A few days after my 25th birthday, I realized how much my life had changed over 5 years. Started and graduated undergraduate and graduate school and found myself traveling more across the US and globally than I ever imagined. The path has been wild, crazy, and challenging, but I probably wouldn’t like it if it weren’t.
Here’s a letter I wrote in reflection a few days after I turned 25.
Dear 20 year old self,
Wow, look at you. You’ve almost completed your first semester of college and you think you want to be a journalist, a creative writer, or perhaps a vet. Your first peak-season at UPS is beginning and your body is sore, you’re tired, you’re heartbroken that you had to leave Brazil and to put a cherry on top of it, you’re living in a crappy apartment in a concrete jungle. You have no idea what awaits you.
At 25, you’ll be living in your parents’ house. Now before you go and freak out because you’ve been gone from home and don’t plan on changing that, it is only temporary, and I promise you’ll like it, it is a nice break from having to be independent. Plus, you aren’t living in their basement anymore…but the heat reaches your room last so I’ll let you decide if that is an upgrade.
First, there are so many adventures ahead of you in the next five years, you can’t even imagine. There will be opportunities that come your way that you’ve never heard of and others that you never dreamed you’d be able to achieve. You’ll get a chance to see the Pope and celebrate mass overlooking the White House, you’ll climb mountains, you’ll write a rough draft of a novel, you’ll backpack, you’ll wander around Asia, you’ll personally experience the collapse of a government and a movement of rebellion and revolution. You’ll lose old and dear friends, but don’t worry the best ones will come back into your life in new and better ways. You’ll grow apart from people you never thought possible, you’ll meet people that make you want to be an even better human, even kinder, an even better student, a better teacher, a better friend, and a better Christian and you’ll feel inadequate around them because of just how amazing they are, but you’ll love every minute of it and you can best believe that they probably feel the same way about you.
Just you wait until you see the Andes, there aren’t enough pictures you can take to do their beauty justice, British Columbia as well. You’re still a wreck when driving through the mountains, well you’re still an anxious person in a car as well (and motion sick, can’t have all the success), but you’re working on getting better, and you love the views so that won’t exactly keep you away. Flying gets easier, just don’t get too cocky, you’ll have some big flights cancelled and you’ll get horribly sick occasionally.
Undergrad, you’re going to love it, but you work too much, try and take some time for you and relax, you won’t though, you haven’t exactly learned how or figured out that everything will work out somehow. Go to as many sporting events as possible and hang out with all the wonderful people you are meeting. Don’t worry in a matter of a month or two, you’ll meet some pretty awesome Brazilians and you won’t be as homesick…Portuguese classes help too, and on the ‘voltando pra casa’ front, you’ll have your flight booked next year and then four years after that again for a longer time. Apply for scholarships that you wouldn’t dream of getting and wait until you meet your study abroad friends, they are pretty fantastic and one of them will set your soul on fire for your faith again in a new way.
Now, make sure you take that job you saw the ad for on Facebook, I know I said to slow down your work life, and that semester is going to be insane, but that one you don’t think you have any qualifications for…the one that is more suited to your nursing student sister(s)…yeah, that’s how you’ll find out about ACE and that will change your life forever.
Notre Dame, it’ll be everything you dreamed and more, but not because of its absolutely beautiful campus or fun football games, but because you will meet hundreds of the greatest, most faith filled, young adults in the world. I’m not going to lie, graduate school will be the hardest two years of your life, but you have support. The first years of teaching are going to leave you exhausted and the kids are going to make you cry, but you’re not going to cry because it is hard, but because you love them so much that you hurt for them, that you can’t stand everything that isn’t going in their favor and you wish you could do something different. Then there will be that one time you cry because they were buttheads and you were being observed, but that time is out of pure embarrassment. AND oh the kids, what a joy and challenge they will bring into your lives. Be prepared for creativity and laughter, the best hugs, and all of the fighting, vomit, and poop you can imagine. Be prepared for the long hours and the painstaking crafts, and be prepared to fail and feel even more inadequate. Be prepared for the heartache that doesn’t heal because you had to say goodbye indefinitely, but don’t worry, you’ll see them again and that’ll move you to tears too because that love and that bond was and is real.
On campus, you’ll go to mass more than you ever imagined, at school you’ll look forward to Friday masses. The music and new energy you’ll find will renew you and it will do wonderful things for you and your soul.
Then you’ll move home, but not after you adventure and have more adventures planned and moving home will be the greatest gift you’ve given yourself. The school you’ll be working at is a wonderful drive and just the right hours that you’ll see the sunrise and the sunset everyday. The fall colors will make you giddy with joy and the fact that everyday you come home to your family, whom you really haven’t spent time with since you lived at home at 18, will be a true gift.
Stay open minded and always remember to be kind, you won’t remember many of the little things that happen, and you won’t feel any of the hurt that’ll happen on the eve of 25. Everything you do will be worth it, take chances, experience life, and also learn how to say ‘no’ occasionally.
Don’t forget to love on Grandpa as much as you can, he won’t be around when you get to where I am and that will be a goodbye you’ll wish you never had to say.
Enjoy your time.
You, in five years time.