A Letter to 17-Year-Old Me
Dear 17-year-old Jordan,
I won’t ask how you’re doing right now. 16 was an awkward year for us, so I already know the answer. I know that it seems like life is out to get you. I wish I could promise that the next four years are so much easier. I can’t. But I can promise that you’ll survive it.
I’m trying to think about the worst problems we faced at 16, but it all seems minuscule compared to what’s going on at 20. I want to tell you that there’s a great big world waiting for you and that you’ll learn some valuable lessons. At the age of 16, I don’t think any of that really mattered to us, though. We were too focused on the social aspect and fitting in with people.
You should enjoy that while you can. Those peaceful moments, allowing other people to be in charge and following the rules, don’t last forever. Senior year of high school will teach you that far too quickly. It hasn’t been easy making it to 20.
The next three years won’t be easy. We lose Dad only two weeks before prom, only a month before we turn 18, and only a month before we graduate high school. You have to start your first day of college without him. He’s not there to move you in or help find textbooks. That first semester, you’ll have a hard time not crying yourself to sleep.
Losing Dad is easily the worst thing that will ever happen to us, so my advice to you? Take this year slow. Don’t be so frustrated when your parents ask you to be part of the family. Hug Dad a little tighter when you leave for work after school. Avoid complaining when he asks for a Red Bull on your way home from work.
Tell Dad that you love him every chance that you get. Talk to him about your college choices and why you chose to apply there. Don’t laugh so hard when he promises that you’ll be able to go anywhere you want. He keeps that promise, but you know you’d rather have him than the money that sends you to school.
Be grateful for those moments where he embarrasses you in front of Casey before Jingle Bell Ball.
Realize that you need to love him now because he won’t be there forever and you will never forget every moment you took him for granted.
Jordan, your heart is about to break and nothing – no kind words or sentimental thoughts or happy moments – will ever make it feel the same again.
I can promise that you’ll survive it, but I can’t promise that it will feel like you’re surviving. Really, it will feel like you’re drowning in grief. You’ll feel like you can never reach the surface, and it’ll always feel like you’re weighed down.
When you can’t deal with the drowning alone, let the people who love you pull you out. Nobody wants to see you suffer in silence. They know that this isn’t easy and want to be there for you. Let them do that.
Most importantly, don’t worry about having to fill his shoes. Daddy was a great man and the world is a little darker without him, but it is not your job to fill that hole. Your only job is to be the person that he knows you can be.
You can do it.