Dear 20-year-old Rita,
Turning 40 is going to panic you but try not to fall apart. Here’s a little advice from your older, wiser self to help you through the next several years.
You are just figuring out that your parents aren’t perfect. Take it easy on them. They raised six children. (That’s double the amount that you’ll be brave enough to parent!) And, they didn’t kill any of them! They are great people. After you have your own babies, you’ll feel blessed every day to be their daughter and hope that your children feel as loved as you do.
Try to stand out in a class at BYU once-in-a-while. You’re going to need some letters of recommendation for graduate school in a few years. You will be surprised that you enjoy working outside the home and the wrestle between work and family will be a long one. You will strike a balance and feel blessed for it.
Be nice to the nerds that ask you on dates. You’re going to get tired of watching all your friends date and get married so be happy that anyone asks you out! You really are a magnet for geeks but guess what…you’ll end up marrying one and he is great. He’s cute and clever and will think you’re the same.
Embrace your emotionality. It’s actually a strength, not a weakness. Using your compassion and warmth to understand and help other people will bring you happiness and a sense of purpose. You will count as a gift even brief encounters with other of God’s children. Continue to develop your sincere interest in people who cross your path and you will learn and love much.
You will be a runner! Quit laughing. Seriously, your chubby, non-athletic body will take you down the road for many miles. You’ll learn to love hating it and even run some marathons. Oh, and you’ll still be chubby and non- athletic. Sorry.
Your future kids are funny, smart and beautiful. You will love each of them in completely different ways but more deeply than you can imagine. As discouraged as you get as a mom, know that they love you too. Savor the small moments that you recognize and believe this. You have scores of hopes and desires for your kids but some will go unrealized when you learn to choose your battles. Work to let go of what you want and focus on showing that you love them no matter what. (Spoiler alert—that universal parent’s wish…that you will have kids just like you…It’s gonna happen. Brace yourself.)
You will accomplish a lot of things that you do not feel capable of right now. Work to acknowledge your capacity to achieve but don’t misinterpret your skills as invincibility. Figure out the difference between humility and weakness. Ask for help when you need it and don’t feel bad when you do. I am sorry to tell you that your tiring struggle with insecurity will persist. Oh that you could absorb the genuine appreciation and love that others heap on you. Sadly, they will not convince you of your worth. Please find a way to figure this out.
Take some deep breaths. You’re going to make it.
P.S. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen. Your skin will never tan and your multitudes of freckles do not coalesce into one.