An Encounter With My 18-year old Self

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I was listening to a podcast recently, (Startup Camp by Dale Partridge. It’s AMAZING.) and one of the things the host does at the end of every show is ask his guest what they would say to their 18-year old self if they got the chance to speak with them face to face

It got me thinking about what I would say to 18-year old Daniah. I think the encounter would go something like this…

“Stop staring at me like that. Stop picking me a part. That’s a terrible habit you have. You’re worried because we’ve gained a lot of weight. You’re wondering how it happened, why we didn’t stick to the plan and lose 25 more pounds in college.

We have even more dimples in our thighs now, yes. We have stretch marks and wide hips. We have full lips and a soft waist. We do, girl. We also wear high-waisted bikinis on the beach with no cover ups, because we’ve come to value the feel of sun and salt water on our skin more than the feel of people’s eyes on the backs of our thighs. We found confidence, and lemme tell you, it’s pretty freeing.

We’re adorable. You’re sitting there, look past the flaws you’re so fixated on and really look at me.

I am adorable. We don’t do cocky or over-confident well, but there’s something about knowing what you are and what you aren’t. One thing we are is adorable. That won’t change by 24. We don’t need to be sexy or look like the other girls. We’re pretty content with adorable.

We made the decision to be beautiful and act like it, and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. It changed us, and contrary to what you believe right now, it is a choice. You’re going to look in the mirror and accept who and what you are.

And remember, you can strive to be a better you and still accept the present you.

Yes, we have an afro. It’s amazing. Life changed when we went natural because it changed the way we saw everyone else’s beauty. Everyone is beautiful. We learn to believe that, but start now. Pick your head up, look at people, engage them, love them, appreciate their beauty. But you can’t do that until you choose to be beautiful. And that won’t be very hard, because you already are.

We have great parents. They are amazing human beings and they would literally do anything for you. They love you. They annoy you sometimes, but they’re humans too. They struggle too. They’re imperfect, but they are the biggest blessing you’ve been given. Be grateful for them.

We’re smart, you know that. We have the ability to get good grades, but there will come a point in time when we won’t get good grades. Let me tell you something, grades don’t matter as much as you think they do. We’re book smart, but we’re so much more than that. When the time comes that you’re not getting straight A’s, remember that we’re creative, and complex, and a great communicator. We’re engaging and dedicated, we have a tremendous capacity to love and that’s amazing. Bad grades aren’t the end of the world, but yes, we do manage to graduate from college.

Keep writing. Don’t stop. You’ll want to bury that gift because it makes other people uncomfortable that you feel and express so much. But don’t stop writing. It will get you through some tough times and open some important doors. Make time for it.

You’re an introvert. Look that up. It explains a lot of stuff, and it will help you understand yourself more. Trust me.

I know you feel a lot, and you feel them very deeply, but you don’t have to be ruled by your feelings. You can feel one way and act another. Practice testing your feelings before you react, because we are prone to overreacting. It’s not always what they said, sometimes it’s how you took it.

You begin to enjoy life a lot more when you’re not getting offended left, right and center. Learn to shake things off. Be the butt of the joke, laugh along when the truth stings a little bit, be the center of the roast in the group chat. Learn to give and take.

The Holy Spirit is your absolute best friend. He is your confidant, your protector, your guide. He is leading you even now, pay attention to Him, don’t ignore Him, learn His voice and always, always, follow it.

You are strong. I know you cry a lot, but that doesn’t matter, trust me. We’re a survivor, we make it, we endure, we can take more than you think. We’re not a weakling, we’re not a doormat.

Success won’t come in the way you expect. You won’t walk down the path you pictured for years, but fight to have the right perspective. There’s always good, in all situations, even the ones that suck.

You’ve spent so much time comparing yourself to other people, and that hurts me even now. Spend time getting to know yourself and know that you’re okay. You won’t be comfortable going everywhere and doing everything and that’s fine. Be confident in your decisions, choose to stand firm in your character. Be who you are. People will love you for you, not who you pretend to be, and those are the people that will matter. You won’t have a giant friend group, and you won’t ever be fully comfortable at parties, but you’ll have a squad, and that squad will be amazing.

Go to all the free off-campus events that college will offer because you’ve technically already paid for them anyway.

GO SEE THE LION KING ON BROADWAY. GO DANIAH.

Buy the peplum leather jacket we come across during junior year. We didn’t get it, and we regret it.

Go and see the New Haven symphony orchestra every single time they play. It will be one of the most life-giving and stimulating experiences you will ever have. Relish in it, and dress up every, single time.

Enjoy college. You will meet fantastic people and do amazing things. You’re not a club person just like we suspected, and that’s okay. But they serve a purpose; they teach you to be committed to something that’s not mandatory. You will need to learn how to do that, and clubs are a good way to get started, so stick with them.

Take on responsibility and don’t let class consume your life. It will try, but don’t be an engineer all the time. Unwind, de-stress, do more things that bring you joy.

You’re a creative, embrace it. You can be both analytical and artsy.

You’re beautiful and loved unconditionally by an unfailing Elohim. I know you’re afraid of the future, but we make it.

Look at me.

We make it. Enjoy your life because it’s just starting. Stop letting fear dictate your actions. There’s more in you than you know. We learn to deal with the swirling thoughts going through your mind right now. We learn to smile in the face of adversity. We learn to enjoy our own company. We learn to appreciate the moment.

You can do this. Just take the first step.

I love you, and I’ll see you in six years.

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