Because this is what you worry about most, let me start here: You're normal. You're normal because like everyone else you're wildly unique. You can stop worrying that you're not enough.
You're 14 years old and the world sure seems big and filled with feeling. Right now you and your family are living in New Zealand while your dad takes a sabbatical leave from his university in the U.S. You don't know it, but all that self-educating you're doing, spending a whole semester doing your schoolwork in hotels and apartments and RV's... that's called homeschooling. It's going to be a big part of your life some day.
There are things you think you want. You'll be surprised by how they come.
There are things you think you don't want. You'll be surprised by how much joy they bring.
Let go a little. You're going to be growing into yourself for a long time.
The braces come off soon. Glasses you're stuck with forever, but good news: when you turn 16 you'll get to wear contact lenses! You're always going to be a little awkward. It will make you more compassionate. Eventually you'll realize that you just feel prettier and more yourself in skirts. You're also going to go on an unexpected journey with God that will lead you to start wearing a head covering. This will give you loads of opportunity to practice not worrying what people think about you.
I know that right now your focus is on your education. You think you need to do amazingly well in high school so you can get into a prestigious university. I know it's hard to think past that.
But there will be a moment in Woolworth's in the Ala Moana shopping center, January 1984, when you'll be staring at a big bin of flip-flops, and it will strike you... you'll turn to Dad and say, "But if I'm a doctor, how am I going to be home to raise a family?" That moment is when a new thought will creep in. When you'll start to realize that you can't have everything you want or be anyone you want, even though the posters at your old elementary school shouted "Kids Are People Too!"
And the one thing you've always wanted, before you wanted to be a vet or a computer programmer or a pediatrician or a teacher or an author - or even a wife - was to be a mom.
So when you think that all through, how you'll go to high school for 4 years, then college for 4 years, then med school for 4 years, then internship and residency, and how you'll be looking at your 30's for starting a family and still not being home all day, you'll realize... that's not worth it for me. I can't be the doctor I want to be and be the mom I want to be.
That will be the beginning of your choice. It is a good choice.
It's okay to go to college. You'll do that. And it's okay that you won't find your calling there.
This God thing you're going through right now, the one that seems to be growing... in a few years kids at school will make fun of you for it, and a few years after that you'll ditch the whole thing and run around searching searching everywhere for something. It will take time, years, and you will be very very stupid, but eventually you'll fall into the arms of Grace when you finally crack a bible and start to really read.
You know how it feels like God is real right now? You're right.
Your fascination with gender roles will persist, you'll even write a ridiculously-titled anthropology honors thesis at your university. You could probably edit that title a bit.
But all that pondering will lead you to places you don't expect, and you'll go from thinking women have to do it all, to understanding that there is a difference between value and role, and that living out a traditional female role does not equal being of less value. You'll go from thinking that God must really be female, to wanting to know Truth as it is, not as how you think seems cool.
Those career dreams? You won't be a vet, but you'll live on your own little farm. You won't be a computer programmer, but in a decade the world will be overswept by this thing called the Internet, and you'll teach yourself HTML and PHP because you'll want to have your own website. You won't be a pediatrician, but you'll doctor many a childish scrape and tend many fevered head. Your knowledge base of natural remedies will grow by leaps and bounds. You won't teach in an elementary school, but you will educate each of your children at home.
Your dreams will come true, just not in the way you expect.
You'll fall in love with a tie-wearing pizza cook with a guitar in his hand, and he'll be The One. You'll marry under the trees and wing off on adventures inside and out.
And your dream of being an author... well sweetie, you and I are still working that one out. That is the one it seems we were meant to do in a deeper and wider way and even though I'm 29 years older than you, I'm still scared to rip it all back. You and I need to be brave.
You may be a lousy thesis-title editor, but you are a pretty vicious self-editor, and you will continue to battle that. You'll battle it in your writing, and you'll battle it in your relationships. The problem you have with people-pleasing is deeply rooted. God has noticed this and He is going to give you plenty of chance to work on it (see above).
But little girl, be encouraged... you've already figured out the basics...
People are more important than things.
There's a lot of hurt in the world and you, yes you, really can make a difference.
The sense you have that there is something big and wild and wonderful flowing beneath and throughout it all... yes... and it's God.
And Patti, you feel like you are living in a story because you are. It's the most important story you'll write. Share the pen with God and play your role with joy.
Joining writers around the globe today penning letters to our teenaged selves.
Thank you Emily for the inspiration.