Dear 18-Year-Old Mary,

Don’t freak out. Yes, this is a letter from the future. But I promise no Stargate-like time warp was involved. Just a little blog magic. [What’s a blog? Right. That’s for another conversation.]

So, you know how your mom keeps telling you that nobody will care in 10 years if you are the valedictorian of your class? Well, the thing is . . . she’s right.

But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if anyone else cares. You care. It’s important to you, so you should go for it. Go for it and do your best. Keep working. Keep fighting. Meet your goal. And it will matter to you – and that’s what matters.

See, this is just the first of many dreams and goals you’re going to have that nobody understands. As the years unfold, you’re going to set goals and reach for things that nobody else on earth thinks is a good idea. That nobody else “gets.” That nobody else believes you can do or thinks is important.

Don’t listen to them.

Listen to your heart. Listen to God. And then you chase that dream with everything you’ve got.

Even when it’s hard. Even when you stumble and can’t remember why you thought this was so important in the first place. Even when nobody cheers you on or backs you up. Even when they don’t care. Even then, you must keep dreaming. Don’t you quit because they think you should. Don’t stop because they think it’s stupid or pointless or too ambitious or not ambitious enough.

All those things you’re tempted to give up – don’t.

All those times you’re tired and ready to just quit – don’t.

All those people who tell you that you can’t or you shouldn’t or why bother or it’s too far or too hard or too much – don’t listen to a word they say. (Sure, sure, be polite. Smile and nod if you must. But don’t you dare take their words to heart. Don’t let their discouragement take hold, and don’t let their unbelief shake your foundation, your determination, your heart, your dreams.)

I know life seems really hard right now. So many people are telling you what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. And it’s tempting to give in and agree that maybe this isn’t that important after all. But it is. IT IS. And YOU ARE. So go chase that dream, no matter what anyone else says. If it matters to you, it matters.

Two more things. First of all, you are not fat, not by a mile. So ditch the baggy shirts and lay off the Doritos. You’re gorgeous just how you are. (Yes, your mom was right about this one, too.)

Secondly, go practice the piano. Don’t you dare think it’s not important, and don’t quit playing when you go to college. If you do (and, well, you will), you’ll regret it. So go. Play. Make music. Don’t quit.

33-Year-Old Mary

My friend Emily has written an outstanding book for teen girls called Graceful: Letting Go of Your Try-Hard Life. And this week, she’s asked fellow bloggers to write letters to their teen selves and link up at her blog on Friday. So that’s what I’ve done here.

The funny thing is that when I sat down to write this, what eventually bubbled up in my heart to say was kind of the opposite of “let go of your try-hard life.” I thought about re-writing my letter, because OF COURSE I could say tons of things along the lines of “don’t try so hard to please people” and “quit trying to be perfect, because seriously, you are not and that’s okay.”

But I decided to just hit publish instead. Because for so many years, I let other people’s dreams for my life rule my decisions, and I wish I would have known back then that my dreams were important and good and right. And because I don’t think the perfect letter is the point here.

What would you say to your teenaged self if you could write her (or him) a letter?

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for Graceful!

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