Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

June 27, 2014

Giving advice to a younger you

— “Hello! In one month I’ll turn 25 which seems so old and young all at the same time,” began the Facebook email message. “But with turning 25, I feel like I’m analyzing my whole life and wondering what exactly it is that I’m doing with life. Which I am sure you all have experienced at some point. But to the point, I would like for you all to write me a letter to your 25-year-old self. Not a letter to me, but a letter to who you were at 25. Give yourself the advice that you wish you would have known.”

The message came from the eldest daughter of one of my dearest friends. Of course, I wanted to honor the request. But I worried that it would be fraught with unanticipated emotion. Not knowing how to start or where it would go or end, I began writing:

Dear 25-year-old Jaletta: You are in the right place. You may be wondering about that, since you are a California native now living in Bluefield in the snow and cold, thousands of miles from all your friends and family. You moved all by yourself across the country, packing your belongings in your silver Toyota, and, as you scrape ice off your windshield and spend many evenings alone after a long day at a new job where your learning curve is very, very steep, you might be wondering, ‘Did I do the right thing?’

Let me assure you, you did.

You took a chance. You took risks. You would have missed out on a lot, though, if you didn’t.

You think you’re going to be here for one or two years and then return to California. It won’t work out that way exactly.

You will require a great deal of patience from your new boss, your news director. But, for some reason, he will supply it in copious amounts. You will also require a great deal of training from your producers, photographers, fellow reporters and assignment editor. But you’ll learn this new job and do OK at it. You will meet people you’ll still know two decades later. You’ll be lucky to have them in your life.

Even though you will never again live in your golden home state and will remain physically distant from the life you led for the first 25 years, you will grow roots in the southeast and will find new, deep and lasting friendships and create new family. You will cling to the former family and loved ones but expand your community across the country.

You will fall in love and want to get married. It’ll take a little while for him to figure out that this is a really good idea, but once he does he will be completely and totally on board. He will be a fantastic husband and a wonderful father. And a great cook. You know you hate to cook. Trust me, that won’t change in another 25 years.

You will have two beautiful girls. There will be fevers and stomach viruses, there will be tears over hurt feelings on the playground, there will be giggling and laughter during sleepovers, there will be squeals of joy and shouts of adolescent angst and there will be wonderful experiences and memories that will fill your heart and mind. You will discover new depths to your ability to love.

You will also find a new depth to pain. There will be excruciating grief and loss. There will be unanswered questions and unfathomable facts. You will shed more tears than you knew existed inside of you.

But you will have an inexplicable belief in surviving it all mostly intact. You will have a logically indefensible resolve to power through the bitter reality to reach a better end. You will keep a shaky but determined faith that life will get better because God doesn’t want you and your loved ones to suffer to the end.

You will have a career doing something you love that is rewarding in ways that you can’t take to the bank. But that’s OK. You will be compelled to write and it will compel you through many parts of your life.

You will be surrounded by more love and support than you can imagine. You will feel it radiate from corners near and far. You will take more chances and risks and not be afraid to go out in the world alone nor be afraid to bring the world into your life.

You think you are pretty tough now. You think you are pretty independent. You think you have a good sense of self. But you will see that you are much tougher than that 25 year old. You will discover that independence is overrated at some points in your life — although it’s always good to have it in your toolbox. You will learn that your sense of self will evolve and transform and part of having a good sense of self is being willing to see what you become without having any idea what that’ll look like or how you’ll get there.

The first 25 years are exciting and full of discovery. But so are the second 25 years. Just keep an open mind to follow the path that feels right and don’t rely on others to tell you what direction to go. And don’t expect everything to go the way you want or be able to avoid hurt and pain. Just expect to get through it.

Oh, and you have put God on a shelf, but you’ll get him back off and that will be a critical part of the next 25 years. Not sure where you’d be — where we’d be — if you didn’t do that.

So, let’s both see what happens in the upcoming 25 years — maybe it will be as full of discovery and love ... and maybe the worst is behind us and we can look ahead with hope to what the next 25 years bring.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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