Dear 19 Year Old Juliet,
This isn’t a letter of advice; I am not trying to rewrite my life. None of what I say will alter your decision making. This is a letter of information- just some things I would like for you to know.
You think you have the best friends in the world right now, as most people do at your age. The difference between you and them is that you are right and they are usually wrong. Your friends are as loyal and as well-meaning as they seem. As years pass, distance will come between you. You will see less and less of them- they will marry, leave on missions, head across the country to go to graduate school. But you will love them always, and they will love you always. Juliet, the friends you have now are the truest you may ever have. I miss them. I miss spending my days, my nights, and my way-too-late-nights with them.
You have a jealousy problem. I know the people that you are jealous of better than you do. You see their strengths and their joys, but in time I have come to see their weaknesses and their sorrows. Nobody has it better than you do. Trust me, you do not want their problems.
You wear one of two pairs of jeans and one of two UCSB sweatshirts everyday. Sometimes you wear a shirt underneath, sometimes you don’t. You wear nerdy glasses and never spend any time on your hair or make-up. And I like you’re style. In a few years you’re going to feel more compelled to put effort into your appearance, but you’re good for now. I find it endearing- picturing you in your slouchy clothes with a backpack on, walking down the street, thinking about something that probably doesn’t really matter.
I’ve been thinking about they way you’ve dealt with the boys in your life. I’m really proud of how you’ve handled things. I know that you just did what you thought was obvious, but it’s only obvious because you are so committed to what is right. Most people would have danced around those situations, but you are fearless in matters of morality. You have a love of doing what’s right.
We’re not shy when it comes to talking about sex, huh? You are very good at “just saying no”. You get a little bit of a thrill by showing off your awesome levels of self control. It really is kind of amazing- your commitment to virginity. One day, you’re going to resent that you’re still having to say no. Don’t get haughty, don’t get over-confident. Right now you’re at the very base of an Everest-high uphill battle.
A little bit more about boys. You don’t feel like you get quite enough attention from a certain kind of guy. That certain kind being Mormon. But you’ll get plenty of attention from Mormon boys in the future. And you can look forward to the company of some good, good men.
It’s typical for us to look back on our younger years and dismiss our former woes and tribulations as being petty preoccupations. Juliet, I would never do that to you. I know that you feel like life is cruel sometimes. It is cruel. Your deepest despairs are still in front of you. That pains me to say as much as it pains you to hear. Other people are going to read this letter and they might wonder why I’m dwelling on this. If they knew what we knew, they would understand why I have to talk to you about this. I’m not ready to say that the things that hurt are going to be worth it or that you will one day be grateful for them. I don’t feel gratitude for them, not yet at least. But Juliet, you are going to become filled with compassion. It’s terrible, I wish it wasn’t this way, but the truth is that your pain is making you into a better woman.
By your 23rd birthday you will have taken your last anti-depressant.
There is so much that I don’t understand.
You love Jesus, but not nearly as much as I do. You have no idea how good he is. I know that you’ve experienced forgiveness, but you’re going to be experiencing a whole lot more.
The next six years are going to be full of failed attempts. You would feel sad if I listed them for you. You are going to feel like a disappointment. You are going to be sorely disappointed in yourself. But nobody is ever going to be disappointed in you. Really, nobody is going to care that you will have to keep starting over.
People love you because you’re kind and you’re good and people always know where you stand. And when you’re 25, you’re still going to be those things.
You’re better than me in a lot of ways. You have more faith than I do. More hope too. You’re more obedient and less critical. You’re doing great, Juliet. You’re amazing. You do what’s right just because it’s right and you love everybody because that’s just who you are. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but that’s because you’re just that good.
This isn’t a letter of advice.
I love you , you raggedy, distracted, obnoxiously analytic little girl.
25 (almost 26) year old Juliet