Somehow, without really understanding how, you just turned 18 years old. Today. No offense, but there's no way you look 18. When I think of you, my mind pictures you as a 2-year old toddler. Me and you, hanging out in our no-cable-here low-income apartment. You dragging out every single one of your dolls and stuffed animals; me wondering how the hell I was ever going to buy food and pay the electric bill. You were always so smiley. So happy. So oblivious.
My birthday wish for you this year is that you make it a priority to be smiley and happy -- and that you will forever be oblivious.
Oblivious to the temptation of stress. Because, the truth is, you're an adult now and adults tend to get sucked into this vacuum of stress and anxieties. Too many of us forget how to let go and laugh things off because we've been convinced the way adults should operate is by being unbelievably neurotic when it comes to stress. And stress is not fun. It also accomplishes absolutely nothing. Unless you count high blood pressure and grey hair an accomplishment. You deserve only happiness and nothing less. Stress robs you of that. Stay away from it. In fact, stay away from anything that robs you of happiness.
Remain oblivious to the temptation of keeping up with the Joneses. You don't even know who they are and you certainly have no idea how they got the stuff they did, or how long they lie awake each night slamming antacids while they worry whether or not they'll be able to pay the minimum fees on their seven credit cards. Yes, their cars are nice and their homes are lovely, but true happiness lies in the experiences you have with people you love. No one ever laid on their deathbed regretting the day they didn't purchase that $87 tank top and the car that cost more than my house.
Remain oblivious to the temptation of comparing your body to those you see in magazines. Your body will change as you age, as you have children, as you take different medications, even as you turn 40. It'll be okay. Yes, God gifted them amazing bodies but He also gifted someone else the art of Photo Shop. Besides, He has gifted you compassion, intelligence, kindness, humor, and sensitivity. Those things stay. Make those your priority.
Remain oblivious to the temptation of living out a life that isn't meant to be yours. Too often we second guess what path we should take so we ask for advice. And this is okay as long as you're asking people who answer with "what is your heart telling you?" God will place the answer on your heart and yours alone. If He wants you to travel the world - travel. If He wants you to adopt orphans - adopt. If He calls you to be a truck driver, a teacher, an artist in Cleveland, a maintenance worker at Six Flags, then do it. Do it well. Do it with pride. Just don't ignore your heart because someone else thinks you ought to be doing something different. Those tugs on your heart you keep feeling? That's God. Don't ignore Him. No matter how ridiculous the masses might think you are.
Remain oblivious to the temptation of time. See, for some reason we who know better keep asking you this singular question that lies to you. We keep asking, "so, what are your plans?" It implies that you should have an answer. That you should know absolutely without a doubt what you are going to do in your life from this point forward. And it's a lie. You don't have to know. See, that's the beauty of being 18. You do not have to know. Take a chance! Throw caution to the wind! Move to some city just because you like that name! You're 18. You have the whole world ahead of you. Don't shrink your world because you think you need to have the school/job/house/marriage/kids right now this second. Don't buy into the lie that you need to know everything right now. Go. Explore. Learn. See what the world offers you. You have all the time in the world!
18 years old. Man. I can't believe it. I want to wrap you up and buckle you into your car seat. Tuck you into bed. Laugh at you in wide eyed wonder when you ask about the Dalai Lama and hand you your sippy cup.
Happy Birthday, Beautiful.
I love you more than pickles!
Photo credit: Photographer Emily Brewster