Dear 18-Year-Old-Cat: An Open Letter
Dear 18-year-old Cat,
Hey there. Almost-25-year-old Cat here. How you doing?
From the looks of it, you’re smiling and looking hopeful in this picture and all the other pictures your photographer snapped for your senior photos. I don’t blame you. You’re in a great time of your life. You’re a few months away from graduating high school and starting a new journey in college. You’re surrounded by your best friends all the time. You have a loving and supporting family backing you up every step of the way. You should be beaming, right?
I have some bad news for you. Life’s about to get real for you. You’re going to be pushed to your breaking point, and about three years from now, you’re almost going to call it quits, but you decide to be strong and push through it all to get to where I am now. Good for you! But before you get to here, here’s what you have to go through first.
First off, let’s address your favorite thing in the world right now—boys. You are so boy crazy right now, particularly for the one you’re dating now. You hear that little voice in your head telling you he’s not right for you, though? Yeah, you need to listen to that voice. This boy is NOT the love of your life and he’s not the one. You’re going to go through an intense trial-and-error period of dating where your heart is going to go from being so full you can’t take it to being smashed with the force of steel-toed boots crushing a grape. Roll with the punches, babe. I promise that all these boys who keep breaking your heart are going to teach you everything you need to know for when you do eventually meet the love of your life at 24, when you’re not looking.
Now let’s talk about friends. You have so many right now! You’ve got such a big group of friends that you see on a daily basis thanks to good ol’ theater and chorus. You guys are all going to college together, for crying out loud! Could life be any more perfect for you? Yeah… Here’s the thing. By all means, treasure the time you have with those friends because you won’t hear from them much or at all once you get to college. And you know what? That’s okay! You may be heartbroken about it, but guess what? You’re going to meet so many new friends in college, you won’t know what to do with yourself. At almost 25 years old, you still call and talk to these friends regularly! Trust me, the best is yet to come with that.
I want to bring a harsh reality to you. You’re going to come face to face with some serious internal struggles, some new and some recurring. You know that amazing athlete’s metabolism you’ve been “blessed with?” Say goodbye to it. You’re going to put on weight in college. It’s going to freak you out. You will cry. You will hide in baggy clothes. You will also relapse into your eating disorder. You will turn to makeup as a way to draw attention from your body to your face as a coping mechanism. If there’s one thing I could tell you, 18-year-old Cat, it’s that you’re freaking beautiful the way you are. Whether you’re 118 pounds in a size 5 or 163 pounds in a size 10, as long as you keep that amazing personality of yours, no one is going to care about your weight. Any potential future boyfriends who do (spoiler alert, there are) have NO place in your life. Stop taping pictures of stick thin girls to your wall for “inspiration” and don’t listen to that awful voice in your head telling you no one will love you unless you keep your high school figure. You’re also going to be introduced to alcohol. You do an amazing job waiting until you’re 21 to drink, but by the time you reach that point, you’re already going through some stuff and you start using it as another coping mechanism. Friends and family will start to worry. Listen to them when they say you don’t need alcohol to have a good time or to make it through the tough times. These internal struggles you’re facing will do their best to break you, but just fight through.
Lastly, let’s talk about how you feel like you have to have it all figured out by the time you get to college. First off, let me stop laughing first before I tell you that you will not even REMOTELY have it together for a long time, even now as I’m writing this. It’s great that you already have a major declared (you want to be a teacher, sensible choice) and you know that you want to be married with kids living in a house in Georgia and everything, but it’s like I said earlier. Life is about to get real. Your whole world is about to be shaken to its very core. You will be able to handle some parts of it, others you won’t. Listen to me, young one. The journey you are about to embark on is so beautiful. People will come and go in and out of your life. You will make mistakes. You will hurt people. You will get hurt. You will face your own mortality. You will go through things you never thought you’d be strong enough to handle. I’m watching from the future and I’m so excited for you. You’re going to grow, baby. Embrace the change coming your way, because whether you like it or not, it’s coming. But I promise you one thing: everything is going to be okay.