“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.
This post was originally published Dec. 18, 2019.
Dear 15-Year-Old Me,
It won’t be like this for long.
Christmas is your favorite time of year. It always has been.
You make fun of the cheesy Christmas songs on the radio, but nonetheless, you love them. Christmas recitals at school and church. Mom always bought you new tights and a sparkly dress. She spends most of her free time watching Hallmark Christmas movies. You have a love hate relationship with them, but it always makes you laugh to see her enjoy them.
You make fun of the cheesy Christmas songs on the radio, but nonetheless, you love them.
Christmas morning was you, your dad, mom and brother unwrapping gifts in your PJs with the Christmas parade playing on the TV in the background. Dad always made the best breakfast—pancakes (sometimes cinnamon), bacon (this was for everyone else since you are a newly minted vegetarian) and scrambled eggs. You split the morning between helping your dad in the kitchen and playing with your new gifts.
Outside of your window, there is a fresh layer of snow. This is Christmastime in Michigan, where all four seasons exist in predominance. Soon, you will live in a place where snow is a rarity, and when it does fall, it is more like ice. Not the good thick, powdery snow you are used to.
The holidays used to be packed with busyness in the best way. Christmas Eve was spent with your dad’s side of the family—your grandmother, uncle, aunt, cousins, your dad’s best friend (your goddad) and his family. The big feast was topped off by opening presents, singing Christmas carols and reading the Christmas story in the Bible.
The holidays used to be packed with busyness in the best way.
Christmas Day was spent with your mom’s family. A lot of the same routine, food, family, some arguing (your mom has a lot of sisters and sometimes sisters disagree in the kitchen) and tons of laughter. You will spend a lot of time playing video games with your cousins downstairs, trying to fit in with the boys.
This rhythm of normalcy for the holidays is all about to change. Your whole world is about to shift drastically. It will start with the death of your grandmother, followed by your family’s move across the country and the death of your very best friend—this will all happen at the age of 16.
At age 18, your mom will get sick, and it will change the dynamic of your family. You will feel like a parent to your parents. In the same year, your mom’s mom will pass away suddenly. You will feel depths of sadness you didn’t know possible. Holidays will serve as a reminder of this pain.
These changes will affect Christmas—your favorite time of year. The holiday season will go from bright and busy to quiet, dark and lonely. This will be hard for you, and a lot of people won’t understand. You will begin to dread the holidays and wish it away. For you, it will begin to serve as a reminder for all that you have lost.
The holiday season will go from bright and busy to quiet and dark.
I’m so sorry, sweet girl. I am sorry for what you have lost. I am sorry that this season, this season of goodness that once made your heart light and airy, has often left you feeling left out and on your own.
Expectations of Christmas based on your past will make the reality of Christmas harder. You will learn to let this go, and slowly, you will begin to embrace the holidays for something other than their busyness. You will begin to embrace stillness and quiet. I dare you to even call it good.
In time, this will get easier. Yes, the holidays will have moments of sadness, but the time you have now, surrounded by family, with snow-covered mornings, bountiful tables of food, houses full of family and friends and innocence, sweet innocence, soak it in. It won’t be like this for long.
The time you have now, surrounded by family, with snow-covered mornings, bountiful tables of food, houses full of family and friends and innocence, sweet innocence, soak it in.
Christmas is a gift. Sometimes, gifts come in unexpected ways. The gift of Christmas isn’t just about snow-covered mornings or plates of food, but it is about community. You will find community again. They may not be blood-related, but it will be community nonetheless.
You will learn to find joy in every season, even the ones that are quieter. You will learn to take joy in what you do have and to count your blessings. You will learn to let gratitude shape your filter, rather than loss.
You will find joy again. Deep down, winter and Christmas has been and still is your favorite time of year. Let the light in. I’ll hold your hand and show you how.
Your older self