Dear 16 Year Old Ashley,

What can I tell you that you don’t think you already know?
Because you’re certain you already know everything–don’t you.

You give yourself a lot of credit,
assuming you are “so mature for your age”,
and in many ways you are.

But oh, there is so much you have to learn.
About life.
About relationships.
About patience.
About boys.
About loyalty.
About responsibility.
About faith.
And there is so much I wish I could tell you,
to give you some perspective on what is about to happen in your life,
to help prepare you.

I remember you at this age all too well.
You live your life through the songs you hear on the radio,
playing them on repeat until every lyric of every verse
is running through your veins.
John Mayer’s No Such Thing,
Dixie Chicks Wide Open Spaces,
Green Day’s Time of Your Life.

You’re a hopeless romantic,
but you don’t hesitate to break someones heart.
And I wish I could go back in time and change that about you,
help teach you about the delicate nature of the human heart.
But you won’t understand that until
your own heart gets broken.
And boy does it ever.
But don’t worry,
because you’ll end up marrying that boy.

In so many ways you are a “typical” teenage girl,
a glimpse of those portrayed on your favorite prime time shows.
Dawson’s Creek, The OC, 90210.
Homecoming Queen, Friday night movies, football player boyfriend.
For you, high school is the time of your life–something to be cherished,
to be looked back on with fond memories.

But there is also something about you that is different,
some part of you that doesn’t fit with what people see on the outside.
A part of you that can see high school isn’t a dream for everyone.
And even at a naive 16 years of age,
your heart aches for those just trying to make it through each day.
You reach out to them,
smile at them in the hallway,
slow dance with them at dances,
vote for them in student council
and defend them against the bullies.
You try hard, Ashley–and for that I am proud.
Those struggling need an advocate,
be that for them.

Don’t curse. It’s not cool, and makes you look ugly.
Wear longer skirts.
Pay attention in Spanish.
Say thank you to your teachers daily.
Call your grandma more.
Try out for track.
Don’t be afraid to dance.
Stop worrying…

You worry too much,
especially about the future.
I wish I could tell you that this would change as you get older,
but it doesn’t.
So, just try your best to enjoy the moment,
instead of focusing on the future.
Because in your future, you’ll spend a lot of time looking back
and remembering.

When you’re older, you’ll still remember the pit in your stomach
the day you watched the Twin Towers collapse during your Junior year.
On that day you realized just how small your little world was
and the bubble you had been living inside of burst.

When you’re older, you’ll still remember the feeling
and the sound of those gut wrenching sobs
as you walked off the soccer field for the very last time.

When you’re older, you’ll still remember the day that you got the call that changed your life. The day you learned that your best friend was gone forever.
The day your quest for faith began.

You’ll remember the late night talks,
and slumber parties,
and school pride rallies
and the boy who taught you what it meant to love.

Sometimes I wonder how different things would have been for you,
if you had known then what you know now.

Like if only you had known that you are a precious daughter of God.
If only you had known that your family would find peace.
If only you had known that your future best friend for life would end up being the girl who sat three rows behind you in English class.
If only you had known that you would find the most happiness in the simple things like baby giggles, summer BBQ’s and cuddling on the couch.
If only you had known that you would meet the man of your dreams
when you least expected it,
and he would be nothing like you had always imagined him to be.
(btw: He’s more than you ever hoped for, I promise).

I wish I could tell you to be a better example,
to do certain things differently,
to change some parts of who you were.
But that would be asking you to re-write your history.
A history that has resulted in the life you have today,
the life that makes you happy.
And all I want is for you to be happy.

So I guess the best advice I can give you is:
be YOU,
the best version of YOU
and stay true to YOU
even in the face of criticism,
because not everyone will support you,
and that’s just fine.

With love,

27 year old Ashley

p.s. Just wait until you see your son’s dimples and hear his laugh.

High school graduation.

Not sure why we weren’t wearing shoes for this picture…
What advice would you give the 16 year old YOU?