The following is a completely fictional recorded conversation between my past and present selves. It is transcribed as it was spoken and it is also not real.

 

18-year-old Lauren: Dear 25-year-old Lauren, I hope you’re no longer miserable. Please tell me that this hellish freshman year is not indicative of the rest of my life.

25-year-old Lauren: Dear 18-year-old Lauren, I currently have a different set of miseries, but yes I’m generally a lot more stable and well-supported than you are right now. Please stop trying so hard, and please go give James, Tony, and Cheryl a billion dollars each. Without James and Tony eating your B-quiv every night of your life, your pathetic crayon doodles of corn fields would have spiraled into a wall filled with newspaper clippings and ambiguous yarn trails. Also, please stop expressing your feelings in crayon. It is not very mature. I know people in college think that stuff is cool, but people in college are wrong.

18: Ouch, you are meaner than me.

25: Yes, I am. There are only so many times you can allow your B-quiv to be eaten before you must learn to be assertive.

18: So, you’re like in the Peace Corps and stuff, right? Wait. You independently run your own production company and you’re on your way to an Emmy. YOU’RE THE NEW JOSS WHEDON. Whatever. You’re amazing. You don’t take any crap from anyone. You’re so intense. You aren’t afraid of anything. You finally learned what to do with your hair. You know how to fly fish. You shut people up in business meetings that are held in glass-walled rooms; ROCK THAT PENCIL SKIRT.

25: Nah, I’m a teacher.

18: …the frick?? No you’re not.

25: Oh, yep.

18: But… you’re so smart.

25: Yeah, teaching turns out to be really difficult. Kind of annoying how difficult it can be, actually. It’s probably the first really challenging thing I’ve done in my life. Except for, like, experiencing heartbreak.

[enters] 16-year-old Lauren: OOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH!!!!

18-year-old and 25-year-old Lauren: Please go away.

18-year-old Lauren: You’ve had your heart broken?

25-year-old Lauren: Couple times, yep. It sucks.

18: …………..by who?

25: (Whom.) Oh yeeesh. Obviously, I cannot tell you that. You will absolutely not see any of it coming. It will take you a really long time to learn that being a strong woman doesn’t mean trying to save yourself and fix everyone else. Love and respect don’t make you weak. Vulnerability doesn’t make you weak. That’s a lie that men have been fed for years, and somewhere along the line you swallowed it too when you decided to fight for seating at the table in a man’s world.

18: I sound like a badass.

25: Oh, please. I know for a fact you think “badass” is a swear-word. You’ll eventually learn what happens when you tell the world every day, “I love you, but I don’t need you.” It damages other people, you sweet idiot. Lovely people who needed your respect.

18: Yes, but… I’m a strong woman??

25: I’m starting to doubt it with all your freaking ellipses!! MAKE UP YOUR MIND, JELLYFISH!!! Yeah, you are. You’re strong. And you’re smart. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to build a fire and tie a crapper-ton of knots. You’re also terrible at beach volleyball. By my age, you’ll have replaced your driver’s license five times. You’re a sucker who is still paying for a gym membership scam two years later. You cry a lot, probably too much, but sometimes it’s kind of nice. And in a few years, you will stop thinking of imperfection as weakness, which made you ten times stronger (Approximately? We suck at estimation).

18: Preach.

25: Don’t say “preach.” But actually, who cares what I think??! Stop caring so much what everyone thinks. It’s crippling.

18: I don’t care what anyone thi-

25: Wrong. You think that I’m talking about standing up to people who want you to pierce your knuckles and try crack cocaine. It’s great that Johnny-Letterman-Jacket’s opinion means as little to you as the score of his lacrosse game or the amount of alcohol permeating his liver lining. So what?? So you wear crocs and you don’t care who knows…. It can be just as limiting to pander to the right people as it can be to pander to the wrong ones. You think that because your life revolves around your parents’ and your professors’ opinions, you’re doing it right. You can’t please everyone, dear. YOU CAN’T. Look at me. You can’t. And you shouldn’t. You’re going to school to learn to use that big, sexy brain of yours to figure things out for yourself.

18: But I need help, right?

25: Oh, HECK yeah. But you don’t pray quite nearly as much as you should. You’re Ancient Israel, baby. Mayybe just start allowing God to intervene before your heart and soul spiral out of control into the Sarlac Pit. And trust him more than public opinion. Actually, you’re probably better at this than me.

18: I am?

25: Mmhmm. You’re better at optimism too. Golly, you’re so beautifully joyful. You’re so good at seeing wonderful all over the place. Listen, you’re going to be fine. I think I am too. The world is more busted up than you thought, and probably more than I know yet, but you have the gift of believing in things so strongly you’ll punch them in the face until they believe they’re wonderful again. Do that. Seriously. Don’t stop. Ever.

18: Any other advice?

25: Ummm… keep doing things that you like. That keeps working out for you. DEFINITELY dress up like Black Widow for the Avengers premiere when Mark offers to spray paint your hair red. Hold off on getting an iPhone as long as you can. Otherwise, just figure the world out. It’s better that way. Let God be in charge, but don’t assume that he’s always going to do everything you like. And don’t assume that everything he does in your life is for your benefit. It’s not about you. Jeremiah 29:11 was written to people who were isolated and exiled for YEARS, not people who didn’t get to the Registrar in time to take creative writing. Get over yourself. But you’re not too shabby. When you start to realize the value of the gifts you’ve been given, life will start to feel like Christmas. A lot of the time.

18: This is, largely speaking, a relief.

25: Yeah, I know. I need a letter from 35-year-old Lauren. I haven’t gotten much better at being calm about my future… or my present. Just ask Brent.

18: Wait. Who’s Brent??

25: SHUT UP. NOBODY. WHO?? OOPS I’M GOING THROUGH A TUNNEL.

[enters] 35-year-old Lauren: Don’t worry. Tina Fey and I are best friends.

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