Dear 18-Year-Old Self...

It's been almost ten years since I graduated from high school [yeah. i can't believe i'm getting that old], and I've been dwelling on it a lot lately as that milestone nears. I keep thinking about the person I was at 18 and the person I am now, and I decided to write a letter to my 18-year-old self:

Dear 18-Year-Old Self,

Congratulations! You're graduating high school! Ten years ago, you were sitting in the Great Plains Coliseum with the rest of your classmates, wearing that dark green cap and gown, talking excitedly with your friends about your summer plans, trying not to puke as you prepared to give your speech in front of the entire class [and their family, friends and other people]. You will have this perfect plan of how your life will work out, and you are convinced it will happen that way.

Guess what? It didn't. [you'll learn soon enough that plans hardly ever go the way you think they will] But you know what? That's OK. You will still have a great life, even if it doesn't go according to plan.

You will go to Oklahoma State and love every single moment of college. You will do things you never thought you'd do, win awards you weren't quite sure how you won, make lifelong friends and lose others. You will love your dorm, love your schooling, love your jobs and love college. You will try not to take your four years for granted, but you will - they fly by much quicker than you thought they would. But you will fall in love with OSU, bleed orange to the core, and be so glad you chose to go there instead of out of state.

The guy across the street? Yeah. THAT guy. You'll marry him. [don't make that face] You will find similarities - and differences - and fall in love with him. It will not be easy, and it will not be what you expected. But you will love him, and he will love you.

You will not become the sports PR person for the Dallas Mavericks. No matter how much you wanted it, you just didn't go for it. Deep down, you knew you didn't want to work crazy hours and travel all the time because you wanted to be with J, and start a family, and settle down. That alternate life you envisioned for yourself is the one that will come true, and you won't regret it for a second. [oh, and by the way - oklahoma gets its own nba franchise. i know, right?! we were surprised, too!]

You will become a mother A LOT sooner than you anticipated - but your son will make your life worth living. You will face lots of challenges with him, but he will always be your little boy, and you will love him more than you thought you could ever love anyone in your life. He will love you unconditionally in return, and it will be the most awesome thing ever. Having the title of "mommy" will be, by far, your most favorite title. You, he and J will have a rough few years, but with the strong support from your parents and sister, you will make it out and be OK. Everything will always be OK.

You will lose a child. And it will rock your world. You will not see it coming, you will not know how to handle it, and THAT'S OK. You will feel this indescribable pain that you would never wish on your worst enemy, and you will spend many days wondering if life is worth living anymore if you don't have both your boys. But it will be worth living. You will find the strength, the support, and the drive to keep going and to heal. It will not be easy, and you will continue to have bad days and miss your sweet angel for the rest of your life...but you will come out stronger on the other side, and he will forever be a big part of your life.

You will have a daughter. She will be absolutely beautiful. It will be a hard road getting her here, but your rainbow will be worth it, and she will be amazing. It will not be easy parenting a rainbow, and you will find days you feel like a failure to both of your living children. Stay strong. Keep pushing. You can do anything you set your mind to, trust me.

You will lose your way a few times with your family, but you will always go back. They are way more important than you give them credit for being. One day, you will tone the dramatics down and realize just how great they are. The teenage years of angst and "life's not fair!" will leave, and you will start to find the good in life again. Your family is a big part of that good in life, and don't you forget it.

You will find a job that you love, a life that you love, and you will be OK. It will not be the life you envisioned, at all. But you will not, for one second, regret any part of your life. You are meant to do all the things you do, meant to make all the decisions you do, and it will make you a stronger and better person for facing everything head-on. You will learn to lean on people, trust people, make great friends who will always be there for you, and it will be a beautiful life.

You will face the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. You will wonder if life could get any better and if life could get any worse. You will question your decisions, your ability to be a good mom, your ability to keep it all together when things are bad. But you will do it. You are strong, you are beautiful, and you are worth it. You won't always remember that, but it will always be true.

So congratulations, 18-year-old self. You have SO much more life to live, and remember - it is the life you were meant to live. Enjoy it.

28-Year-Old Self