I'd like to share some things I've learned in my three decades on this planet.
This is more directed to 18 year old Monica. She was fresh out of high school, where the world was her oyster. That girl was equal parts brave and scared. She had a lot of hard lessons to learn and a lot of wonderful ones too.
So to you, 18-year old Monica, I tell you the following things you will have learned by your 30th birthday:
1) Life is better with dessert.
2) You are an extroverted-introvert. (Yes, that's a real thing.) It's OK to need people just as much as you need space.
3) You feel closest to God when you are in nature or listening to music. Embrace that.
4) It might be take a few more late nights and a bit lower grades, but make some memories your Freshman year and actually allow yourself to have fun with your roommates.
5) Sometimes (OK, a lot of times), it really stinks being a woman.
6) You will get over him. I promise.
7) Eating disorders and all the other mental ailments they bring will nearly break you. But they won't. So don't you quit!
8) Spend more money on your study abroad. And for goodness sake, eat way more food.
9) 99% of politicians are corrupt. It's OK to be a moderate independent and never know who the heck you’re voting for.
10) Being a teacher is MUCH, much harder than you ever imagined it to be while growing up.
11) You will give natural childbirth. Twice. And you will have an epidural, once. Both are good.
12) Self-doubt is your greatest demon.
13) Becoming a runner will be the best thing you can do for your sanity.
14) Important life decisions will always be right around the corner.
15) Marry your best friend and you'll skip the dramatic early newlywed years so many experience.
16) You ARE a feminist. That is not a dirty word.
17) Your parents and siblings will always, always be there for you. You are so lucky! (Even if your husband is their favorite.)
18) Open your mouth. Sure, say hard things when it's needed. But, more importantly, you must share your struggles so you can help others through theirs. That is true humanity. Suffering silently will help no one, especially yourself.
19) Never underestimate the joy that a good show-binge will provide.
20) Let go of anger, even when it’s justified. Otherwise, it will corrode your happiness.
21) Forget all the stressful times of your life: bad breakups, crazy-long papers and finals, 80 hour work-weeks your first year of teaching, and the roller-coaster emotions that being a woman entails--the most stressful year of your life will be the year after giving birth to your third child. Let me remind you, you will be a stay-at-home mom.
22) That being said, nothing will give you greater joy than loving your children fiercely and the breath-taking love they give back.
23) You actually are the "creative type." Seriously.
24) Choosing your faith will help you make a lot of peace with a lot of things.
25) You will be right to wait a long time before getting a smart phone. And when you do, do a better job of not letting it interfere with being present. Also related, comparison is the thief of joy.
26) Being brave is scary. Being yourself is scary too. But trying to be both will make you feel freer and happier than you have in a long while.
27) You will always struggle with feeling left out. Just remind yourself that most of the time, people are not doing so intentionally. And even more importantly, that you are guilty of it yourself.
28) Harry Potter will always be there for you.
29) It'll be soul-searchingly-difficult, but you will never, ever regret choosing to stay home with your young children. That doesn't mean you can't still have goals and dreams outside of motherhood. Seeking fulfillment for yourself will make you a far better mother.
30) Life is unfair. That’s the point! Instead, look for how life is unfair in the best of ways for you, how you have so, so many blessings a large majority of the world only dreams of. Be more grateful, and less fearful.
18-year old Monica, last thing: you are far from perfect and you are still trying to figure things out, but I am proud of you.