While cleaning the shed a couple weekends ago, I stumbled across a surprise discovery. There between the rat traps and Christmas decorations were a couple of boxes whose contents were not known to me. The kids begged to open them, and lo and behold, I pulled out a familiar ancient orange spiral notebook. It contained all my journal entries required for my Marriage and Family Class in high school. I was 16 years old, and had been dating Dominick for about 6 months when most of the entries were made. I had no idea that I had saved this, and after posting a few months back about advice I would give my 16 year old self, I was deeply curious to see what my true 16 year old self thought about the life I find myself living today.
Was I on the mark with my predictions? Had my desires panned out? How immature would my 16 year old self sound to my 44 year old self?
I dug in to find out.
There on the pages that are not even yellowed, I spoke to myself in writing that is familiar and a voice that is very similar. In reading through the entries, I was a bit stunned to find the 16 year old and 44 year old merged quite nicely, and though there have of course been changes and some maturing, the voice I heard was not very different from who I am now.
In it I shared about my experiences with my "egg baby". We were required to carry around an egg for a week, and pretend it was our actual child. I wisely noted the responsibility was heavy and I was not ready to take that step anytime soon. This proved obvious when a prankster stole little Eggie and sent me a ransom note... one large bag of M&M's was required to hold my Eggie (and save my semester grade) in my arms again. Ransom paid, and my first child was returned to me safely.
I even addressed my very real future life when answering a question posed by the teacher about my thoughts about being an adoptive parent. Tell me this isn't the same 44 year old Cindy when you read :
"From the adoptive parent's point of view, I'd feel very privileged that I could be honored with this precious gift of a life."...16 years old and I think God had already somehow prepared me for the reality.
Other words of wisdom to myself included:
"(my parents) have always tried to make me realize that even though it's important to be successful in your career, earning money is not all there is to life...happiness can be attained in many other ways."
"I'd like my future family to make sacrifices to help one another. This is a good sign of a caring family."
When asked to answer "How would your life have to be before you considered yourself successful?" I answered "I would consider myself successful only if I have done a few things. I want to have a family and husband who are loving, good people...people I can be proud of. This is the most important thing to me. I want a husband who loves me. Without that, your relationship is nothing. Even more importantly, I want to return that love and give of myself to my family. I'd also like to be able to help other people."
"One thing you should never do is push someone away for fear of being hurt. If you don't open yourself up and risk possible pain, you will never gain anything. Most importantly is that every person you run across can have a tremendous impact on your life. Each one can fill a certain empty spot that was only meant to be filled by them."
My life has definitely had it's twists and turns. Many things I never would have imagined have happened. I would have never thought I would move from Camarillo, and certainly not to Colorado. I couldn't have fathomed traveling to far off lands nor parenting five children. Homeschooling? Well that wasn't even heard of much back when I was writing my life plan. Being involved in ministry of any sort? Now you'd really have me laughing.
But surprisingly, the core stuff hasn't changed a bit, and as I read my words written 28 years ago I could see that even then my values were pretty much the same as they are today. It leaves me to ponder, am I the 16 year old of yesteryear, or was she the 44 year old of tomorrow?
Having 11 and 12 year olds now has me wondering...how much of what they express in the coming years will be THEIR core? Have we done enough? Will they view the world from a place of strength and compassion? Have we damaged them in some way that is yet to be seen...will they carry scars we have inflicted? Will they be as blessed as we have been to see their basic dreams come true?
There were a couple of other boxes tucked away next to the one we opened. One is marked "Love Letters from Dominick" and the other is marked "Love Letters from Cindy". We saved them all, the letters of our courtship. A lifetime of experiences has passed since they were written and eventually sealed and stored. We were kids, deeply and passionately in love with one another. Without opening the boxes I can recall many of the sentiments expressed, the certainty with which we spoke of our future together, the commitment we shared even as teens. That we made it this far is in itself a minor miracle. That even a few of our dreams were realized is a little slice of what I consider to be heaven.
The Cindy at 16 really wasn't much different than the woman I look at today in the mirror. Her life was filled with promise and hope, and a challenge to love those around her. The Cindy of today has done just that, or at least attempted to. Funny how when reading all those dreams of yesterday there is no mention at all of careers or professions, there is only life and love. Glad I recognized even then what would make me the happiest. A career was not ever going to do it for me.
As I gaze down at Joshie asleep on the floor next to me, joining us in the middle of my writing this post after having a bad dream, I know that the path I have taken is the right one. After all, the 16 year old knew exactly what I needed.