So ten years ago today I was a mere 18 years old. We were partying it up right, me and Sarah Schwarz, because she and I have birthdays that are right next to each other (hers is October 31st). We had a rockin' dance party with about 50+ of our closest friends. We had a DJ and cakes with our pictures on them and everything. Total blast! Probably one of my most memorable birthdays ever. Complete with choreographed dance moves to Vanilla Ice. Yeah...that's right...I said it! Now you're probably envisioning 18 year old Rachel rippin' up some Ice, Ice, Baby moves right?? Ha! Anyway...in commemoration of my birthday today (and the hopeful birth of sweet Emma Henderson!), I thought I'd write a letter to my 18 year old self. She ought to know what she has to look forward too...
Dear 18 Year Old Rachel,
First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! What a special birthday 18 is. It's the birthday where you are officially an "adult". It's the last birthday before you head off to college. It's a big one. But I wish you could see what lies ahead of you. 18 years old might seem ancient to you now, but looking back, we were so young! So innocent! So green! We had the world at our doorstep! So many options, so much to look forward to. I bet you have no idea what you're about to experience in the next 10 years. You have no idea who will still be by your side in 10 years, what new faces will emerge, what you'll leave behind, what you'll take with you. There is so much I want to tell you!
Let's start with what you think college will look like. You are SO excited now to embark on this whole University of Oklahoma thing. You think you're gonna play in the band, earn your scholarship by playing "a little" while you pursue a psychology degree and eventually go to law school to be a child advocacy lawyer. That's what you think! You're telling everyone that says "You should be a band director!" that you have "absolutely no interest in that". Interestingly enough, you'll only be at OU about 4 weeks before you'll decide they're right! And you'll switch your major and never look back. You'll excel at music education and realize that you can advocate for children on the podium of a band classroom. That really, there are more kids there that need you, and that advocating for them WHILE passing down your love of music to them will be so much more rewarding in the end! When you walked onto the OU campus last Spring, you felt something different. A vibe. A feeling. The pieces were falling into place. But I bet you didn't know that it will be there that you find your niche. It will be there that you'll find some of the greatest friends you've ever known. It will be there that you meet the love of your life! It will be on that South Oval that you'll hold his hand for the first time. It will be in your first apartment where you'll share your first kiss. You'll laugh more than you ever have! You'll stay up way too late, do way too many stupid college things that in 10 years you will STILL be laughing about! If only you knew now what you have to look forward too. You'd have more than one foot out the door headed to Norman sister!
What you think about love. Right now you think the person you're going to marry is going to be a lot like the relationships you've had so far. A boy who will be kind, compassionate, caring, and cute. You've got your little "list" of the 10 "criteria" you have for the man you're gonna marry. But what you don't know now is that your little list is obsolete. When God drops that man in your life, all lists and logic go out the window. You really will know! And believe it or not, he will be NOTHING like what you thought he would be (though he WILL be dark haired, blue eyed, tall, and handsome...Score!). He will have all the good parts about the boys you've already dated, but he won't have the bad. He will make you melt, inspire you, make you laugh, and introduce you to his fabulous family who will absorb you immediately! Right now you might even be thinking that your current relationship might "go the distance". You might be considering something long term. But you'll know in your heart that it doesn't quite fit. It will be hard to let go, but in the end it will be right. You'll learn lots from him, but when it's over, it will really be over. Never fear, though. Because it will only be a short year after the end of that relationship before you'll meet your Jonathan (that's his name by the way). And you'll be sold on the first date! Really!!
What you think about the future. You probably think that you'll get a job right out of college. You'll get married, buy a house, have a baby, and live the dream! But things won't work out quite like that. You will get married right out of college. You'll be engaged for a year, and that year will DRAG by (if you had it to do over again, you would have shortened that to like 8 months...max...). You'll get married, and move into a teeny little apartment. Your husband will start teaching, you'll start teaching, and then you will buy a super precious house in Houston. And you'll decide it's time to start a family. Be prepared. This part is a little scary. Things won't work out like you planned. You'll get pregnant in the first month of trying! You'll call family and announce the news and everyone will be so excited. They'll start buying baby presents and tell all their friends. And then, a few weeks later, you'll find out that your pregnancy is ectopic. And you'll have to go through probably the most difficult time in your life both physically and mentally. But you'll survive, I promise! You'll keep trying but you won't be successful. And it will hurt. But you'll keep getting little thumbs up from God letting you know that He's got this. It will all be okay. But your little idea about your future is way off. God has something else TOTALLY amazing in store for you! The baby thing will have to wait for Him. And the waiting will be tough...
A few short years later you will sell your precious little house. And you'll move. To the Bahamas. Cool right?? Jonathan will be accepted to medical school and you guys will take a giant leap of faith. You'll leave behind what is safe and comfortable to pursue what God has promised you! It will be trying, yes. But every day you'll get a vote of confidence from God that you're going in the right direction. You'll leave your very successful middle school band program in the hands of two new teachers and trek off to the Caribbean. You will have developed so many great relationships at your job that it will make it almost impossible to leave. You'll become great friends with a girl named Marivy who will be the orchestra director. You'll laugh and cry together and make great memories. And even though you'll be living in the Bahamas, you'll still talk to her really often! And then you'll meet Matt and Michelle there the Bahamas and you'll wonder where they've been all your lives! You'll find so much in common with them and that will just be one more thing that reminds you that God is looking out for you. My 28 year old self can't see beyond that right now, but my 32 year old self will be able to tell you all about the adventures and triumphs and successes. Stay tuned for that letter!
The people that are really close to you now...some will still be really close to you. Some even closer. Jared?? Yeah...of course he will still be in your life. But guess what?? Sara Figgins...the girl who interned at UBC the summer after 8th grade? He'll marry her. And you and Sara will become great friends. They'll be expecting a baby together in 10 years! They might even have her on your birthday! And you and Jonathan will consider yourselves Aunt and Uncle...you'll be that close to them! Jonathan will have a younger brother Patrick who you will get along with great. He'll be like the brother you never had. And he'll marry Nicole and she will become like a sister to you. Your parents will move to El Paso. Yep...El Paso. Crazy right?!? They'll live there for a few years and then they'll start building retirement property near Ft. Worth. Your dad will get his pilot's license and practically become a jet setter! You and Jonathan will find a sweet little puppy at a shelter in Norman and you'll name her Matilda. She'll be the worlds best dog and she'll go literally everywhere with you. She will be more than a dog though. She'll be like your baby. And she will travel to the Bahamas with you and keep you company. Be prepared for that shelter trip...you're really not going "just to look"!
If I have any advice for you, dear 18-year-old Rachel, it is to expect the unexpected. Don't try to plan things out. If you plan it out, it will most likely NOT turn out that way. Learn to rest on God's promises. Learn to listen. Learn to be compassionate, but also stand up for yourself! Take risks. Listen to people who know better. They're usually right! But listen to your heart too. It's usually right too. Work hard, be selfless, be understanding. Learn to communicate. Learn how to maintain relationships in your life that build you up...not tear you down. Learn to look into the future with anticipation and not fear. Because God is going ahead of you. He's preparing the way! All you have to do is follow!
Happy Happy Birthday!
Your 28-Year-Old Self