Dear 25-Year-Old Awesome Me,
Congrats! You made it through a quarter of a century.
Most people are writing to the future with their hopes, curiosities and dreams. Or, they are writing to the past with reassurance, reflections and promises that things will get better. I can’t give you any of that because, presently, I am 25. Just like you.
I can’t promise that things will turn out or that they will go the way we hope. I can’t promise that our hopes and dreams will come true. But over the past six years, I think we have figured out that life never turns out the way we think it will... and that is okay. We will make it.
The past few years have been really tough. We got to college thinking that we were prepared to change the world and to become a big person. But it was one of the most humbling experiences we have ever faced thus far. It made us remember how big the world is, how small we are, and how unprepared we were for it all. Montana was good for the laid-back side of us, but it certainly did not help with the hustle and bustle of the east coast. Also, we kind of (well, really) forgot about our faith. It was easy to do that. But somehow, God still led us to the Breakthrough teaching internship and then to Teach for America.
Joining TFA was one of the few decisions that felt utterly right with our soul and heart. We were happy. But fighting with parents on a daily basis about our decision to join TFA was hard. We were used to having proud parents. A daily reminder that we had somehow failed them was painful.
The day we graduated was one we will never forget. It was a bitter day. Not bittersweet. Bitter. Life certainly hadn’t gone the way we had hoped. To have parents believe that college had ruined your potential was bitter. We vowed on that day that we would never feel this way again. Ever...
When we got to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, things didn’t get easier. Being thrust into a work week of 55+ hours while trying to maintain emotional and mental sanity for little ones was not an easy task. However, we were really happy. The first year passed by relatively quickly and when it ended, we were incredibly sad to see the year end. Never had any year felt so satisfying. We looked forward to the next year.
The next year punched us in the face and beat us down until we lost our sanity, our joy, the essence of our being. Everything was different. The person we were essentially married to, our co-teacher, who we spent 10+ hours with on a daily basis was not compatible with us... to put it mildly. Dad got cancer. We weren’t becoming the teacher we wanted to be. We were failing our kids. Our health was failing terribly and no one knew why. At the end of it all, we were forced to confront the ugly being that had crawled out from the chaos, suffering, and sorrow in the mirror.
In fighting that monster, we became stronger. It wasn’t easy, but in the end, we learned to embrace sorrow, to never take loved ones for granted, and to cherish every moment of life. We saw that if we were ever to change the world, then it started with showing small courtesies to those in our lives. We realized that sorrow, no matter how small, can warp a person. We learned to anchor our identity in a greater thing than our work, our accomplishments, our failures, the opinions of others, and a single person. We learned the value of inner peace and we will never ever let anyone take it away again. Through it all, we learned to live.
Life didn't turn out the way we wanted, but we certainly have lived! And I know we would never trade all of this for another life or for a different set of experiences.
Britta, while others may not think much of our journey, don’t forget all of the lessons we’ve learned during our great transforming time. Let others think what they will. Don’t forget that the last of our freedoms is to choose the way we feel about our situation and ourselves.
I love you. If God can love someone so flawed and imperfect as me, you can certainly love yourself. God’s strength is made perfect in your weaknesses.
Go be His beacon and love others even if they can’t love you or themselves. Live. Don’t let the monster beat you ever again.
With all my strength, love and hopes,