Monday, February 12, 2018

A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear 1991 Casey,

I'm writing to you specifically as opposed to, say, 1985 Casey, or Y2K Casey, because you sit at the brink of adulthood.

This is the year you graduated from high school.  You'll head off to college.  I know you have reservations about your college choice.  That tiny school of less than 600 students in that little hamlet in central Kansas is going to expand your world in ways you can't even dream are possible.  You're making the right decision.

Remember that over the next twenty years, because it's going to take you twice as long as you think to pay back those student loans you're about to take out.  :)

 It's all getting ready to unfold.  So here's a little bit of advice, since hindsight is 20/20:

I know you've struggled your whole life with fitting in and feeling good enough.  Hang in there.   You're getting ready to meet great people.

I will tell you that you're not going to meet your tribe for another 5 years or so,  (and it will take you another 20 after that to finally feel like you're good enough and stop wondering why they let you in in the first place) but that's okay.  You're not ready yet.  There's still some work to do to make you the kind of life-long friend they need.

One of those great people will one day ask you if you want to spend the rest of your lives together.  I know.  You're shocked  to hear someone will want to marry you and terrified that it will end in divorce.  Although I don't have a crystal ball to see into the future, I will tell you that at 23 years, it's still going the distance.  He'll be the most significant and influential example of unconditional love, grace, and mercy that you will experience.  He'll be the string that your balloon needs.  Your marriage won't be perfect.  He won't be.  You won't be.  Some years will be great.  Some will be terrible. But you'll grow up together and he will become your very best friend.

Let's chat about your college major for a minute.  I know you picked elementary education because you think you aren't really smart enough to do anything else.  I'm here to tell you from personal experience that teaching takes a level of intelligence that far exceeds that which you think you have.  If you still choose this path, you will have the privilege of working with some of the smartest, most caring, and sacrificial people you will ever meet.  You'll even have the honor of calling some of them "friends."  It's going to be difficult and thankless a lot of the time.  And at  age 45, you will still struggle with imposter syndrome and wonder when people are going to finally figure out that you have absolutely no idea what you are doing.

You are going to spend your 20's, 30's and into your 40's struggling with the burden of perfection and self-worth.   It's going an obsession.  And not a healthy one.   I know that mental health issues terrify you.  Well meaning people whom you love and love you will say to you and within your earshot that there isn't a need for Christians to seek care from a mental health professional.  They'll tell you that all a person needs is an authentic faith in Jesus and a flourishing prayer life.  Other people well tell you that you just need to eat better and exercise more.   You'll think deep down inside that going to therapy means you're crazy.

May I give you a piece of advice?  Ignore. that. crap.  Get a therapist.  Take medication.  Work through the stuff.  Start now.

By 2018 everyone will have a therapist.  You can be a trend setter.

There are four future humans and a pretty great guy that could really benefit from you addressing some of this sooner rather than later.

Yep.  You'll be a parent.  Sooner than you think or you plan for.   It's going to be the hardest and most rewarding thing you ever do.

Let me tell you this:  You will never.  Never.  Be a better parent than you are right now at this moment when you have no children, so savor and enjoy your wisdom.  As soon as that beautiful girl is placed in your arms for the very first time, you'll begin a journey of having absolutely no earthly idea what you are doing.

You will love those children fiercely.  But you won't get it all right.  You won't get a lot of it right.  They'll have issues.  Some of their issues will be your fault, so start saving for their therapy now.  Some of their issues will be entirely theirs.  You will look at each one of them with awe that you got to call them yours for a short time.  You'll be amazed, humbled, and so very proud of the people they turn out to be.

As you walk through the same seasons of life your own parents walked through, your judgement of them will soften.  You'll find yourself understanding their choices, frustrations, challenges, and even making some of their same mistakes.  You'll see their gifts.  You'll wish that you had some of their qualities.  You'll tell them you're sorry for the harshness with which you judged them when you were in your teens, twenties, and thirties.

You will aspire to be like them.  Their thoughts and opinions will come, over the next twenty years, to mean the world to you.

Over the years as you slowly become me, you'll look back on windows of your life.  You'll wonder how you could have believed that.  Thought that.  Reacted in that way.  Done that.  Said that (Oh, the number of times you will wonder HOW you could have said THAT).  You'll want do-overs.  You'll be embarrassed.

Be kind to yourself, please.  Becoming an adult is a process.  Your black/white, either/or, all/nothing personality will soften.  It will serve its purpose in your twenties by giving you a foundation for growth, but it will expand.  I can tell you that at age 45, you still won't have it all figured out, but it will get better.

This life upon which you are about to embark?

It's a good one.  There will be beautiful moments.  Funny moments.  Mundane moments.  Tragic moments.  Moments you regret, and moments you'd willingly relive if only that were possible.   Enjoy every minute of it.  It's going to go by very fast.

So let me leave you with just a couple of pieces of advice, if I can:

When in doubt, choose kindness.  So much is made better by just being kind.
Just because you think it doesn't mean others need or want to hear it.  Many times the kindest thing is just to say, "Oh, Man.  I am so sorry."  Talk less.  Listen more.

Oh, and finally:

Those acid washed, tapered jeans with the high waist and zippers all over that you found in the back of your closet while you were packing for college the other day?  Save those.  Your sixteen-year-old daughter will show you a pair just like them when you're shopping in 2018.

California.  You might start considering California.

2018 Casey


  1. This is great! And YOU are funny! And Great! You're great too!

  2. Your younger self sounds a heck of a lot like my younger self. :) I am just cracking the surface on feeling okay about myself at almost 38, I’m really looking forward to being 50 and maybe feeling like I have a handle on things. ;)

    You are an awesome person, and I am glad to know you and see your example. One of the first pieces of advice you gave me (though you weren’t trying to advise at the time) was about cereal. Lol. I was talking about how I worry about the kid’s food and cereal types (I had 2 little ones at the time with Nathan baking.) You said something to the effect of getting any cereal they will eat to make the mornings go easier. :) I stopped beating myself up about it and stopped fighting the mornings after that. It seems so silly, I know, but when I stock up on Cinnamon Toast Crunch instead of plain Cheerios, I take one part of my day and make it easier and I often mentally thank you for that. :)