Thank you, Henry Petty, for asking me to write a letter to my old self.
You look amazing—really and truly. You don’t like your thighs and think that your waist is terribly out of proportion with your hips. You hate the fact that you inherited your dad’s oily, acne-prone skin. Someday you will realize that your obsession with your legs is ludicrous and that you should be thankful for having strong, athletic legs. You’ll understand that oily skin is less likely to wrinkle, and in 2010, you will look younger than you really are. You will look back at pictures from tonight and wonder why in the world you didn’t see yourself as a total hottie in your floor-length, strapless, black velvet gown.
Tonight will be a big deal to you in 2010.
You’re about to meet someone who will later change your life for the better. Someone who will prove to you that John Eldredge’s depiction of the “Wild at Heart” man does, in fact, exist. Someone who will teach you to have fun again and to take yourself and life less seriously. Someone who will undo decades of damage. Someone who God will use to show Himself to you over and over again.
Stand right there for a minute longer. Wait a minute before you turn to talk to your friend Paul who you asked to prom just so he could hang out with his friends.
See Jessica’s date? The one with dark hair, so dark it’s nearly black? The one smiling at you? That guy.
Go eat your dinner with your date and then ask that mystery man to dance. Let him put his huge hands around your disgustingly tiny waist. Let him apologize for his lack of dancing skills and listen to him talk about Nathan and Nick and Jordan and Tony. Talk about how funny it is that you’ve spent the past year spending time with Tony while dating his friend and missed meeting him somehow. Watch his hazel eyes light up and the corners of those eyes crinkle up when he smiles at you. Listen to him laugh. Do you hear how real his joy is?
Now lay your head on his chest. Close your eyes and let yourself breathe for a minute. Everything disappears.
Remember that feeling.
In 14 years, after you’ve both made plenty of mistakes and loved other people and learned how to live life, you will feel that feeling again—that I’m-safe-and-home-and-he-won’t-let-anything-hurt-me feeling—every day for the rest of your life.
He will be yours.
Not now and not any time soon. You have to kiss some frogs. Lots of frogs. You can’t do better until you know better, after all.
You’ll know better in 14 years, and when you see this mystery man again, he will take your breath away. He will apologize for wearing ratty shorts and a t-shirt and $3 flip flops, and you won’t remember any of that. His hair will have turned from black to gray, and you’ll find it even more handsome and charming than before. You’ll remember thinking about how the light fell in through the glass doors of The Pantry restaurant behind him. You will feel silly for being so nervous on your second date; you will cry at your mom’s house, like a baby, at 31 years of age as you take a shower and painstakingly obsess over your still acne-prone skin. You will explain to your mom, as you bake an apple pie for your “fall party” themed date, that you have never felt nervous about a date before, but then again, you’ve never wanted a man to like you so badly.
Two years later, when you laugh hysterically and then weep uncontrollably after taking a pregnancy test, that man will simply take charge of the situation and propose to you while you lie in bed, feeling nauseous and unable to go to work. He will make you his wife and continue loving you, chili-cheese-fry-cravings and all. On your wedding day, you will close your eyes after he leans his tall frame down to kiss you. You will rest on his chest, just like you would tonight if you danced with him.
You won’t be able to take back those 14 years, but on July 31, 2010, you will wish that you could. And you will have grown wise enough to know that you can’t. You’ll just let him hold you now, today, in the moment, as often as possible.
You will believe that ending up here was worth all of the in-between.
And so will he.
And you will live happily ever after, just like you thought you never would.