A Letter to My Younger Self

I was outside playing with my kids the other day, when a couple of girls walked past us, on their way home from school. They looked about 14 or 15, and the bookbags slung over their backs seemed bigger than they were. One of the girls was clearly upset about something, exclaiming “It’s NOT FAIR!,” while the other girl listened and tried to say the right thing to cheer her up. I wanted to walk over to her and say so many things. I wanted to hug that girl, and let her know that whatever it is that’s upsetting her, will be long forgotten someday.

And I thought about myself at that age.

I thought about all the things I didn’t know back then. It got me thinking…what would I say to my teenage self?

Dear Liz,
Oh where to begin? There is so much I’d love to tell you right now. Mostly so you can relax for goodness sake, and stop being such a worrywart about everything! ‘Course, knowing you, it wouldn’t help anyway. You’d still worry just as much, and I’m sorry to say, you never outgrow that quality. Just wait until you become a mom (yes, you do…but you always knew that, didn’t you?). We’ll get to that…

I want to talk to you about friendship. There are some of your friends right now that will still be in your life when you’re old (you know, like – GASP – in your 30s!!). They are treasures. Especially your Lauren. Who else has known you since birth (literally), through the ups, the downs, the bad hair and braces, the boyfriends, the breakups, the everythings? No one. She will move out of state when she marries her Mr. Wonderful, and you won’t see her nearly as much as you’d like, but when you do, it’s like you were together 5 minutes ago. These are very special friendships, and you should cherish them like the gift that they are. And those ones who you realize make you feel not-so-good about yourself? You’ll break up. And that’s for the best, really. They served a purpose in your life for a time, they taught you a LOT (but you won’t see that until you’re older), and there will come a time when you realize that some relationships just don’t work out. It’s all ok, though. You keep the ones you love, and even more friends enter your life as you grow up. This is a whole new group you will meet – mostly through your kids – that end up being some of your best friendships. You will meet a lot of awesome women later on, who will teach you so much about the power and beauty of friendship. These women get you so well, and love you for exactly who you are. They cheer you on, support you, are genuinely happy when good things happen to you, and vice versa. Just sitting around with them, drinking a glass of wine…in so many ways you can’t believe you haven’t known them all your life. Treasure these ‘new’ friends too. Oh, and years from now, there’s a thing called Facebook that’s invented where you can reconnect with people from your past, and you know what? You will realize how wrong you were about so many people and even more friendships are born. So don’t cry one more tear about that “cool” girl who made fun of you for your braces, ‘cuz you know what? You end up not even remembering her name, and those braces eventually give way to becoming your Senior class’ “Most Beautiful Smile.” It’s all good, trust me.

And for the love of Pete, would you pleeease stop thinking every boy you date might be The One? I know, I know, it’s fun to doodle Liz Kaminski on your notebook a hundred times, but I hate to break it to you, most people don’t marry the boy they’re going steady with at 15. You will continue to think you’re going to marry every guy you hold hands with, that never changes, but one day, in your 20s, you decide to just have fun and stop all that crazy business. And you can probably guess what happens next. You start an awesome friendship with this guy named Paul. And it’s his last name you take. On paper, he sounds like the kind of guy you would never go for. But you throw away that list and realize he’s pretty much perfect for you. Great things happen when you’re not looking. Remember that.

I want you to think about the things you’re stressed about right now. You’re not going to remember 99% of them when you’re “grown up.” That note you passed in class that the teacher found and read aloud? THAT is not the end of the world, although I know it seems like it right now. The twos you got on your AP exams, and your SAT scores that barely passed 1000 will not matter in the long run. You’re going to get into a great school, go after your dream of becoming a teacher, and graduate with honors anyway. You’ve known since kindergarten that you’d become a teacher, and I am so proud of you for going after it. It is something you end up being very good at, and the first time a parent writes you a letter about how you’ve changed their son’s life…well, you’ll never forget it. But while you enjoyed it, there’s something you’ve always known you also wanted to do, even more. Become a mom. Still not there yet…I’ll get to that part, I promise. I know it’s the part you want to hear about the most.

Please appreciate Mom and Dad. They bust their butts trying to make your life as good as it can possible get. Dad will even take on a second job so that you and your brother and sisters can go to wonderful schools, and college. So cut him some slack if he seems exhausted and cranky sometimes. And you’re smart to save all those love notes Mom leaves for you on the kitchen counter or taped to the bathroom mirror, because you’ll read them over and over again in life, and they’ll always make you smile. When you grow up, you’re going to see how amazing they are, and how you really, truly lucked out in the parent department. Sure, they don’t let you watch Roseanne or Married with Children, and nope, they never do get cable, but trust me, when you have kids, you’ll understand why.

Life isn’t always going to be easy. You are going to have days that suck, I hate to tell you. Weeks and months in fact. Actually, there’s an entire year that will seem like the sun will never come out again (ugh, 2005), but you will make it through. One thing I know about you, is you know the importance of being happy. You always find it, somewhere, somehow, and for all those crappy days you experience, the awesome ones FAR outnumber them. So whenever you have a bad day in life, and when you hit 2005 and you experience the loss of one of your best friends, then you find out you might have a growth on your brain, oh, and then that you might not ever have children, (told you that year sucked) you’ll survive. The sun does come out again, and March 8th will start getting less and less painful. Not because you miss her any less, but because you have learned that while we don’t always understand why things happen, we will someday. God needed her, and you have accepted that. Life won’t be cloudy forever. Learning these lessons, and having faith are what get you through many hard times in the future. Like when Mom gets diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011…she’ll be so strong it’ll blow you away, and we all just pray and trust, pray and trust…and she survives. Can’t even tell you the amount of tears that will come out of your eyes during those months! But trust in God, Liz. Always.

Ok, ok, I know this is what you’re dying to know. That growth on your brain turned out to be nothing, and therefore has nothing to do with why you’re going through some fertility issues. So out of the clear blue sky you find out you’re pregnant – and it is the shock of all shocks. You will literally fall to your knees in your apartment (that is so cute, by the way!), crying, and saying “Thank you God! Thank you God!” And how’s this for a lesson? You find out this miraculous news at the very end of 2005. You know, that year that went down in history as your worst year ever? Faith, Young Liz. Don’t ever stop having it.You will have your first child, a daughter, in 2006. There are no words to describe how this changes your life. You think you know what to expect, but honey, you haven’t the foggiest. Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING can prepare you for parenthood. Your heart now beats outside your body, and you want to now live in a bubble with her (your husband can come too;), protecting every aspect of her precious life. She is your reason for being here, and she is amazing. You learn that while you always thought teaching was your calling, this is by far, your most important one. You have left your classroom and never looked back. Your second daughter will come along 18 months later, in 2008, and your heart feels like it could burst, but wait – it can’t – because it has to make room for your SON, who comes along 15 months later in 2009. Life is complete. You always thought you’d have 4 or 5, I know, but girl, trust me. Teaching 33 kids in a classroom is a cake walk compared to having 3 of your own. Three is just right for you and your husband. You feel so blessed, that some days you are moved to tears. (Yes, you’ve always been the emotional sort, that only gets worse;). Life is so, so very good.

Having kids also rids you of your body hangups that you have right now. I know you wish you were taller, curvier, prettier. But once you see how your body can carry and birth 3 children, you are in awe of it. It’s pretty remarkable what it has done, and a confidence is born that doesn’t exist right now. Hang in there, one day you will stop wishing for what you don’t have, and start being so thankful for what you’ve got. Your arms are strong enough to carry three kids at once, and the saggy skin around your belly button tells the story of those precious 27 months when you were blessed enough to carry those children. Your face will get some wrinkles too, but I like to think of them as ‘smile marks’ ;). Your feet cause you a ton of pain (and can you believe you will be seeing a podiatrist on a regular basis by the time you hit 30?!), but they hurt from your busy life, doing everything you love. It’s a small price to pay and you know that.

I wish you could have a crystal ball and see yourself in your 30s, in Gram and Granddad’s house (yes, can you believe you’ll be living there one day?!), and anytime you get hurt (which you will), or lose sleep wondering if that guy’s going to ask you to prom (which you will), you could see that these things don’t end up mattering in the slightest.

You are going to be A-OK, kid. No, much better than that. You are going to live that dream you’ve always dreamed. You are going to go to college, be a teacher, be a wife, be a mom. All those things. Because, even though you don’t think it or know it now, you’ve got what it takes to make your dreams happen. It’s all there, just waiting for you to figure it out. And you do, and you will laugh when you think back to your teenage years, all the “It’s NOT FAIR!”s, and all the unnecessary drama. But it’s all a part of your story – our story – and what a beautiful story it becomes.


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