Dear 10 year old Hannah,
It’s the first year of the 21st century and you are one of the most awkward little 5th graders at Schwarzkopf Elementary School. You have knobby knees, and poufy hair. Your best friends are Sarah and Michelle and you think your little sister is incredibly annoying.
You don’t know it yet, but the next couple of years are going to be difficult. You will lie in bed some nights and think about running away. You wonder who would miss you and you wonder why you don’t have any friends. Going to school will be tough; riding the bus to school will be tougher, but you’ll make it. I promise. The bullies will go away, you’ll make new friends, you’ll grow out of your awkward middle school self, and you’ll turn out to be a pretty good kid.
You’ll have your first “boyfriend,” Tony Eagan, at the age of 14. He’s your first kiss and your first Valentine. On your first date, he picks you up in a limo and you go to the movies. He dumps you three weeks later and you find out that he was cheating on you with the girl that set you two up. It’s okay though, because you soon find out Cody O’Loughlin has liked you for a while and you two start dating just a few months later. Cody’s a couple inches shorter than you; your sister makes fun of him by calling him a “shrimp” behind his back. You two date for 8 months, but he dumps you for your friend Caitlin… and somehow you and Caitlin remain friends through it all. You break up with (almost) every other “boyfriend” after Cody because you don’t like the feeling of heartbreak. You figure that it’s better to end the relationship before you get too attached. Dating isn’t worth while until you’re an adult, anyways.
In high school, you will fall in love with politics and have some pretty cool experiences. At the age of 16 you will be a co-author of a Florida law and meet the Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist (he’ll come back for round two as a Democrat when you’re in your twenties… he’s confused). Try not to get arrogant. You have a tendency to be proud when something good is happening in your life, which is fine but there is such a thing as being too proud. You have to remember your friends have done good things too.
When you’re 16, your family opens a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s. You’ll think it’s fun and exciting, but you’ll soon change your mind.
You’ll go to the Florida State University in 2008 and eventually decide to major in history. You might want to re-think that one. While history is really interesting, your real passion is communications.
While in college you make friends, but you also lose friends. Your second year you develop gallbladder disease and take several trips to the emergency room. Needles don’t scare you anymore. You rush a Christian sorority and it changes your life. You work your way through school and you think that’s one of the best decisions you have ever made. Meet as many people as you possibly can.
Your last year of college, you find out your dad is having an affair and the business is hanging on by a thread. Mom and Dad get separated, but you knew it was coming for several years. Your world falls apart for a little while and you have no idea what will happen tomorrow. You’ll want to yell, scream, and cry. Do it. You’ll feel better after. Your friends will stand by your side, even when you slam your door in their face. It’s okay to be hurting, Hannah, but it’s not okay to hurt the people who love you.
Right around the same time, you’ll meet a man. He helps you set up your computer the first day at APD. You think he’s “dreamy,” and you’re dead set on your friend Emma setting the two of you up. She tries, but you soon find out he’s kind of a loser. You don’t care though. You still think the two of you are meant to be.
Little do you know, there’s another man who has his eye on you. The two of you have been hanging out in the same circle since you started working at APD. Lunch a couple times a week and Happy Hours on Fridays are about the only times you really hang out, but he’s funny and seems to be a good guy. He’s a bit older than you, making you think that he’ll only ever be a friend.
Then one Friday after a long night at Finnegan’s, you two are the only people left in the group. You’ve had too much to drink and can’t drive home, so he offers to give you a ride. You’re paranoid about your car being towed overnight, so you insist in sitting in your car until you sober up. He’s not leaving until he knows you’re okay. You think it’s cute, but you’ve also had one too many. He sits in the passenger seat of your 2006 Corolla and listens to you ramble on about who knows what. When you’re okay to drive, you say goodbye. He leans over and kisses you on the cheek. This is the first time you really think about the idea of him as more than a friend.
A couple months go by but nothing really happens. In June, he has a bad day and you invite him to hang out with you at Emma and John’s house while you dog sit their massive Great Dane. You get locked out of the house with the dog, and you two sit outside in the summer heat waiting for a locksmith. You watch the movie “Kick-Ass.” At first you think this is stupid, but later you cherish it. Who else can say they got locked out of the house and watched a movie about incredibly violent super heroes on their first date? You two kiss that night… a lot. (Gross, I know.)
The relationship moves a little slow at first, but eventually you realize that you’ve fallen in love. He’s not who you expect to end up with, but the thought of being with anyone else doesn’t make sense… and it makes your heart hurt. People question the validity of your relationship with Matt, but don’t listen to them. No one knows anything about how you feel or how he feels besides you and Matt. Your roommate says he’s a “sarcastic… bad word,” but you know otherwise. He gives you hope simply by holding your hand.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is this: Never shy away from an opportunity to make yourself a better person, and whatever you do… do it good.
Life gets tough, but you’ll be tougher. Keep your chin up, and stick to your guns. Love your family and friends. Accept their faults, and know you have faults yourself. Surround yourself with good people, people you can look up to and people who can look up to you. Pray every day, eat healthy, and don’t lose yourself.
Twenty-two year old you