Looking through a stack of my old yearbooks the other day, I couldn’t help but think back on those years and remember the girl with pigtails and a missing tooth in her kindergarten yearbook photo, the girl with a New Kids on the Block addiction in elementary school, the sixth grader with shiny, metal braces and the girl who thought she knew it all at 18.
And it was then that a letter, a folded piece of notebook paper crammed inside an envelope with worn corners, fell from the pages of my senior high school yearbook like it had been meant for me to read.
Addressed to me, the bubbly handwriting on the envelope presumably belonged to a teenage girl and as I looked at the name of the sender, my name appeared there as well, and I began to remember that winter eight years ago . . .
Seniors in high school, my best friend and I had gone on a church trip to Gatlinburg just a few weeks before graduation, spending as much time together as possible before college took us in different directions.
And as part of our full itinerary for the weekend, we were assigned to write a letter to ourselves, which would be mailed back to us in a year listing our hopes for the future and our thoughts on the present, so that we could compare the person that we were to the person we would be in roughly 365 days time.
And now, years later, as I began to read the words penned by the 18-year-old version of myself, the secrets and dreams of my young heart written in ink and shuffled through the U.S. Postal Service, I couldn’t help but smile; the tragic dramas of high school a distant reminder of a life without real responsibilities and hallway chatter and my future outline a souvenir of the years I dreamed of a career in advertising.
And as I folded up the letter and placed it back into its envelope, I wondered what I would say had I been given the chance to write her back, what I would tell her about the future, what warnings or advice I would give her to save her from heartache, disappointment or regret.
And I suddenly realized that without those moments of struggle that I wished could have somehow been detoured, I would not have appreciated the letter in my hand quite as much, the things that I’ve learned along the way and the wisdom that silently waits for our embrace.