When I was 14, I thought life would be amazingly easy and that I would be able to get everything handed to me on a silver platter. I imagined that I would have moved out of the house, be going to some really nice 4-year, private university, and somehow all the money would have magically appeared to pay for it all. I thought I would probably be dating some guy that I would most definitely get married to, and I would always be happy. I never even thought that their could be any bumps in the road where plans didn’t pan out like I thought they would.
Can I just say, I am so happy that my life didn’t turn out the way I imagined it 5 years ago. That sounds so fairytale like, and I am immensely happy that I am not a princess. I am realizing more and more, I don’t want the cookie-cutter, white-picket fence, working a 9-5 life. I want something more meaningful than that. There is so much more to experience and although life has definitely been more difficult than I imagined, that is something that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
In the past year alone, I have had my lowest moments, but also some of my highest. I have questioned a lot of information that I always took for granted, I have been given “once in a lifetime” opportunities, and have grown so much as a human being.
For starters, questioning. I took a philosophy class this past winter semester and I thought it was one of the most stupid classes I was ever told I had to take. The fact that we had to argue whether or not God really exists, whether or not we are actually living here on earth, or if God could be immoral seemed ridiculous to me. However, not even half a year later, here I am questioning things I have always taken for granted that could be considered philosophical.
Have you ever wondered why you do what you do? Answering questions like, “why do I brush my teeth every morning?” may be easier to answer. We brush our teeth every morning to keep our teeth healthy. Why do we want to keep our teeth healthy? Why is that important to us? Some people may say that brushing your teeth is important so that you don’t get cavities. Having nice teeth can also help create a good first impression on people. Then you may ask, why do I care what someone’s first impression of me is? This cycle could go on and on.
Some questions I have asked myself are:
- Why do I go to school?
- Why do I keep working stupid jobs?
- Why do I allow people to treat me like I am less than subpar?
- Why do I hate the way I look?
- Why do I obey my parents?
- What makes me so afraid of getting punished?
- Why do I do anything I do?
Now, there are very simple answers to each and every one of these questions; however, I don’t want simple answers. At the core of who I am, why do I think that I have to do all of these things? Who am I trying to impress? Am I trying to please other people, or am I doing this for me? I don’t necessarily have answers to these questions yet. I mean, I do but I don’t. Every time I have come up with an answer to a question, I question the answer and bring it one step further down this never ending bunny trail.
Questioning, although tedious at times, is helping me grow as a human being. I learn fascinating tidbits about myself. Sometimes it makes me sad when I question myself, but other times it inspires me and makes for writing some really fun blog posts.
Speaking of writing fun blog posts, this year I have had a lot of “once in a lifetime” opportunities. Which, writing that now, seems kind of redundant to say because every opportunity we have is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. There is no other time where you will be given the same exact opportunity in the same exact set of circumstances. Now, don’t go thinking I’m some smart person with great insights because I didn’t think of that on my own. I saw it on someone’s page the other day on either Facebook or Twitter. However, that got me thinking about all the amazing opportunities I have had this year alone.
Starting from January 2016 to present day, I have:
- gone on road trips by myself, with friends, and with family.
- traveled to a different continent.
- planned and taught at a girls retreat.
- had a dream summer job.
- grown friendships to an even deeper level.
- gotten birthday wishes from two of my favorite singers.
- written 19 blog posts (this being the 20th).
- gone to school absolutely debt free.
Much, much more than that has occurred, but those are just some of the highlights. How lucky am I to say that that is my life? I can’t even put into words how happy that makes me to see that I can even make a list like that and it accurately describes not even a full year of my life! I am truly blessed.
However, those things did not come without a lot of work. I had to put in an effort to be vulnerable with friends and let them know that I was struggling and needed their help. Even more difficult than being vulnerable with my friends, I had to be vulnerable with my family. I always want to be the strong one who is always happy and never has any problems; however, that isn’t remotely possible. I am human and I mess up, I am not always happy, and I don’t always like myself. In fact, there are days where I have openly admitted (to only myself) that I hate myself.
Looking in the mirror would become very difficult some days. To be honest, I still have a lot more days that I don’t want to remind myself of how bad I look by looking in the mirror. I almost wish I could say that I can see a turn where I know all of a sudden I’ll be magically “cured” and I will love myself, but I can’t guarantee that either. I am on a road to learning to love who I am and who God made me to be, but it is a work in progress. But, just maybe, as long as I’m still making progress, I can be proud of that fact.
Beyond just fighting for emotional contentedness, I also had to work my butt off to get some of these other things. Planning girls retreats, writing blog posts, and even going to school debt free require a lot of work. I know, that seems pretty obvious, but I don’t know if everyone understands what that means for a college student.
I have had to give up a lot of the things I would want to do to make sure that these things can happen. Granted, planning girls retreats and writing blog posts are passion projects of mine, making them a little easier to just sit down and do the work. However, going to school debt free is much more difficult. Just to go to school this semester, I had to work almost 377 hours. That doesn’t include taxes being taken out either. So, maybe I worked slightly over 400 hours to go to school this semester? That is almost 17 straight days of work. Absolutely no breaks for eating, going to the bathroom, sleeping, etc. I’m not complaining, or even trying to get a pat on the back for this. I am just trying to put this in perspective. (And also humble brag because I am proud that I accomplished this.)
I had to give up plenty of weekends where I would have rather been hanging out with friends. I gave up seeing my family a lot of the time because I would always be at work whenever they finally got home for the day. Yeah, it was lonely being secluded like that, and I wouldn’t have to want to do that again, but I will if that means that I can keep going to school and pursuing my dreams.
Finally, all of these things really have changed me as a person. I truly know what it means to work hard and just having a taste of what my future looks like, is something I cannot adequately describe. The feeling I get when I look into my future is one of hope and joy. I don’t necessarily know what the future entails, and I don’t know what kinds of obstacles will pop up along the way, but I believe that there is something truly great waiting for me out there.
Now, I just want to tell my past self a little something real quick.
Young, 14-year-old Aly,
Guess what girl?! You are now 19 and life isn’t all you imagined it would be. You’ve done things you aren’t proud of, life didn’t exactly turn out as planned, but you also couldn’t feel more blessed. You are loved by so many people and have accomplished so much; don’t forget that as you go through your next years in high school and college. There are a lot of changes coming your way, but they are going to make you stronger in the end. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable when you need to be. Your story will have the potential to help others, just like you have always wanted.
Keep in mind, that what you go through in the next 5 years is not going to be easy. However, you do make it to other side. You don’t necessarily know why some of these things happened to you, but you will know that there has to be some reason for that.
Finally, be proud of where you’re going and celebrate the little accomplishments along the way. You, of all people, should know what it feels like to be excited over the simplest, little things that other people find silly. Also, little last second add in, don’t forget to learn to forgive yourself. Maybe you can save yourself some of the guilt you carry around.
So maybe you aren’t going to the 4-year, private university that you thought you would go to. Maybe you’re still living at home with your family. Maybe everything isn’t handed to you on a silver platter and maybe that makes you really happy. You appreciate the things you do have now a lot more, because you have had to work for them. And maybe you don’t have a boyfriend, but you don’t need one. There is so much freedom in being single and you can keep soaking it up. You get to travel anywhere you want to, you can move away without the thought of a significant other, and you get to pursue your dreams.
Don’t ever give up on yourself. You have too much to life to live to quit now.
Your 19-year-old self
For everyone else reading this that isn’t me, I tweeted this out a few months ago:
Back in April, I didn’t think that she would want to be like me. I didn’t understand a lot of what I was going through, and I thought that I was too sad of a person for anyone to want to be like me. However, today, I really think that she would look up to me, and she would aspire to be like me. I realize that this seems kind of stupid because she is me, but I am most definitely not her.
But what does this mean for you? If your younger self saw you now, would they want to be like you? Why or why not? Is there something you can change about yourself that would make your younger self want you to be more like you?
Perhaps it is something as simple as adding in “me” time. Maybe you will take a step towards reaching your dreams. Maybe you have a life goal that you haven’t completed yet and you start taking action towards finishing that. Maybe it’s something scary like a career change, or something difficult like fighting for your own happiness.
My hope is that every one who reads this could one day be able to say that there younger selves would be proud of who they have become if they cannot already. I believe in every single one of you! Just give it your all, there is no half efforts allowed here!
Until next time,