Dear 18-Year Old Me: 5 Things I Would Tell Myself.

Hello friends!

If you’ve been reading my posts since pretty much day one, I wrote a blog 4 years ago about what I wish I had known at 14. (Read here, if you want!)

I’m almost 23 now and have learned a lot since writing that blog! Unlike the last post,  these 5 things are more of a hug, or a word of encouragement like “You will get through this,” rather than wishing I had done things differently. Turning 18 is a big deal; your post-high school world opens and you feel a whole lot smaller, very vulnerable, but also in a beautiful place to learn a lot about yourself.

Here are 5 things that current me would tell 18-year old me as words of encouragement.

Dear 18-year old me,

  • Your faith will be deconstructed, but you won’t lose it.

Growing up going to church and becoming a Christian at a young age set a great foundation for you! You witnessed and experienced some messed up religious legalism that was surfacing. You were hurt and felt rejected by people your own age and church leadership. So you really started to ask a lot of questions about Christianity. The hurt brought you to a place where you stopped going to church for a couple years, because why would you force yourself to go to a place where you felt rejected by people who claimed to know the same loving God you knew? This intense anger you hold so tightly against the people who hurt you will end. Through having a safe place like Campus Church, friends and family who journeyed with you and counselling/therapy, you will find healing. But having multiple true encounters with Jesus showing who he is and letting him soften off some really rough edges is where it will truly happen. Realizing that all this legalistic and “religious” nonsense is not true to what scripture says and who God is. God is not transactional; he’s relational and transformational. He’s not a “God-in-a-box.” He’s the Creator of all living things, and he made you wonderfully. He can take all of the questions, the tears, the anger and doubt because he’s bigger than we’ll ever be able to know. He loves us and wants us to walk with him in this confusing and messed up life where we feel like we’re winging it 95% (if not more) of the time. And it’s okay to not know or be able to comprehend everything. Life’s a journey, kiddo!

Realizing who Jesus is became so freeing because you stopped relying on the church and other Christians to be the foundation of your relationship with God. You’re not serving a church or its denomination; you’re serving God. 

And, y’know, people who hurt you are just as broken as you are. You will feel resentment towards them, but you will forgive them. And you will see that they are beloved sons and daughters of God; knowing that will create a lot of empathy towards others.

  • You are not defined by any diagnosis.

Oh, by the way, you don’t have Asperger’s. You have a Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NVLD). That is a DOOZY to process. Not only have you had to process growing up with a misdiagnosis of Asperger’s as a little one, but now you have been re-diagnosed with NVLD. And, surprise, kiddo, you still have ADHD (shocker lol).  

But… you are defined by neither. It may feel like it at times because having learning disabilities is mentally and emotionally exhausting. Society is changing, slowly, and people are beginning to accept that a huge part of diversity is also neurodiversity. There are still people who think learning disabilities can either be cured, fixed, or that they don’t even exist.

Kiddo, your worth isn’t in what you can do or who people want or expect you to be; your worth is found in the Creator and lover of your soul, Jesus. You aren’t useless or dumb; you just come at things a little differently, and that’s okay! You will do great things.

(I’ve written about having learning disabilities in more detail in past posts. Read here or here! Learn more about NVLD and ADHD at Understood.org or The NVLD Project)

  • Learning to love yourself doesn’t happen overnight.

You know how one day you woke up being sick and tired of feeling insecure about yourself, period? It was great fun getting your nose pierced because it was a first attempt at confident self-expression. We all have to start somewhere! But that’s not going long-term confidence in yourself! Stop trying to make things happen overnight. There will be disappointments, but there are no shortcuts. Don’t be fixated on “fixing” yourself and risk not being present to life. Let God reveal himself through the ups and downs of learning to see yourself as a beloved daughter of His! You’ll grow to love and accept your body, mind and soul. Trust me!

  • You will learn about giving others and yourself grace and space.

Hey! Little Miss stress-case-perfectionist: give yourself grace and space. You are a human being full of emotion, angst, wonder and a tenacious want for things to always be good. The truth is, things aren’t always going to be good. You’re going to let your emotions get the best of you and you are going to mess up. But that’s part of the whole life thing. You’ll find that when you let God show you his grace, you’ll begin to give yourself grace. And now that you’ve experienced grace in brokenness, you’ll be able to have grace for other people.The gentleness that comes from grace looks good on you, kid!

  • The hopes and dreams you have now will barely match up to the ones you’ll have later.

I think the reason you want to get a Ph.D is because you’re trying to prove yourself and the world wrong that you’re dumb, not because you actually really want to do it. I have no doubt that starting out in university was a good thing, but it certainly isn’t your destiny. Going to college and getting a diploma is just the beginning of figuring out what your hopes and dreams really are. And guess what? After you graduate college there will be disappointments, HUGE disappointments. But you are not going to be crushed because you will hold on to the knowledge that God has something better.

Kiddo, make sure your hopes and dreams are aligned with your love for Jesus and his love for you! There is always, always, ALWAYS hope!

Thank you for reading this! I know I had a lot to say, but it’s important to be open and real about growing up.

If you could tell 18 year-old you ANYTHING, what would you say? Share in the comments and let’s chat!

Until next time,

Abby

 

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