Dear 27-year-old Rachel,
This has been a year for me to learn and a year for me to grow.
This year I’ve started to really understand what it means to be a part of a partnership, which is something I thought I really understood before but when I’m honest with myself, I really had no idea. I’m amazed everyday at the strength of my relationship and the loving community me and my husband share. I am surrounded by people who really love me, despite all of my ugliness and my pitfalls, who want to lift me up and help me succeed, people who push me to be better when I’m too tired or sad or weak to continue pushing myself forward. I’ve learned what it means to really love someone and that it is rarely that fairytale I so wanted to believe in for so long, but it’s beautiful and magical in it’s own way, when I let it flourish. I need to remember more often all the people who are there for me and learn to trust in them more — they’re there to catch me when I fall and to beat their wings beside me when I fly.
Speaking of falling and flying, this year I’ve started to learn the hard lessons of letting myself both succeed and fail without so much fear, guilt and self-doubt. I finally opened my mouth to talk about the master’s degree I’ve been dreaming about for several years, clicking through university websites almost every day, daydreaming about programs I thought I could never apply to, terrified of the cost both in money and in time and what it would mean to have to ask for that, to allow myself to try. I’m learning to speak up for myself and what I want, what makes me upset or angry, challenged, happy, both in my personal and professional relationships. I’ve surprised myself with my strength, but I’ve still got so much farther to go here — I make so many goals that I leave aside, which I excuse as not having enough time, but what is more accurately attributed to a fear of tackling things head on. I’m becoming more confident everyday, though, and I’ve come along way this year. I think running has taught me a lot in this arena. It helps to remind me to always put one foot in front of the other, to keep going even when it hurts and I’m tired, even when it feels too far or too tough. This year I’ve learned about a strength that comes from somewhere deep inside.
This year I’ve learned about uncertainty and that it is okay sometimes not to know what I want or what direction to head next. It’s okay to slow down and be happy where I stand. Sometimes its true that I’m scared to move forward, but sometimes I start thinking I need to being doing so many things RIGHT NOW, forgetting I have a whole life ahead of me in which to accomplish these dreams. I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I want to complete an Ironman. I want to travel to so many places. But it doesn’t all have to happen this year, or even next. I’ve written down my goals, I’ve realized my passions, I’m learning to assert my strength. Every day is a step towards accomplishing many things, but not every day marks the achievement of a goal. And that is okay. Slow down. Relax. Take a day to paint your nails and watch bad tv without feeling guilty about not touching the “to-do” list. Take a morning to snuggle in bed instead of braving the dark and the cold to get in a few more miles or finish that assignment.
This year I’ve learned a lot, and it hasn’t been an easy year. It’s been a year of hurt and mistrust and depression, but growing can cause a lot of aches. I haven’t figured everything out yet and I’m still trying to inch myself out of my cocoon, to truly come out from the shadows into a blinding light. I’m still learning how to navigate being a part of a marriage and what it means to merge and share your life with someone else. I’m still learning to go after what I want, to challenge and question myself. I’m still learning what it takes to be a really good friend and a really strong family member, the lines between when you’re being supportive and when you’re not helping someone even if it might feel like you are. I’m still learning to advocate for myself, to speak up when I have something to say. I’m still learning, as we all are, but I can feel myself growing stronger and gaining momentum and that is both a terrifying and exhilarating thing. Keep going.
I love you and happy birthday.