hello, 1996…i’m back.

dear 18-year-old carrie,

hello! it’s me…from the future. i’m 30 now. take a moment and gasp. it’s not quite as bad as it might seem to you now. actually, you’re pretty rockin’, if i do say so myself.

it’s 1996. the presidential election–the first that you’ll ever vote in–is about to happen. your enthusiasm for politics is rather cute right now. keep it up. make that goal that you’ll vote in every election–it’s an important one. so far, we’ve done pretty good. the conviction that you have about how important civic participation is will confront a lot of apathy later. what you do now will make it a lot easier to know that they’re all idiots.

that’s a nice position to be in. in general, we like it when we’re right and we know it. try not to rub it in as much as you’d like to. that will be something that you’ll struggle with for a long time.

you’ve just moved to north carolina from california. to say that it’s a BIG adjustment is pretty much the biggest understatement of your life. take your time and don’t feel badly for needing it. you’ve just survived your first major hurricane and life right now seems like it doesn’t make much sense. mom and you are getting on each other’s nerves. take it from me–do more for her and less for yourself. get off your butt and clean the house. if you’re not going to be working–and you won’t be, for multiple reasons that don’t make a whole lot of sense–take some of the load off of her. she’s more stressed than you know.

also, right now, could you read some more and watch less t.v.? it would be nice to knock out a few classics while you’re just sitting around. could you start with the russians? i’m still trying to get through them and i have much less inclination now. although, i will say–don’t miss this year’s season of 90210. it’s a good one. and if i remember it that clearly now, you better believe that it’s true.

you’ll spend a lot of your time helping people out right now. spend more of it with your grandparents. take the opportunity to help anyone that you can. it’s important.

you’ll see your first snow soon. live it and love the experience. it will happen when you least expect it and your reaction will bring laughter to others. get used to that as well.

you’re only taking one college class right now. at least study for it, will you please? and, for crying out loud, read all of Jesus The Christ for your report. you wish now that you’d read it earlier. it’s hard but you won’t regret it. in general, don’t shy away from what’s tough. you are stronger than you think.

being far away from your high school friends is weird, isn’t it? and now everything seems to be changing–ben and james are on their missions. nicole and kim are off at school. keep writing to them. it’s worth it. it’s not going to turn out the way you think it all will, especially with james, but i don’t want you to change one thing that you do. you learned that you were fiercely loyal from those relationships, and that is one of the qualities that you’re most proud of now. and it’s served you well. trust me on that.

oh, and nicole’s going to go on a mission. write her more when she does, okay?

you don’t know what you are going to do for school. NCSU scares you, but it makes the most fiscal sense. you’re waiting for residency–that’s why you’re not in school fulltime. NCSU is close to home, but it’s huge. it just doesn’t feel right to you. so one day, just on a whim, you’re going to walk onto the campus of a little tiny school called Peace College. immediately, you’ll feel like you’ve come home. you have. don’t talk yourself out of that feeling.

it’s where you’re supposed to be. stick with it. and when you get there, work as hard as you can. it costs a LOT of money to go there, so don’t screw around. you didn’t the first time, but i’m just saying. you’ll always be proud of how you handled yourself there. you are unstoppable when you have purpose.

you’re going to learn a lot of things in college. the most important thing you’ll learn is that you are smart. smarter than you thought you were. don’t doubt that. please, please, please don’t discourage yourself. dream big. dream bigger than you thought you could. because…let me tell you. from my position, i know that you have no earthly idea what potential you have. but the professors around you? the ones that will tell you that you can go on? that you can be a grad student?

they’re right.

not only are they right, but you rock at it.

so dream big.

(at this point, i would tell you not to apply to nine ivy league graduate schools first, but that leads to one of the biggest lessons of your life and two of the most productive years. so…go for it. dream big. try your wings on for size and fly a little.)

sometime soon, you’re going to see a flier hanging up in a hallway for a program called Wake Summerbridge. it, like the moment that you came to Peace for the first time, will strike you. the application will be a beast. you’ll wonder if it’s worth it and you’ll be scared when you mail it in. but taking that risk will be one of the first times that you put yourself out there to do something scary and that you’re not sure that you’ll succeed at.

you’ll get the job.

you’ll not only get that job, but you will be promoted over and over again. and it will singlehandedly pay down your student loan debt. it will be the best summer job decision you’ve ever made. don’t talk yourself out of it.

let’s get to what you really want to know. at this point in your life, you desperately want to get married and have kids. you love being around kids and they love you. you know with your whole soul that you’d be good at it. it is, at this point, all that you think that you can do.

it definitely doesn’t happen the way that you think that it should. actually, this is important–very little in life turns out the way you think it should. that’s not to say that it’s not good and bright and beautiful and full of magic, because it is. it’s just not magic you ever imagined in your 18-year-old brain. it’s bigger and grander and more expansive than you could ever dream possible. so don’t begrudge the thinking outside of the box that the Lord does when He’s leading you. He knows what He’s doing, even when you don’t see it.

and i don’t want to disappoint you, but you’re not married yet at 30.

you know what you are, though?

you’re a whole lot more confident. you don’t hide when you walk into the room anymore. you don’t collapse into yourself when a new situation faces you.

you are SO funny. somehow, between 18 and 30, you developed a fierce wit and a quick sense of humor. people love it. at first, you’ll use it for that reason. but soon you’ll find that it’s just who you are and how you see the world.

you are more accomplished than you thought you’d ever be. you, when you put your mind to things, are successful at whatever you do. it sounds cocky, but it’s true in anything professional that you’ve tried.

you’re also thinner than you thought you’d ever be. you know that size, the one that you just wanted to achieve before you got married? you’re there. and you’ve got more to do. and you’ve been told recently that you’re beautiful–by multiple people you never thought would ever say it–and you believe it. it wasn’t as hard as you thought it would be. it’s another indication that you, girl, are a force to be reckoned with when you set your mind to something. it wouldn’t suck if you set that mind a little bit earlier.

so, no, you’re not married. but you’re awesome. and, yes, you will date. you will date more than you thought you would. you’ll have relationships. you’ll actually end up being really wise about what you want and need and who you are. but can i give you some advice? please don’t just jump at the first guy who shows you attention. and if you don’t listen to one single thing that i tell you, will you please listen to this? the internet is NOTFORDATING. the stories are ridiculous and you wouldn’t believe me if i told you. just stay away from it.

trust your gut about the people that you meet. you have an outstanding capacity to judge well. and the people that you think will be important in your life? they almost always are…especially the guys. there are a few in particular that all of your logic will tell you don’t make any sense, but the quiet voice of your heart will tell you otherwise. listen to that small voice. it’s right. i would tell you who and when, but…i have a feeling that you not knowing who and when is much more important.

some final words of wisdom:

  • credit cards are the devil. you don’t need if it if you can’t afford it.
  • the truck? bad move. i know you have to get it out of your system, but you’ll regret it. the civic? don’t give it up. or, at least, get another one. gas mileage is going to be really important soon.
  • get mimi to write down her recipes. spend more time with her. learn from her, because you’re much more like her than you think.
  • eat more vegetables. find a sport that you like. get enough sleep. learn to love water.
  • keep writing. you’re better than you think. and, one day, your writing will be on the internet for strangers to read. i know. it sounds like crazy talk now.
  • two words: jane austen.

whatever comes your way, you can face it. there will be hard times. there will times that all you have is you and Heavenly Father…times when answers are slow and peace comes only through a great deal of effort. but no matter what comes your way, you come through it for the better. please believe in yourself–in your capacity to make wise decisions, in your ability to endure well, in your heart and your courage and how much people love you. discouragement will be your greatest enemy. be smart and recognize it–and don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can do or not do.

and remember, please, that the Lord’s promises are sure. in those days when you don’t understand, keep telling yourself that. it is true.

enjoy the journey. it’s been one heck of a ride so far…i can’t wait to see where we end up.


carrie in 2007

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