July 8, 2017

To My 18-Year-Old Self

I'm seeing graduation posts pop up left and right on Facebook of my friend's younger siblings and my little cousins--who aren't so little anymore. Last month was their high school graduation and it's left me feeling a little sentimental and reminiscent. Trust me, I don't want to go back to high school, I'm perfectly fine being in this mid-twenties post-college married chapter of my life, and have zero desire to move backwards. But with all these high school graduations happening around me, my mind can't help but take me back to that beautiful time in my life when every choice I made was going to majorly impact the direction of my life. Oh nostalgia.

I'm 26 years old now and have lived exactly 8 years since my high school graduation. (Um, wow; this is a hard pill to swallow, considering I still feel like a teenybopper sometimes.) If my 26-year-old self magically showed up at my graduation and pulled my young-platinum-blonde-haired-bright-eyed-18-year-old self away for a few minutes to tell me what the next 8 years of my life were going to look like...I would not believe a word of it. There's no way! Would I be totally happy and pleasantly pleased with everything I'd hear? Honestly no, and that's only because I had such different expectations for my life at that time. I didn't know how much I was going to change the following years after high school and I especially didn't know the hardships I was going to face.  And I can't imagine being told in advanced the exact struggle I'm going to experience in a few years. I think it'd be the same concept if God laid out our entire future on this earth in front of us, our future according to HIS plans. I imagine there'd be some disappointment and/or confusion as it definitely wouldn't match up to our plans, but God knows best you guys. "The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

Besides a little shock and disappointment, some of the things I'd hear would absolutely blow me away! I mean, if I could I'd give myself a huge high-five! Way to Go, self! How'd you ever manage to pull that off?! WHO ARE YOU?!

With that said, things I would say to my freshly graduated 18-year-old-self regarding my future:

One day, you're gonna wish you hadn't tanned so much. Look at those crows-feet next to your eyes! You should have listened to your mother, Jennifer. Tisk tisk.

That guy that you're pining over right now, the one who never showed up today, he's actually gonna break a little piece of your heart this summer. Hard to believe, I know. Of course you'll go through some healing over time, but then...he's gonna come back into your life and break off another piece and you'll feel the hurt all over again. I wish you weren't going to give him so much of your time and thoughts. Even though I wish you would have just kept your standards high from the beginning, this season of heartbreak you're about to endure will teach you so much not only about yourself, but about the qualities of a guy you're looking for in a future husband, the man that you're going to choose to spend the rest of your life with. I know you're not going to listen to anyone and you'll ignore all the red flags because you're so hung up on him, but just know that God's got you throughout this whole thing.

Your huge princess high-school-graduation dress cost more than your wedding dress. Isn't that funny?!

Your best friend, the one who's hip you're attached to (or may as well should be attached to), you're gonna make it! Despite all the choices you two are gonna make, the misunderstandings, the different directions you'll go, and all the times you'll tell her in September goodbye, see you at Christmas! you guys are gonna be even closer in 8 years than you are now! I know it's so hard to believe you could possibly be any closer, but it's true! And bonus, you guys fulfilled your promises of being each others' maid of honours! (Yes, you get married but we're getting to that later!)
You're approaching your first year of university and you're super nervous about your roommate. What is she going to be like? Are we going to get along? What if we don't click...what if we hate each other? No need to worry because guess what?! You guys are going to hit it off from the moment you see each other; it's actually strange how amazingly you two will get along. Your friendship with her is honestly going to be the best part about your university experience in BC. As with EVERYTHING, God totally had His hand in this.

I know you envisioned four years of university to equip you to become a journalist/writer, but you're not even gonna make it past your first journalism class. Something inside just won't feel right and you're gonna drop it, just like that. Weird, I know! (But judging by the "ethics" and "standards" of journalists in 2017, you'll be glad it didn't work out.)

Don't go on that weekend trip to Oregon. Just don't. I know it's too late, but maybe you'll actually say no and miraculously change the course of the future?! Sigh...wishful thinking. 😜

In high school you got straight A's in practically every class, ESPECIALLY in English. OK, we both know I'm lying here--you didn't get straight A's in exactly every class...ugh, pre-calculus shouldn't count anyway. University is a little harder academically. When you receive your first grade back in English Lit and it's only a C, don't freak out like your life depended on that one essay grade (like I know you will), Keep trying!

You're going to go to Israel after your first year of university with your roomie and her parents!! ISRAEL. I'm so mad at you now for not grasping the significance of this whole concept and what a privilege it is to explore such an amazing country! While on this trip you'll be told that we'll be going to the Jordan River and will have an opportunity to be baptized. You'll have a no thank you, I'm good perspective on the idea, but the night before the bus ride down there your heart is pounding out of your chest and you just know that God wants you to do this, and you want to do it too! So, you get baptized in the Jordan River by your best friends' Dad and all of your honorary grandparents/aunt/uncles (fellow tour people) and your bestie-roomie there to witness it. What an incredible moment for you. My heart is still so full just thinking about it. Also, you're gonna ride a camel, which is always something to brag about.

When you're 19 your/our (?) parents are gonna semi-retire, sell the family farm, and buy a house in town. At the time you'll be very much OK with this; actually you'll be pretty excited because you've always wanted to try living in town. But now at 26, I'd give anything to run around on that farm land like it was mine again, surrounded by tall grass, flowers upon flowers, chickens, cows, hogs, and too many puppies and cats. When you're my age you're gonna be so thankful to God that He gave you the childhood of a farm girl. Make the most of it right now!

You're an awfully confusing child. We both know that because you grew up in a super-small town you always wanted to try your hand at a large university, bustling and busy with people. But after that  experience you change your mind and want a school experience that's smaller and more intimate. Remember that Bible school in Germany that your sister deserted you for a few years ago? (Haha!!) Well you're GOING and these 6 months in Germany will be the best, most influential in your life. Yes, really, I've been out of Germany for 6 years and I still miss the experience like no other.

You know how you hate public speaking? Well, in Germany they're going to have what is called a "Sharing Night", which is essentially an open mic to students who want to share their testimony with their peers. You always go to these types of things with a sit back and relax kind of mentality, just fully confident that other people have things on their hearts that they need to share and not you. Pfft. Believe it or not, your heart starts racing and your breaths start shortening and the Holy Spirit is nudging you to get up there. And you DO. You share your testimony in front of over 100 people, with nothing scripted or written down, you totally "wing" the whole thing just using the words that God has given you there in that moment. I know it doesn't sound like you at all, but you do it and it feels amazing!

And get this, you even sing in front of people--a solo--twice! Seriously, this is practically the bravest time in your life! Not to mention, one of those songs is Ours by Taylor Swift. It's only 2009 now so you haven't heard that song yet, but it's a good one.

(Speaking of Taylor Swift, she gradually shifts over from country to pop genre. She still writes amazing lyrics of course, but it's hard to picture a non-country Taylor at this moment in time, right? Enjoy the cowboy boots, flowy sun dresses, and long curly-haired Taylor while you can.) 😭
Anyway, back to me...or us I should say. (It's rather confusing talking to myself right now!) This next fact is a big one, are you ready? You're gonna meet your future husband at this Bible school in Germany. Eek! You know that saying "when you know you know?" Well it's true and I can't even begin to explain to you how you knew either--it's inexplainable. You just could NOT stop thinking about him and whenever you knew he was in the same room with you it was like you could barely keep a conversation going with the person you were with. πŸ˜…Also...he's an American, from Maryland, which is a tiny little state which I don't think you've even heard of. He has a really sweet accent too. Even though you never pictured yourself marrying someone from the same area and culture as you, AND you've always had a thing for Americans (archived blog posts from 2009 will prove this!), this is still a little shocking, right?
Not as shocking as it will be to your parents and siblings though. You and Jarryd, (that's his name, isn't it such a handsome name?) won't have the easiest time adjusting to life as a dating couple. To explain, you have to see things from their point of view. To them, he's a strange American guy from far away, AND not to mention he's dating the youngest daughter in the family, the "baby". Everyone is pretty protective over you and it's gonna feel weird, and it's gonna push a few buttons and rock the boat a little bit but just give it time. I promise you it'll all work out. Remember, you're not as mature and as responsible as you think you are, give it time.

You get an A.A Degree in Social Sciences. You go girl! But get this, while going for this degree, you're living in a dorm room in Saskatchewan that has its own kitchen. This is where you love of cooking and baking begins. The following year when you move to a condo in Manitoba, you once again have your own kitchen and your passion for all things culinary just keeps growing. (Yeah, you move around a TON and it's hard enough for your friends and family to keep track of, let alone you!) You decide to go to CULINARY SCHOOL! Jaw drop. Who on earth saw this coming?! No one, especially not you.

Culinary school is a fantastic experience for you (you were even one of the top two students!!), and you loved it so much you would have gladly done three more years of it to get a completed degree. But there was only time for a one year certificate. You learned SO much and realized you loved baking more than ever.

OK this is so incredibly random, but one of your summer jobs is working at a candy factory! And eating the Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish right off the line wasn't exactly discouraged by the supervisors. LOL, and you don't even like candy that much. What gives?

While living in Hamilton, ON in a little house with SIX girls, and doing the whole culinary school thing, Jarryd proposes to you with the most beautiful ring ever! Trust me, you're gonna love it, and that's mostly because you gave him an exact description in picture form of what you wanted. (Hey, you're the one who has to wear it on your finger for the rest of your life!) Oh, and the proposal is great; because Jarryd was such a nervous wreck you totally see it coming. I'd love to give you details but I'll let you find this out for yourself.

You have six bridesmaids, sounds like an abundance of women  and chiffon right? Well, the funny thing you could have easily had more, eeeeasily, but Jarryd had to draw the line somewhere. Haha! Oh and they all wear these gorgeous long flowy pastel dresses. Even  now, three years post-wedding I'm still in love with those dresses.

After you guys get married, you and Jarryd move to Maryland. That's right, you marry an American and you move to the USA at the age of 23. (And I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to hear this: your honeymoon is at Disney World! 😍  Heart eyes for days!!) Moving has always been easy for you, but this time it's exceptionally tough. The homesickness is never-ending. And moving away "permanently" comes with so much sacrifice too--I've lost count of the number of bridal showers, weddings, baby showers, and births that I've missed since moving away from Manitoba. I know it's so hard for you to believe right now, but thoughts of moving back home to Canada--to the town you grew up in actually cross your mind. Which is SO funny because right now, at 18 years old, all you want is to move away and see the rest of the world. I mean, they say you always come back, right? Haha! 

One of the best things about living in Maryland is the fact that D.C is an hour and a half away, and NYC is three hours away. FOR REAL! Weekend trips aren't as frequent as you'd like, as this is the real world and you have a full-time job you need to keep. But I say with a happy heart that you've actually lost track of the amount of times you've been to NYC--I wanna say four times...but it could be more. Also the beach is only 2 hours away! With that said, wherever you live it's important to explore and make the most of it!

Speaking of jobs, at 26 years old you're a chef at a continuing care facility for independent-living seniors. Can you even believe it? Sometimes it feels like an episode of Masterchef, minus Gordon Ramsay's yelling and all the swearing. At 18 you're not picturing this chef-coat career for yourself at all, in fact it's not even a mere thought in your brain, as I think the most you've cooked for yourself is a grilled cheese sandwich. (Wow, I just realized how much culinary knowledge I've attained in the past 8 years and I'm actually really proud of me...you...us.)

Being a chef is not your true passion. You'll hit a point in your life where you'll realize that sometimes passions and careers to make a living don't match up. My absolute true passion is baking, food photography, and blogging--but I'm not at a place right now where I can make that into a career for myself. It's just a hobby I suppose. So essentially going into work everyday as a chef is a mental battle; I don't have that specific and fiery zeal for cooking that some of my co-workers have, but I have the skill, the knowledge, and the desire to learn as much as I can about cooking and the science of it all. I'm actually good at it, so I may as well get paid for it. Haha!

Speaking of baking...you do cake, cupcake, and pie orders for people! In fact, you now have two wedding cakes under your belt, along with baby showers, birthday parties, holiday parties, church functions, and cake smash sessions, ect. This sweet passion of bespoke baking all started with a post on Facebook of your decorated cupcakes and it hasn't stopped since! This is amazing because even when you got married 3 years ago you didn't know a THING about wedding cakes or cakes and now your kitchen cupboards are filled with cake decorating supplies and your walls still have random splatters of buttercream on them. Oops.

You completed one of the most important goals off of your life's to-do list, getting married. But one of your next most important goals still hasn't be achieved: having a baby! The pace at which this is moving was actually pretty predictable. You never wanted to have kids right out of high school, and you wanted to have a few years alone with your husband before bringing a child into the mix; so according to what you've envisioned, things are going according to plan! You're 18 now, and in a few years you're gonna sit your boyfriend Jarryd down and tell him "You'd better break up with me now, because I can't picture myself having kids". YES, this was an absolute genuine feeling. I think you may have cried while telling him this, haha! (Obviously he knew better and didn't choose to end the relationship.)
But things change, people change, and goals change! A few years later you absolutely do picture having kids, especially now that you're married and can have a--very naive--vision of what they could potentially be like. Don't quote me on this, but this past year you've been experiencing what people call "baby fever". (Looking up baby videos on Youtube is a symptom.) This is crazy for me!! After years of thinking you're better off without kids, suddenly you want like 5 of them! (4 boys and 1 girl to be exact. Or maybe 3 boys and 2 girls would be better...a girl always needs a sister, right?) How funny is this though?! It's boggling how our desires and goals in life can flip flop over a season of time.

I'm telling you, the next 8 years of your life are going to be a whirlwind. You're gonna feel several different emotions through it all--excitement, anxiety, fulfillment, loneliness, homesickness, happiness, sadness, and the list goes on. The amount of times you move around and pick up and go is ridiculous--but you can't imagine the last 8 years any differently. Well, that's a lie, you can...but you wouldn't change the way you lived them. Especially because you can look at each of those seasons in life and pick out specific people that God has placed in your path (and maybe you in theirs?). I could literally write the longest list ever of people in my life who have changed me and bettered me! He's used these friends, siblings, best friends, husband (not plural haha!), parents/family members, co-workers, and fellow church-people to fulfill little pieces of your heart and point you in the right direction--to Him! What a blessing and an amazing God we have!

One of the best parts of looking back over all these years is seeing God weaved through my whole story. The amount of protection He provided for me is vast, and as He promises to us in the Bible, He never left me nor has He forsaken me. I'm so happy to tell you that even after all these years, you're still longing to be in relationship with Him. Unfortunately there's some seasons in your life when you neglected Him but He never neglected you! This relationship with Jesus will never reach complete fulfillment or full capacity here on earth and neither are you even close to it, but everyday you still desire it.
I'm not gonna lie, this was not easy blog post. It took me over a week to transform it from a mess of thoughts to organized typed form. At certain moments I had to shut the laptop, step away and call it a day. I even contemplated leaving it unfinished and saving it as a draft and callin' it quits. Sometimes going through old photographs and rehashing previous memories in life makes me a little sad. A lie I often tell myself is that I had it so good back then, that life was easy and I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have. So on top of the sadness I feel about being "homesick" for my "prime years", I feel guilty for letting those years slip away and taking it all for granted. This is silly of me, and I'm pretty sure I've already blogged about this issue of mine before. It's silly because a) nostalgia results in me only remembering the good things about the past and not the bad. I'm essentially seeing my past through tainted, rose-coloured glasses. and b) in five years I'm gonna look back at my life right now at 26 years of age and wish I'd have made the most of it! Get it together Jenny!! Maybe I didn't live my life with as much gratefulness as I could have, but hindsight is 20/20 and I was young. I can't go back, but what I can do from here on out is live with a thankful heart and enjoy the season that I'm in!

Does your current life match up with the life you envisioned for yourself when you were just 18 years old? Was there anything about your life choices that would have shocked your younger self? (I think the most shocking thing for me was my career choice; back then cooking and baking was so foreign, and now it's simply just a huge part of who I am.) If you can relate to this post at all, please tell me! I'd love to hear about it! Thanks for reading, friends! πŸ’—

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