Inspired by this post by Amanda at Shamelessly Sassy a long while ago.
Dear 18 Year Old Idealistic Dreamer Me,
You are not a trust fund baby or heir to some fortune that your parents didn't tell you about, and you will have student loans and will need to work for a living, so while your pricey liberal arts college (and perhaps a bit too liberal, arts aside, as you will later reflect) has a name locally, most in the rest of the country have never heard of it and won't give a squirrel's nut. Also, while your thoughts of majoring in English and Asian Studies sound all internationally sophisticated and interesting and whatnot, it's mostly useless if your goal is to be more employable and more gainfully so, as none of this will translate into a decent paycheck. This will suck complete ass, and you will remember it every month that you send money to the good student loan folks.
That said, do still do the Japanese language thing, though, no matter what else you study and even if fluency will likely always elude you, because living and working in Japan after college will be 3 of the best years of your life and will stay with you always (and might be something you repeat in 2009, shh, just maybe) and will influence much about who you will become, but please do travel to the places you thought you'd get back to but likely won't. No, really. For example, Bali will become scary after a nightclub bomb and will not seem as appealing (yes, really, lots of crazy stuff will be going on in your world, and your idealistic little heart will ache). Also, please visit New York like you have always wanted to do, and please go soon and take pictures of the magnificent skyline. I'll say nothing else on this because you won't believe me. Just go. Soon.
All that worrying about being pregnant whenever your period is late? Spend those times relaxing with your feet up, maybe even an umbrella drink if you'd like (um, yah, turns out? by the way, you are actually *not* an alcoholic, but you will learn how to truly live life more sanely thanks to 12 steps and some very excellent people met through 15 years of living clean and sober, so it will turn out to be so very worth it to have been wrong), and don't even bother being on the pill because the joke is on you: you can't get pregnant. Unfortunately, you might or might not be able to afford other options or even adoption (see above on what majors not to choose from a future paycheck perspective, just sayin'). Some day you will come to terms with this, but only kinda sorta barely as of this writing. Wish I could tell you more, but the rest is still unwritten, as some annoying but insightful pop song will someday say (a song that is also the theme to The Hills, a cotton candy for the mind kind of show you will watch just for giggles - some weird ass reality TV stuff awaits you, and it boggles the mind).
Also, go hug your mother right this instant. Again. Tight enough to never forget. All that mail she will forward to you at college? Hang on to every shred so that you don't end up with just one random envelope containing mundane stuff but that still bears her chicken scratch writing. Yes, you will lose her all too soon and after a great deal of suffering as her fully aware mind becomes imprisoned by a paralyzed body. You may as well know so that you can cherish the time you have. It's gonna get ugly on more fronts than you would ever have guessed. Please resign yourself right this instant to the fact that you will be "dropping out of college" for a year (which is more aptly described as "taking a year off," but you'll see it differently at the time due to drama, I know, I know, and I won't argue because you are too goddamn stubborn), just give in quickly instead of having to strain relationships over the same ultimate decision. You will still get to Japan, Buttercup, I promise, no worries, k? I know. It's all scary. You will be OK-ish, and you will come through the other side with a new kind of compassion. It will be a treasured gift and will prove again that good things can come from even the most profoundly sad events. I've said too much, and yet that's just the tip of the iceberg. This one is a toughie, but you are stronger than you ever imagined. Yep, the scared little girl in the corner alternately afraid of bullies or sometimes her own shadow just gave way one day to someone new - someone strong, baby, strong!
All that said, and even if you change not one damn thing because you like to do things your own way but don't like to tamper with outcomes too much, know that you will always be at home wherever you are because you will always choose to make it so, you will one day find out in an interview for certain that you will not compromise your integrity for a bigger paycheck, you will be loved in ways that will amaze you (even if part of it comes from having entirely too many cats - yes, you more than make up for not having one growing up - and one doesn't always pee in the box, so, um, have fun with that), you will actually get those student loans paid off before you turn 35, and you will always have a bit of the optimist and idealist in your core instead of becoming entirely bitter or jaded. Because you are awesome like that. Sure, you aren't perfect, but you are comfortable in your own skin, and you are in love with life and with grabbing hold and shaping it while also letting go and allowing yourself to be shaped by it, both.
See you when you get here. I'll leave the light on. Please bring me a latte (non-fat, please - calorie now have consequences).
36 year old you