and become pregnant at 25. And then you will be blindsided with the surprises that life throws at you. With the onset of an unexpected illness and your choice to become a stay at home mother you will forgo a traditional business career, and nearly give up on your dreams of being a successful businesswoman. But I’d like to tell you now, don’t ever feel that it’s too late to become who you were meant to be.
Your struggles will show you your strength.
You will become a three time survivor of a disease you have never even heard of. Hyperemesis Gravidarium will try to take your life THREE times, but you will stand back up, not just once– but three times to prove to yourself that your faith can indeed save you. HG will try to steal your happiness and make you feel defeated. There will be many moments that you realize that life isn’t perfect- nor was it meant to be. There will be days that you will feel that you can’t overcome the trauma. But you WILL. You will not just survive HG, but you will THRIVE again. You will eventually quit asking the question, “WHY ME?” and your strength will prevail.
You will see your best self in your children.
And the three children that were born from that intense suffering will be your greatest blessings in life. You will never take being a mother for granted. You will see the best of who you are in them. They will be your driving force to succeed in life, and because of them, you will not give up. You will teach your children that they have a distinct purpose in life. They are unique and by using their God given gifts and abilities they are destined for greatness.
You will learn to love the ordinary.
As I see you standing on that stage, you don’t appreciate that ice cold Coca Cola, that new pair of shoes, the sunrise, the blooming flower, the full moon. The new song on the radio. The smell of lilacs and peonies. Freshly fallen snow. But soon you will appreciate all the ordinary things around you, and realize that being grateful in the ordinary is what will bring a full and happy life.
You will have endurance.
You will realize that an 800M run wasn’t as hard as you once thought it was while in track and field. You will see that life’s journey is a marathon. And as soon as one marathon ends, another begins. With each chapter of life, you will give yourself grace and do your best to run the race you’re in. You will see that progress is better than perfection. You will know that there will always be peaks and valleys in the seasons of life–whether it be with your career, your children, or your marriage. And with God leading the way– you will overcome every obstacle that is put in your path. You will have patience and endurance.
You will realize you don’t need everything the internet tries to convince you that you need to be happy.
Soon- in a few years you will become part of a very dysfunctional world known as “social media”.
You will develop a complicated relationship with it. You will find yourself scrolling mindlessly through the channels, feeling both positive and negative emotions. You will feel happiness, sadness, envy, jealously, anger, and joy. And thanks be to God, you will eventually come to peace with the whole concept. You will learn that by sharing your joys and passions with others, it is possible to find peace within the forum. You will do your best with each photo and post you share to inspire others to live their best life. You will be grateful for your life and your blessings. You will be happy.
You will change your own situation.
You will lose yourself in the depths of motherhood. In the midst of the chaos, you will forget who you are and what sets your soul on fire. BUT, you will also take that first step to stand back up on your own two feet. By committing to exercising daily and pushing yourself to new heights, you will be empowered to change your situation. You will be found. You will live a life with no regrets, and you will take chances. You will believe in yourself more than anyone else does.
You will love yourself more than you do today.
I see you on that stage. No cellulite. No grays. Not a wrinkle on your forehead. Why did you ever look in the mirror twenty years ago and think to yourself- I could stand to lose a few pounds? One day in the very near future, you will see your reflection and praise God for exactly who you are and who He created you to be. You will love yourself from the inside out. You will be at peace with not being able to lose the last five pounds. You will see that inner beauty is what matters most. You will be your own biggest fan.
One day, you will realize that you hold the power for all of your dreams to come true.
38 Year Old Jessica