A Note to My Freshman Self
If I could go back in time to 2011 and take my freshman-self out for coffee, I would want to tell her a few things. I would want to sit her down and say "you can do this!" I would hug her and tell her to be brave because the next 3 years were going to be all over the place. I would let her know...
You're such a silly girl. You're really going to put yourself through some crazy situations and stupid dilemmas the next three years. But that's alright. You're going to learn so much. Seriously, so much. There will be tears, there will be stress, there will be new friendships made and old ones lost. It's going to be okay though. You will get through it!
Freshman year... you sort of wasted. You're going to discover yourself and find out that you're actually not that lame. You love Jesus and you'll grow to love him more. He'll reveal things to you and you'll change your major. But that's okay! You're making discoveries, staying up way too late, and barely getting your homework done. (In fact right now you should be researching for a paper but you're writing this letter...Some things never change).
You're so freaking emotional. Why, Natalie, are you so emotional? You and Mark are going to hit a rough patch. Quit crying and apologize to that boy. He's so nice.
I wish you wouldn't have been so caught up in the shallow stuff. Take a break and pray for Mark. He's so good to you. He's your best friend through all that stress at home. He's your best friend through the depression and self-harm. (By the way, you overcome that by the grace and love of Jesus and Mark's constant support.) He loves you so much and learns how to better express it as time goes on. Don't be so angry with him. If I could get anything through to you, it would be that it isn't bad to make God a part of your relationship. In fact, he should be the center of it! Why do you try to keep it to yourself?
Take time to pray with one another. Take time to prioritize things, like putting your dreams and goals above staying up late and eating a ton of junk food. You become a vegetarian, and I am so proud of you for being healthier. Stick to it though. When people want to get cheesesteaks in Philly, say no!!! Trust me, the next morning you'll just hate yourself and lay in bed with rocks in your belly. It'll be the worst, so save yourself the trouble.
Also, stop beating yourself up about your artwork. (Wanna know a secret? You're about to become a co-leader of Inspire). Whaaaat? That's right! That art ministry team that you thought you weren't "good enough" or "cool enough" for is actually the most welcoming group of people you've ever encountered on campus. So go ahead and say hi to Courtney and Aubrey. Talk to Alexandra. They're not intimidating, they're friendly and beautiful and will impact your life in so many wonderful ways! (In fact, you become great friends with all of them.)
Also, girl you seriously have developed an amazing taste in music. Never doubt your opinions on that. Go ahead and rock out.
Junior Year: Another rough patch with Mark. This time its on both of you. Honesty and commitment and trust are things you haven't seemed to grasp and you need to work on them. Stop making decisions based on emotions, and pray together. Please just pray together. Stop pushing God aside. You're going to get back together and pretend its all okay again but you know it isn't. You aren't sure how to love with all of your heart. You don't know what you want in life anymore. You don't know how to see through the surrounding fog that seems to be everywhere in your head. You're going to just have a few months of confusion and blandness. You're going to hurt, he's going to hurt and you're both going to rush into things that you really have no business rushing into. Again, the emotional decisions just end up hurting people and creating things that God had not intended. There will be many sleepless nights filled with tears and regret and embarrassment, but prayer gets you through. Kindness, time, and grace heal your heart.
Cherish them. You have a wonderful relationship with your family. You've realized that it isn't all about you and you need to respect and honor your parents, even though you feel like an awkward child-adult mixture of a person. It's weird being independent and then going home to rules and structure that you knew as a child. But you're finally at a point where you respect it and things have never been better for you. In that house there is so much love!
And Mark. Oh dear, what a guy. You've both been through the heartbreak mill. You've received it and caused it (for each other and others). You're on a new path now, both building one another up in words and actions. You're thinking about the needs of one another and have moved past the shallow and insignificant. There is trust again, there is honor, and there is love. God is so good.
Now, by senior year you've been through a ton, but you've grown and God has molded your heart into a diligent worker, a creative entrepreneur, and a loving, encouraging woman. Life is not all peaches and cream however. There are just as many awkward situations, angry moments, and rough spots that you have to cling to Jesus to get through.
Life will never be perfect; you're just finally learning how to deal with things and respond in a more mature and Christ-like manner. Never stop growing. There is always room for growth, for a new friend or accountability partner, and for grace in your heart. Make Jesus your everything and follow his call and things will begin to fall into place.
Oh silly child, life carries on and you move and grow and ebb and flow. Don't get so worked up and emotional. Smile. Breathe. Live authentically and naturally and just be who you're meant to be.
Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."
Remember these things:
You have potential and you have a beautiful life ahead so, little freshman self, don't you dare give up.