a toast to 2018

one of my favorite sections from michelle obama’s book, becoming, is where she writes a letter from her current self to her freshman year at princeton self. to reflect on the past year, here is my version:

dear kendra,

on december 31, 2017, you are 25 years old. you are celebrating new year’s eve with people you love. and you have no way of knowing how the events of 2018 will change you.

at the start of the year, you will take a trip to miami with some of your closest girlfriends from college. while there, you will see that jonathan guy from keeping up with the kardashians while eating steak and drinking wine at prime 112. and you will see bethany from the real housewives of new york on a different night. you will go to a pool party in the rain. you will drink disgusting tequila. you will secretly sulk and feel down on yourself when you see the sexy women who work at clubs and the hotels. but you will quickly snap out of it. you will laugh until you snort and you will cry thick hot tears in the middle of dinner as your friends open up to you. the five of you are still grieving. but you will love each other through every second of it. on the plane home, you will bask in the glow of love. the warm feeling of security and strength that you can only get from your girlfriends.

you will turn 26. you will throw yourself a birthday party in the middle of the week to celebrate. friends from the different parts of your life will show up to share sweet and sticky margaritas and salty mexican food with you on the patio of frida’s. the ease and simplicity of it all will make you feel hopeful. you will feel so loved on that night.

as the weather warms up, your heart will nearly explode with joy as you see your friends walk down aisles and become husbands and wives. at their weddings, you will see people you haven’t seen in too long. you will dance the night away at beautiful and expensive receptions. you will toast to new beginnings.

you will celebrate the sweet, smoky, muddy mess that is memphis in may. you will bask in the city that you have called home for eight years. you will eat tender barbecue, drink good cold beer, and nearly lose your shoes in a mud pile while walking in the dark to watch incubus perform. you will see jack white and ludacris and death cab for cutie. you will practically cry when you get to see third eye blind. you will bond with your close friends over the music and booze and polaroid pictures you will take.

you will continue to travel. within tennessee, outside of the state, and outside of the country. you will explore oxford, mississipi, nashville, tennessee, paris, france, and denver, colorado. you will go back to miami with your dad and little brother to watch jimmy buffett and the eagles. you will get sunburnt and fall asleep towards the end of the concert when the eagles come on stage because you are so worn down. (please note, you will never live down the falling asleep during the eagles thing). but before that, you will sing along to every song, sweat profusely in the miami heat, and be grateful for your family traditions.

you will move into a new home in midtown. you will be nervous to leave downtown–after all, you have been there for quite a while and you feel like it has just started to feel like home. your new place, though, will be good for you. you will make it your own. you will cook more and buy colorful picture frames and rearrange furniture until it feels right. you will take bella for long walks in the beautiful surrounding neighborhoods that you hope you can afford to live in someday. you learn to be glad with where you are for now.

your friends will become parents. you will listen intently as your girlfriends share with you the difficulties of modern motherhood: the expenses of raising a child, applying for daycare before the baby can even speak, the bogus maternity and paternity leave policies that even the largest employers impose on parents. you will observe that no matter how challenging raising a child seems, your friends who become parents would not have it any other way. they are over the moon in love with their children and their families. you cannot wait to get to know their children and watch them grown and learn. you cannot wait to play a role in their lives. you look forward to sitting on the floor and playing with your friend’s babies and learning from your friends all about their experiences with parenthood. you will admire your female friends especially for making choices that make the most sense for them and their families. you will be in awe at their ability to be selfless in the sacrifices they make for their children and husbands, while never letting go of their personal goals and dreams–while never letting go of the parts of them that made you want to be their friend years ago when you first met them.

you will run 13.1 miles to support st. jude children’s research hospital. to train, you will run around 15-20 miles per week. even as the last week of training rolls around, you will be doubtful that you will be able to run the entire time. you will keep telling yourself that it will be OK to walk, and that if you don’t finish, there is no shame in that. on race day, you will run the entire time. your legs will go into some sort of autopilot mode as you run through the st. jude campus and slap high fives to smiling st. jude patients on the sidelines, cheering you on and thanking you. you will finish the race in around 2 hours and 20 minutes. you will feel a sense of accomplishment that you never thought possible. and you will be glad you are able to go through the experience with your little brother’s support and encouragement along the way. you will be grateful for all of your friends and family who donated time and money to help you get to this point. you will look forward to doing it again next year. and the year after that.

so, on december 31, 2017, as you sip your wine and shuffle playing cards and laugh while you wait for the ball to drop and usher in 2018, kendra, know that the year ahead will be one of growth. know that some days you will feel accomplished and other days you will feel worthless. some days you will feel smart and ready for anything and other days you will feel like a fraud. your imposter syndrome will, at times, feel debilitating. some days you will feel hopeful for the exciting things happening in your life and other days you will wish you could hit the rewind button. as the ball drops, take a deep breath, clink glasses with the people around you, and brace yourself. the year ahead will not always be what you imagined, but you will continue to love hard, hurt hard, learn hard, and then repeat. it’s what you’ve always done.