Dear 20-something Kerri

Twice this week I had lunch conversations with women also in their mid-30s. At some point in the conversations, we hit on the topic of, if I knew then what I know now, and debated telling some darling younger women we know, “just breathe.” Then we laughed. Hard. Because we would NEVER have listened to anyone who told us to simma down 10 years ago.

Then I noticed a very sweet girl I met this fall asked women to write letters to their 20-something selves. She’s trying to navigate her 20s with some measure of grace. So for what it’s worth, if I could talk to the me 10 years ago who would not have listened at all:

20-something me in 2001

Dear Kerri,

Breathe. Just Breathe. And calm down. It’s all gonna be fine. I know you really want someone you can believe to tell you that. So believe me; it will. Some things are gonna happen in the next decade: some good, some bad. We’ll hit the highlights.

You are gonna gain and lose the same 25 pounds SEVERAL times. If you will ignore your husband’s catterwalling about your closet, you can save some money on clothes by just keeping the range of about 4 sizes on hand.

Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly. ~Neil Gaiman

You are going to fail. You will fail in such miserable, spectacular, mortifying fashion that you’ll think you can never show your face again. I know this has not really happened to you before. But you’ll get over it. It will be fine.

Opportunities will come your way you couldn’t have imagined. Amazing, fabulous, pinch-yourself-to-be-sure-you’re-not-dreaming, thrilling stuff is gonna happen to you.

You will make some of the best friends you could possibly imagine. You will add them to the mix of super friends you already have. They will remind you to laugh at yourself. They will hold your hands when you cry. They will pray for you. They will know when your voice just has that “cupcake” sound in it. They will go to the store to prevent you from wearing backup makeup in public on purpose. They will call you out when you are being a moron. They will allow you moments of ugliness, but never cruelty. They will keep you between the ditches.

You will learn the grace of forgiveness. You will give it. You will need it. You will be humbled by getting it. It will change your view of the world.

[Grace is] help you receive when you have no bright ideas left, when you are empty and desperate and have discovered that your best thinking and most charming charm have failed you. ~Anne Lamott

You will be hit with the bone-crushing, soul-wrenching reality of infertility. You will doubt your worth as a human. You will cry tears you didn’t know you had. You will get perspective. You will rally. You will hold your husband’s hand and remember your worth is not in your uterus. It just feels that way sometimes.

You will participate in the greatest act of love in the history of the world. Monkey Boy’s birth mom will place him in your arms when he is seven days old. In return, you will make the most solemn promise of your life, along with your wedding vows, to be a good mother to him. Most days you will keep it.

You will systematically lose respect for people you never thought you could. You will find new appreciation for those you didn’t understand before. You will be disappointed. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Your family will become this wacky, off-beat lot. And it will work. But love doesn’t look like what you think it will. And that’s ok. It will be fine.

Good friend, always be open to the miracle of the second chance. ~Rev. David Stier

You will grieve: for your own losses, for others, for what is gone, for what will never be. You will heal: miraculously, every time there is a wound, it heals.

You will laugh. Deep, full-bellied laughs until your stomach hurts and your face feels like it will fall off.

So breathe. Just breathe. And calm down. It’s all gonna be fine.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Dear 20-something Kerri

  1. With just a few minor substitutions, 30-something Audreya should probably re-read this letter every 4 or 5 days. It’s fantastic.

  2. Beverly

    This is an absolutely wonderful and heartfelt letter. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Jen

    Kerri-
    Thanks for your post!!! I will try to take it to heart on those bad days!
    Love,
    someone who wishes she was as cool as Kerri

  4. This is beautiful!

    Thank you so much for writing it!

    Just Breathe seems like the most sensible advice I could get right now. The most sensible advice I may never take 😉

  5. Kelli

    It’s so aggravating to look back and wonder why you were so flustered, so angry, so sad. And it’s hard, when I’m IN those moments now to not throw my hands up and declare that it is all lost. But I guess that is life. And, of course, we never listen to others advice, because if we did, we would never make our own mistakes and then would have no way to know they were telling the truth.
    Scars in all their ugliness are beautiful.

  6. Mama

    Not good to read this at work as I started crying. You touched my heart Kerri. Thank you.

  7. While I’m looking down the backside of my twentysomethings, I take every piece of advice available. I mean, I take it, but that doesn’t mean I’ll always put it to good use. I store up good advice to dole out to myself and others when the world looks mean and angry and tired.
    I love this post.
    There are easily 37 things I wish I could tell my 16, 19, 21 year old self.
    But then, there are things that I want to say and preserve for my 36 year old self, things about NOW that I hope I don’t lose in the memories and motions of the next decade.

    Anyway, I love this post.

  8. berit

    sobbing i am…

  9. You pulled at my heart (and my memory of being that girl) until my eyes started watering. Damn you for that. 🙂

  10. Elisabeth

    What an amazing letter. Poignant and well-written. My advice to all 20-somethings (and I wish someone had told me) is that by your 30s you start to realize that all “adults” are fakers, and despite what you think you are supposed to to have figured out to be a real adult, we are all still struggling with what we want to be when we grow up. But the beauty is that by 30 we now know ourselves well enough to fake it too. So don’t sweat it.

  11. We met briefly this morning at the photo shoot at Baker Park, thought I would stop by and say Hi! Hope to visit you more often!

  12. merlisser

    *sniff*

  13. this is an absolutely beautiful letter and so true! i turned 30 on may 19th. if my 30 year old self could’ve sat down with my twenty-something self for just a minute, i would’ve breathed a lot more and been way calmer.

    i, too, live in little rock. i moved here in january of 2009. i found out about your blog in little rock family magazine and i love it! i’m going to check the others that you have on your blog roll. i have one on wordpress as well. it’s capriciouslyme.wordpress.com .

    –christina