Dear Me:

I’m traveling back over half a lifetime to whisper words in your young ear: some to encourage, some to warn. All are well-meant.

Honestly, girl, you spend too much time worrying about the size of your nose and your bowed legs. Once the days of drill team and cheerleading end, you won’t think about the legs much anymore. The nose won’t change, but seriously, you need to get over it.

Although you’ve grown up in the kitchen with your grandmothers and great-aunts, you haven’t noticed that they rarely write down recipes. You’ll earn a reputation for your delicious pecan pie and homemade crust, based on Grandmother’s instructions, but you’ll spend many Thanksgivings wishing someone in the family could make Aunt Thelma’s cornbread dressing.

Take notes on her pancakes, too. You’ll never eat better.

That plaque hanging on Aunt Mayme and Thelma’s wall with the praying hands and the “more things are wrought by prayer” quote? Let them know how much it means to you because they’ll sell it at a garage sale someday before moving to Georgia (I know you’ve never been there, but this grown-up me has lived here longer than you’ve been in Arkansas).

You’ll lose your mother before you give birth to your last child (we won’t even talk about how many children you’ll have; no spoilers here!). Enjoy every year you keep her. She’ll become more than your mom, practically your best friend. Although that’ll make it even harder to lose her, you won’t live with regrets that it could have been otherwise.

Later you’ll realize that you actually like both hydrangeas and the color orange (even though she doesn’t) and you’ll be blessed by sweet women who’ll do their best to love you like a mother when you need it.

Thankfully, we’ve got Daddy for a long time—he’s ageless! One day soon when you’re feeling low he’ll write you a love letter that you need to put in a safe place. Although you’d never throw it away, I can’t find it.

(I love how he’s talking all serious before throwing the punch line in that photo and Pappy’s already starting to smile.)

And now for a little tough love . . .

Please stop worrying so much about boys. They add way to much drama to your life and let’s face it: they just make you feel bad about yourself (you know it’s true). Believe it or not, you’ll find The One much sooner than you think (the last month of your senior year, to be exact). He falls for you when you still have braces and that’s surely a mark of True Love.

You’ve got some great girlfriends. Put your time and energy into those relationships instead and don’t be afraid to take them deeper.

God saved this boy just for you. He’ll make up for all the rest (and maybe you’ll appreciate him more by comparison after all).

You put too much faith in your intellect and not enough in your heart. Don’t be afraid to express yourself (take a look in your closet: you own too much gray for a teenager). Somewhere along the way you repressed your creativity and it takes years to get it back again. Please mix some art history, photography, and painting classes into all that cerebral stuff you study.

You’ll thank me later.

{the 40-something you}

I wrote this letter in honor of my friend Emily’s new book Graceful (For Young Women): Letting Go of Your Try-Hard Life (also available for Kindle). This Friday she’s inviting you to link up your own letter to your teenage self (you can even snag a cute graphic).

For a chance to win a copy right here, just leave a comment and share a piece of advice you’d give your teenage self.

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