Have you seen those “To My 17 Year Old Self” letters? You know. The ones where you sit down and write a letter as though you are telling yourself the things you wish you had known at 17. I have thought about writing one for years. Only now… now I have a 17 year old self. She is my oldest daughter. She is an incredible spitting image of me at 17. More beautiful… but every bit as stubborn and temperamental. My 17 year old self will be 18 next month… and she has a name: Cheyenne.
Instead of writing to myself… I am writing to her. And to my 16 year old son. Plus my 3, 7, and 9 year old daughters. The things I try to instill in them daily… and I wish I had known 20+ years ago.
Oh how far you have come. Almost an adult in the eyes of the world, but always a baby in my mind. No matter how tall you get, how grown up you look, or how smart you become… you will forever be my baby. But, even as my precious baby, the world is tough and things will not always be as easy as they may seem right now. There is so much I want you to learn before I set you out into the world completely on your own.
First, relationships matter. Not the trivial friendships or acquaintances you may make at each job you endure through school… but the ones that touch your heart. Your family. Your heart friends. Those relationships are important and you will need them throughout your life. As the trials and triumphs of your days come and go, these bonds will carry you when you need lifting and celebrate when you celebrate. We were made for relationships and your heart will ache without them. Build strong ones. Treat those you love with kindness and appreciation. Don’t push away those that matter most.
Never lose your faith. Hold strong to it. There will be times when you have nothing else. I have been at that point several times and would not have been able to bounce back where it not for my belief in God. Cultivate this relationship above all others and everything else will fall into place. Your dad and I hope and pray we have lived out our faith in front of you enough to prove that. Trust in Him.
Money does not buy happiness. As cliche as it sounds… it is true. How do I know? Your dad and I have never been blessed with an excessive amount of money but we have been blessed with immeasurable joy. Don’t stretch yourself thin or sacrifice the relationships we just talked about for money. I pray you are financially secure as you head out on your own. But, I promise you, all the riches of the world will not replace the love and happiness you get from living your life to the fullest with those you adore. Even through the rough patches, find the joy. Do not let money own you.
Live YOUR dreams. Not mine. Not someone else’s. Discover what it is that you are here for and go after it. Do not let anyone ever tell you that you are not good enough. I have told you since you were a baby… and still do now… you hold the world in your hands. It is yours to do as you please. Go out there and be a world changer. I know you can do mighty things no matter how you choose to manifest those talents that have been given to you. Be YOU.
Be prepared to fail. To make mistakes. Move on and make more. The hardest thing for me to do is to watch you fall. Literally or metaphorically, my maternal instinct wants to pick you up, wipe away your tears, and help you try again. But sometimes… well, sometimes I cannot do that. I may not be there or, as hard as it is, I simply have to let you learn on your own. That pains me to no end. I never want you to feel hurt. Ever. But life is a learning process and you need to experience it in order to truly live it. I do not know that I can always sit back and observe, but know that I will do my best to do so. Most importantly, please learn from my mistakes. Your dad’s mistakes. Be smart… not perfect.
Trust your gut. Listen to your mom. Pray about big decisions. Life is a journey with many forks in the road. Each and every turn is a new adventure. Be grateful for the opportunities that come your way and patient with the ones that do not. Enjoy every day and be prepared for the next one. Live joyfully.
Love deeply. If your dad and I ever wanted to show you all anything, it was how to love. I pray we have taught you that. Love with all you have. There is no greater feeling than to love and be loved passionately. I desperately want this for you. I absolutely love… love.
You will most likely never understand why I chose the lessons I did… until you have your own 17 year old child. But know that I want the very best for you. For you to be happy. To enjoy the journey. To be loved. I have been and continue to be. I want nothing less for you.
With all I have… I love you to the moon and much further beyond,