Dear Jess: What you know now.

I have a thing with dates. I remember them uncannily well- If we went to elementary school together, or worked together for a year or so, chances are high I remember your birthday. I remember the days I met certain people, took certain trips, or saw certain movies (Titanic: December 27, 1997).

Some think it’s impressive, some are understandably creeped out…but I remember dates, especially those that have held significant meaning to me over the years. And it always makes me smile (or cringe) when those days come around each year, because I still remember who I was when that significant event occurred. I remember, vividly, how I felt, and how more often than not, the sky seemed to be falling and nothing would be right again. And I think about what I wish I knew. What I wish I could go back and tell that girl, or that young woman. For starters:

September 26, 2010

Dear Jess,

You’re sitting in church next to the latest in a long line of guys that wastes your time and gets your hopes up. The 11am service just started, and as his eyes wander around the room at other women, it’s become clear he’s just here to be your friend and avoid sitting alone. And you’re just so over this shit. I know. Keep your head up. Keep smiling. In 45 minutes, you’re going to meet your husband, and he will never hide his intentions from you or leave you confused. In less than two and a half years from right now, you’ll be taking your wedding pictures in this very building. Just keep going.

July 29, 1996

Dear Jess,

Oh, sweet girl. Your Grandpa passed away today. You’re only 10, and this is the first loss you’ve ever experienced. I see you crying on your twin bed with the pink comforter, wishing you could have just one more day with him. I won’t lie to you…you’ll never stop wishing that. But hold on, little one…19 years from now, you’ll greet this day by pushing and fighting through the worst pain you’ve ever known as you bring Sadie Lorraine into the world. Your heart will break that her arrival and her life are another thing Grandpa will miss. But you will understand the aching beauty of this life we live. You will hurt so badly with the knowledge that life leaves this world, while you are filled with wonder and hope…because life comes back in.  Just keep going.

February 2, 2004

Dear Jess,

You cried yourself to sleep at 3am this morning because your first real boyfriend dumped you last night. I’m tempted to tell you that you should have known…that an 18-year-old boy will take all that you’re willing to give him, whether he loves you or not. But you couldn’t know that, not yet. Frankly, you won’t know that for many more years. That’s a lesson you’ll need to learn the hard way, and that’s okay. The first cut is the deepest, precious girl. I know you’re pretty damn sure you will never, ever recover from this. You’re going to spend some months with no makeup on, wearing sweatshirts and ponytails, hoping and hurting. And then one day you’ll wake up and that pit in your stomach will be gone. You’ll feel like you again. And because you are young, you will dive right back into another relationship, and your heart will break again–all before your next birthday!

You will take longer than you should to realize that the right love only comes when you love yourself more than the idea of a guy in your life. For such a smart, capable, beautiful young woman, you will suffer more than your share of heartbreak because you didn’t prioritize falling in love with YOU before falling in love with them. But you’ll learn from it, and be better for it. 13 years from now, you’ll be sitting in the beautiful home you share with your husband, watching your perfect daughter sleeping. You’ll see the sunrise from your living room window, and be so grateful for it all…Precious girl, I can’t wait for you to see this life. Just keep going

February 2, 2017

Dear Jess,

This day is mostly unwritten. On the docket is a preschool tour, a meeting, and class, as you work toward your master’s degree. The last weeks and months of your life have been tainted by anxiety and often all-out fear over the future of your country, of the world. I can’t tell you it will all be okay for certain, but I am so hopeful. So many days in your life have been marked by pain, uncertainty, and worry. But remember, and never forget how many more of your days have held unbridled joy, laughter, and hope. So do what you’ve always done: keep your head up, and keep smiling.

My prayer is that 5, 10, and 20 years down the road I can write to you and say, once again:

I can’t wait for you to see this life. 

Just keep going.