A letter to my 17 year old self.

Working with adolescents on a daily basis, there’s so many lessons and advice I give them that I wish I could have given myself at 17. Things I know now, that I wish I knew then. You never realize the moments you become a better version of yourself until you look back on it. From me, to me.

Dear Ashleigh,

You’re 17. It’s what, 2008? You can barely imagine life beyond high school. Trying to figure out who you will become. You’re struggling with self-esteem and hate your appearance. You have friends, some frenemies. You’re scared to death to think about college, and growing up. You’re a good student, without trying very hard. You cherish family time, but don’t make it a priority. You’re fearless. And you don’t know it yet, but your life will change in so many ways over the next ten years.

Your love life. You will learn lessons from the heartbreak you’re experiencing this year and in the next two years to come. You will experience young love, passionate love, and you will lose it. It teaches you many lessons. It changes you as a person, as a woman. You will not love the same again, and not in a bad way. I know how much it hurts. I know how long you cry. I know how empty you feel. I know you prefer to face tough times alone, and that’s ok. You learn that the relationship you have with yourself is stronger than one you have with anyone else. You learn how to love life by yourself. But one day you’ll find a man that shows you a whole new world, and how love is supposed to feel. And you will get better looking. Not tooting the horn but, age treats you well, and at 26 you’re pretty damn happy with your appearance. Thank Mom, you got good genes. So those boys that don’t realize it now, will realize it a little too late. And it feels good.

People you hope will stay, will leave. Ones you never expected to stick around, are still here. I mean this. The people you are wasting tears on today and tomorrow, will not last in your life. Those people that are mean to you will not matter in 2017. You move on to better things, and you cut those people out like the strong woman you are. In a couple of years, that boy will wish he didn’t treat you so badly. And you will smile and wave to him, while holding the hand of the most handsome man you’ve ever met. He will be sorry someday, just be patient.

Think about your best friends. Two of them are still your best friends today, and you’re a bridesmaid in their weddings. Your friendship with them will grow, and you’ll go months without seeing each other because life happens. But they are always there. The friends in your class that you see everyday, sure, some stick around and you’ll see at the local bar. But they drift away. The frenemies are now simply Facebook friends. The friends you’ll meet in college will stay with you forever. The friendship you have with your best friend at 26, makes you laugh at the “friendships” you had at 17. It’s one of the truest things you’ll ever have and impossible to replace.

Family. Mom and dad are getting on your nerves, I know. However, when you go away to college you’ll appreciate them more than you know. And as you grow up, you realize they’re your best friends and will love you more than anyone else ever will. Dad will never stop dropping everything to fix your car. And mom will always be a phone call away to ask how to do …pretty much everything. Going to visit them is something you’ll look forward to, because there’s nothing like home. Your sister will become your favorite person more and more every year. The relationship you two have at 26, I couldn’t explain in words. But it is something you will treasure. You will cherish family on a whole nother level at 26, especially after some deaths in the family. Spending time with the family is one of my favorite things to do these days.

College. It will be your time. You will find yourself here, and you’ll never look back. In high school you may feel like you’re nobody, but in college you are somebody. You will drink until your sick and dance until you can’t feel your legs. You will laugh until you cry and have the times of your life. You’ll pull all nighters and go to work hungover. You’ll learn not to take shit from anyone. You stay fearless. You’ll be feisty, funny, and sassy. You’ll have your first apartment. You have like two house parties, so you could maybe liven that part up a bit with this info. You will meet people here that will be in your life forever. Plus, you meet that handsome man I was telling you about. You will figure out your passion for counseling. Which, you still do at 26, and you’re even going to get your Masters. It sucks, but you do it. You will change lives. You will make a difference.

So, even though this year may suck, it gets better. All of these people in your life right now are just puzzle pieces. You’ll make memories with them. Some good and some bad. The people who will change your life, you haven’t met yet. You will love the next ten years and all the adventures you’ll face. Becoming an adult really isn’t all that bad, especially with these people in your life. Sometimes I look back at you, at 17 and 18 years old and think how I had no idea what life had in store for me. Just always remember how strong you are when facing a tough time. Let me promise you one thing, everything will be alright.

Love, Ashleigh

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