Sunday, June 8, 2014

What would you tell your nineteen-year-old self?

Today is my half birthday. I am twenty-nine and a half years old.

Typically on my birthdays and other significant dates I get a bit nostalgic, thinking about all the years I've lived and how well (or not) I've filled them with good things. I doubt I'm alone in this.

This morning I woke up before seven on a Sunday, which is what happens when you're as old as I am and you also happen to be a morning person. So I decided to go for a walk up on BYU campus, my alma mater.

I think I've mentioned before that college was not the best of times. It was pretty much the worst of times for me. Well, parts of it anyway. Walking around campus reminded me of lots of other walks I'd taken there back when things were not as promising for me as they are now.

There's one path in particular that I used to love. It's along the western side of campus. Now that they've demolished the terraced gardens on the south hill to make way for the great and spacious Life Sciences Building, this path is pretty much the only get-at-able piece of wilderness within walking distance.

When I was in school, this place was a miniature escape from whatever massive assignment I couldn't face right then. As I walked there this morning, I remembered the girl I used to be. That poor, scared, lonely girl in flared jeans, a ponytail, and her favorite fuzzy green sweater. If I could go back and meet that girl now on one of my walks, I'd give her a hug. I'd tell her she's doing a great job at being a grown-up, even though she wouldn't believe me.

But the most important thing I'd want to tell her is that THINGS WILL WORK OUT.

I'm the kind of person who likes to plan for the future. But in college, I had no plans. I didn't know exactly what I would do after I graduated. I hoped I'd get married at some point, but I didn't know to whom. All in all, my future was one giant haze lurking in the distance, and the sight of it scared me to death.

It was paralyzing in a way. Because how could I keep working toward something if I didn't even know what that something was?

In the decade since then, I'd like to say that I've learned not to worry about the future. But that's not actually true. I still worry. The difference is that I've seen enough of life to know that it's okay to not know what's coming.

Yes, it's important to make goals and to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. But when it comes down to it, the only person who really knows what your life will bring is God. And in general, He only shows you the path ahead one little step at a time. I've also learned that this is probably a good thing. Even if it's frustrating sometimes. Okay. A lot of the time.

So now that I'm twenty-nine-and-a-half years old, I'm going to pretend for a minute that I'm thirty-five and a half. (The thought of ever being thirty-nine is still too creepy.) And I'm going to give my present self the same message I'd give that lonely nineteen-year-old:

"Heidi, things will work out. I know you aren't sure right now what your five-year-plan is. I know you have all these dreams you've been working toward and you don't know if they'll ever be a reality. But you are destined for greatness. Keep working hard. Keep setting goals. Stay close to the Lord. And things will work out. In the end, everything will work out so much better than you can imagine right now."

If you don't believe all this coming from me. Maybe you'll believe it from President Hinckley. This is one of my all-time favorite quotes:

Believe in yourself. Believe in your capacity to do great and good things. Believe that no mountain is too high that you cannot climb it. Believe that no storm is too great that you cannot weather it. You are not destined to be a scrub. You are a child of God, of infinite capacity. Believe that you can do it, whatever it is that you set your heart on. Opportunities will unfold and open before you. The skies will clear when they have been dark with portent.

Appropriately, this quote is from a commencement address President Hinckley gave at BYU-Hawaii in December 2004, right around the same time I used to wander that path on the west side of campus.

I need those words just as much today as I did then. I think we all need them sometimes. We need to remember that there is more to life than what we can see ahead of us. We need to have hope and faith, even when things look dark.

And most of all we need to remember that things will work out.

With God's help, things will always work out.

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