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An Open Letter To My 22-Year-Old Self

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An Open Letter To My 22-Year-Old Self

You know that feeling when you hear a song and you're instantly transported to another time? That's what having kids is like. 

Amidst the crying and gurgling and toys–so. many. loud. toys– the dirty diapers and never ending pile of powdery-smelling baby clothes that needs folding, there's a nagging sense that there was a time before this. 
A time that was your own, full of choice and promise. A time when you weren't ever on a time crunch or busy or looking for a missing SOMETHING .3 seconds before you have to leave the house. 
You see, I am a millennial mom. More than a million of us are entering motherhood every year, accounting for 82% of U.S. births as of 2016. 
We came of age in post-9/11 America and with the 24-hour news cycle of Obama elections and Casey Anthonys. 
So it's no wonder we think we do a very good job of parenting (56% of us said so, compared to 41% of #OkBoomers), and we do so while juggling careers at a larger rate than our predecessors. 
While we got a later start than our mothers, almost 50% of us are moms at this point. Unlike generations that got married straight out of high school or college, for the most part, we had an entire decade to ourselves.
To get that job. Date that guy. Go on that trip. Blow that paycheck.
The "do you" years. OH, and to really seal the deal–it was caught on camera. We are the first generation to self-document their post-collegiate lives on social media. 
I spent today sending emails in between a wailing 2-month-old who just got his shots, a husband working from home before an overnight sales trip, my parents texting me about holiday plans and a family reunion next summer (lol call me in May) and a two-year-old who licks his brother whenever he thinks we're not looking. 
And all I could think was. If only 22-year-old me could see me now.
What would I tell her? Is literally *anything* in her life relevant to what's to come? If you're anything like me, you might relate to the feeling.
So this open letter is for you, 22-year-old me.
I know you're still waiting for your life to officially start, but trust me you're thisclose to everything getting very real...
...at work. That promotion you don't think you're ready for? Take it. You'll learn on the job. You'll cry in the bathroom. You'll shake all throughout that first presentation. You'll call your mom when you're told you get to fly to meet the coolest clients. Bottle it up. This feeling of success and achievement and "I f*cking did it." It's yours and yours alone. Whether you work forever or stay home–or decide to take a hiatus and come back–own those wins because no one can take them away from you. What's more, you'll feel them again. When you have your baby. You won't have a clue, but it will somehow come naturally. You'll hide from them when they have their first freakout and you just need a moment of silence to collect yourself. You'll shake as you hand them over to their caretaker for the first time. But you'll know they're yours with the first smile. With the first steps. It's that familiar feeling. You f*cking did it. Again. 
...with your friends. GO OUT. On a Monday. On a Friday. On a Tuesday morning playing hookie to go to a baseball game even though you hate baseball but it's something to do. Say yes. Say yes again. Hold her hair back while she pukes. Shlep to Ikea and build furniture for hours with a case of beer. Let her take care of you and worry about you and call your mom after that breakup. Invite everyone over and only have chips and booze and maybe some cheese on hand. Make new friends. Break ties with ones who don't make sense anymore. Cherish the ones who are there even when you don't deserve them. And tell them all now that one day you won't be around. You will barely text them back. They won't care that your #personalbrand is more sleepless nights than day drinking these days. They will get that no, you're not going on that girls trip. They won't care that the puking is now because of a colicky baby. The real ones will understand–and buy you a margarita when you manage to get your stars to align. Or come over to build your kids' Ikea furniture. This time with fancier beer.
...with boys. Every bad date, bad boyfriend, good boyfriend you screwed over, and ultimately, your husband before he was your husband. All landed you here. Make the bad decisions. Call it quits when your gut demands it (for real, though). Respect yourself, but also forget to, and pay the consequences. Do it for the story, but also be discrete. Because GUESS WHAT?! One day, and it will hit you like a ton of glorious bricks, you'll have a husband, who LEGALLY AND BEFORE GOD is bound to you by CHOICE!! Like, he signed up for your crazy! Yes, girl. And he'll love your crazy. And won't care that you don't have abs. And there's more. You'll have two beautiful sons. That's right, you'll be SURROUNDED by boys. And trucks. And smells. And Under Armour shorts. And soccer balls. All of the boy things. And they will look at you like the world rests on your shoulders. Teach them because of your mistakes, and because of the mistakes of others that you bore the brunt of. Teach them what it is to be men of dignity and integrity, because you know all too well how rare and special it is to find someone like their dad. 
...with your body. First of all, you're not fat. Sure, you got really gross and out of shape that year you developed a whiskey-ginger habit but you know how to take care of yourself. Do it. Go to the gym 5x a week at 6am. But also go have the carbonara at Charlie Bird and the pulled pork at Fette Sau and the frozen margs at Sweet and Vicious. Eat the g*ddamn bagel when you're hungover. Run 26 miles for sport. Wanna know why? Because in a few years, having 4 hours to run anything but errands is out of the question. Because you'll subsist on a diet of cereal, half eaten bananas and coffee–LOTS of coffee. And wine after the coffee is over. Lots of wine. Also, you'll never look this well-rested again. So take care of your skin and enjoy the jet black hair. That'll be the first thing to go. And lastly, you have NO idea what this body is capable of. Like, zero. Just you wait.  
...with what you believe. Keep listening and absorbing and taking in all those paths you're coming across. Get in those long-winded late night philosophical convos. Blame your parents. Thank your parents. Pretend you forgot where and what you came from, only to come back around to that core of you. Fiercely hang on to the belief that others have it worse than you and just accept that a lot will have it better. Trust that one day you'll find a place within that fray (spoiler: this will follow you into your 30s). Understand that you know nothing, but you know enough to permeate your house and your children with a sense of self and faith and moral compass to withstand the scary world they'll inevitably have to enter. Trust that you have a good head on your shoulders and feet in your shoes–ones that little fat dirty-socked feet will follow. 
...with your finances. I hate you and am still paying you off. That is all. 
So whether it's Akon's "Beautiful" or Rihanna's "Cheers" that you're getting ready to tonight, know it'll make you teary-eyed one day. 
Because you'll be in the car with two babies en route to Target for the third time this week, one hand reaching back to find a paci and the other on the wheel while the two-year-old insists you turn around to look at his melting cake pop.
And you'll know it all turned out exactly how it was supposed to. 
Love, 
32-year-old You

Comments on this post (3)

  • Nov 29, 2019

    Everything and more I needed to hear today. Beautifully written Carmen :)

    — Lauren Gati

  • Nov 29, 2019

    OMG. I am balling….and cracking up! Nailed it. LOVE you, NANDA.

    — Carmen

  • Nov 29, 2019

    Loved every single word. Especially the part about the finances. DEF DID NOT CRY

    — Kelly

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