Eighteen And Ever After

Dear Ane,

In past years, your birthday has been marked with snow.  Sometimes that meant that the celebrations were postponed.  It was harder for you to understand when you were small, because it was YOUR special day and you wanted to celebrate.  With age comes flexibility, and so you can look outside just as easily as we can and realize, yeah, no one wants to drive through that snow and ice.  Not even you.

However, this year is not like other years.  While we are continuing to claw back every shred of normalcy that we can, Covid still looms large – not in our house, exactly, but in the world outside.  So even with normal weather, your birthday celebration probably wouldn’t have looked like we wanted it to.  The freezing temperatures outside – we’re going to have a low of 15 degrees today! – combined with the snow from yesterday will conspire to make sure that no one wants to come over tonight.

And yet, here we are.  Today you are eighteen years old, legally an adult.  I know that seems a daunting number to you, but honestly, nothing changed between yesterday and today.  You’re still here at home, you’re still working the same job, you’re still going to school.  You turning 18 is a big moment, but the bigger one coming (at least to me) is your high school graduation this coming June.

You asked me last night for words of wisdom, and I think we had some good ones, but I want to get some of these written down.

First, my heart aches for you and how these last 21 months have gone.  I wish that I could go back in time and make some different choices for your sake.  But I can’t, and we are now playing the cards we have in hand.  And that is a good piece of advice – work with what you have, not what you wish you had.

Second, we’ve talked about how inevitably, the “drift” will begin – you and your friends, after graduating from high school, will begin to go your separate ways.  And it isn’t because you don’t care about each other any less, but those day-to-day experiences that you shared together will come to an end.  We all go through this.  You will stay connected in some way or another due to social media, but change is coming.  New experiences are coming.  New friends are coming, too.  That being said, my next piece of advice is to not borrow other people’s drama, and to let your friends solve their own problems.  You are all emotionally stunted right now, and I am trying to keep that in mind as I listen to these dramatic tales.  Still, you have learned just how little you can affect other people’s issues when they don’t want to actually change anything.  Your life has enough of its own unique drama – don’t take on anyone else’s.

Third, remember how much you are loved.  Your brothers love you.  Your dad and I love you.  Your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins all love you, too.  And most importantly, Jesus loves you.  I know how much you have struggled with that over these last couple of years, but you are loved – and you will never be able to walk away from that kind of love.  It will follow you all the days of your life.

Fourth, some general life advice.  Be on time.  Write thank you notes.  Show respect to those who are older than you.  Continue to be tolerant and empathetic to those with special needs.  Make yourself to-do lists, and put easy things on there that you can check off – like “eat breakfast,” and “go to school on time.”  Let yourself have a sense of accomplishment.  Figure out how to make at least one signature breakfast item, one signature dinner meal, and one really good dessert.

Fifth, advice on boys/men.  Find one who loves Jesus more than he loves you.  Look to how he treats his parents and siblings.  Judge him on how he treats elderly people and little children, and animals.  Take note of the friends he hangs out with, because they will become your friends, too.  If you can’t stand them, there will be problems.  Consider his job/career/profession, because it is unlikely to change.  Make sure you can live with what he does, and the lifestyle that goes with some careers.  Check to see how responsible he is with money.  Look at his residence and assess how he lives, how often he cleans, and his personal hygiene.  And then, judge him by how he treats your brothers.

Sixth, always keep learning.  Pick up a new hobby.  Watch good classic movies and TV series, even if they are obscure.  Read good classic books, even if they are children’s ones.  Keep expanding your mental horizons with adventures and travel, within reason.  Don’t put yourself into debt to travel, and don’t do anything stupid like sign up for a guided tour of North Korea.

We will celebrate you as best as we can today, and then we will celebrate you even more later.  To your dad and to me, you will always be that tiny little baby who gave us a huge scare while making her way into the world.  Eighteen years have now passed, but we have only grown to love you more.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like day, for darkness is as light to you.  Psalm 139:7-12

Happy 18th birthday, Ane!


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