A letter to my 20 year-old self

Dear Amy:

You just hit the big 2-0 and sadly, your mind is focused on the drinking age—a major world issue, babe. In one year, you’ll be legal. The fake ID with the Spanish surname will be a thing of the past. It’ll take some time, but you’ll realize you were never destined to be a cool cat. Sorry to break that piece of news.

You may feel rudderless at this moment, but prepare for huge life change. A path will become abundantly clear within the next 6 months. I’d say run fast in the other direction, but I don’t see another way forward. There is one visible choice mapped out.

(I’m considering what the Apostle Paul might write to his younger self.)

Along those lines, if I can offer any advice at this point, I’d say to ask someone about Jesus. This relationship would cast a different future, possibly freer, clearer, and less complicated. Though maybe not… honestly, it’s hard to say. Apologies for my squishiness on this front.

The doors you open and the choices you make will eventually be used for good. You’ll pay a steep price, but let’s not scare you with too many details… Know that the friends and colleagues you meet in the next two decades will sow into your life in ways unfathomable to you now. You’ll hit your 40s having worked in the extremes and for die-on-the-hill causes and be the better for it. You’ll realize you’ve marinated in the passions, ideas and the brilliance of dozens of people on all sides of the fence.

You’re just grasping there’s a world outside of yourself. You’re dipping your toe into issues related to justice and human rights, and this will fill empty spaces in your life. You’ll find purpose, meaning.

Soon you’ll graduate from school and get your dream job in Washington. You’ll grow wildly in gifts and talents you never knew existed. You’ll travel in well-schooled circles. You’ll feel deficient because you lack vast amounts of education, especially compared to colleagues from Ivy League schools. It’s the truth; you drifted in and out of high school and college without much thought. But here’s some advice, don’t be afraid of being found out and try not to feel inferior. People will love you. You’ll also rise to their level of smarts because it’s in you. You can only grow by surrounding yourself with talented people. Take advantage of it all!

My 21 year-old self. My first political fundraiser.

Fortunately, too, you’ll work for generous women and men who’ll mentor you in areas where you’re weak. This combined with your natural bravado and humor will provide a contrast to feelings of inferiority. Trust me on this!

In the near future you’ll long for something you can’t quite put your finger on. It will become clear that it’s the Christian God. You’ll look at those you face off against as an activist and be frightened by that prospect. Know that you should be frightened—stay away from those people! But also know that the vast majority of Christians are really good folks, and Jesus will change your life. Advice: Separate out the goodness you sense from God from the depravity of all human beings. They are not one in the same. I’m still trying to let that sink in.

Regarding your family: Be nice to your sister; one day she’ll be your best friend. Start writing down birthdays, because in 20 years it gets too awkward to ask the whens. And don’t pluck that one chin hair; it will eventually grow into a full beard.

Finally, you’re an idealist and you always will be– embrace that in yourself. However, you won’t change the world. Your destiny is much more personal, thoughtful and will alter the lives of individual people. Your heart will be soft for those hurting in our world.

But enough for now! In the coming days you’ll laugh a lot and accumulate scads of great stories. Write them down! And be good to yourself.

Prepare for a wild and rich journey, my young friend.

Your older and wiser self