My all-time favorite song – and I mean, all-time, hands-down, I-would-give-my-right-arm-to-have-written-it song – is “Letter to Me” by Brad Paisley. I can’t tell you the amount of times that song has saved my life – it’s gotten me through breakups, depression spells, anxiety attacks, and just plain tough days. (There have been quite a few of all of those.) In case you haven’t heard the song, LISTEN TO IT. (The link is below, so you have no excuse. It’s the live version, too, which makes it 100x better.)
The concept of the song has always been just so awesome to me. The entire song is a letter to his 17-year-old self; it’s funny, and it’s real, but the advice and encouragement he gives his past self is incredibly insightful. After all this time, it still gives me chills. I know I’m only 18, but man, if I could write a letter to my 15 or 16 or 17-year-old self… That would just be the best thing. I would tell that girl that she didn’t need to go to every single football game just because she wanted to meet boys. I would tell her that none of those boys she was with was right for her anyway. I would tell her to stop wearing so many bobby pins in her hair, I would tell her to lay off the McDonald’s, I would tell her to trust that God’s got a plan, because the anxiety and the depression do get better. (As Brad Paisley sings, “Have no fear, these are nowhere near the best years of your life.”) I would tell her that she doesn’t need a boy to make her happy, contrary to what she believes, because one day she will be 18 and single and loving herself more than any boy ever did. And happier. Happier than any of the boys in her past ever made her.
But I guess that’s the beauty of it, huh? I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be; we’re supposed to mess up and to live and to learn from our mistakes. So unfortunately, I can’t write a letter to the past me.
However, I can write a letter to the future me.
Now, that might seem kinda weird and cheesy, I know. But a few years ago, my mom had this idea to start a tradition of writing our future selves letters and putting them in our Christmas stockings when we put up the decorations for us to read a year later, when we got the decorations back out. I forgot about this little tradition when we decorated this year, and when I pulled my dark chocolate and my Starbucks gift card out of my stocking on Christmas morning, I was surprised to find a letter addressed, “To Caroline Watkins: Open Christmastime of 2015.” So, of course, I opened it, and read it, and cried.
I won’t sum up the whole thing, but basically, it was something along these lines:
I hope you’re still with your current boyfriend. I hope you have lost a some weight and gotten a little healthier. I hope you are less depressed and less anxious and I hope you are happy. Caroline, I really really hope this letter finds you happy.
Now, given that was 4 pages summed up into 4 sentences, it was a lot longer and a lot deeper than that. It made me laugh a little, because unfortunately, I’m not still with said boyfriend. However, I lost weight and I’ve got most of my anxiety under control and I am so happy. Honestly, I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.
But my favorite thing I said to myself in that whole 4-page letter was this:
More than anything, Caroline, if you have done nothing else this year, I hope you have gained the courage to share your story with more and more people. I hope you have done your best this year to spread God’s love in every way possible. If you have done nothing but that, then you’ve succeeded.
And that’s when the floodgates opened. Now, I know I’m not perfect. And I know I’m probably not spreading God’s love in every way possible; I’m sure there’s a lot more that I could be doing. But I will say, I think I’ve gained a lot more courage since I wrote that letter to myself. I think I’ve tried really hard to spread God’s love in 2015. I wish I could write a letter back to 17-year-old Caroline and tell her that I think I fulfilled most of her hopes for me. I like to think, or at least hope, that the 17-year-old Caroline would really look up to the 18-year-old one.
And I guess that’s all we can hope for. I guess that should always be our goal: to be someone our younger selves would look up to. A friend of mine once said, “The present me makes a lot of mistakes that future me has to take a lot of heat for.” I don’t want the future me to take a lot of heat for mistakes that the present me makes. I want the future me to be proud of the me I am right now. So, that’s what I’m going to try to make happen in 2016. Sure, I have my list of resolutions like everyone else does: I’d like to work out at least 5 days a week and I’d like to eat more salads and I’d like to go to Starbucks a little less. But the main thing I want to do this year is to spread God’s love in every way possible. I want to share my story in more and more ways, the story of how God took my brokenness and turned it into something beautiful: a story to tell and a thankful heart. I want to be the best example I can be for the younger girls in my life. And if I do nothing but that, I will have lived 2016 to the absolute fullest.
Of course, I encourage everyone to start the “letter to my future self” Christmas tradition. It’s so cool, to save the letters and to look back on how much has happened and how much has changed from Christmas to Christmas. (It’s especially entertaining when your letter from 2 years ago said, “A stupid boy just dumped you on Christmas Eve Eve. I hope you write a lot of mean songs about him and find someone way better.”) However, if you don’t decide to follow the letter tradition, I’ll at least encourage you to do this:
Be someone the younger you would look up to. If you’re being that, you’re being all you need to be.
God loves you SO much,