Dear 14 year-old Ashleigh,
11 years have passed and a lot has changed. You are now married, spending a year in America. You may not believe this is possible as you probably expect to spend the rest of your life not far from home but you are stronger than you think.
Life has had a lot of ups and downs during those 11 years. I hope not spoil them too much for you with the little bits that I hint at. The highs are extremely high and the lows will make you stronger and more determined in life. Everything you think you know in life is probably wrong but that is okay, you will learn.
During the next 11 years you will meet many new people but you have already met your husband. The fake prayers you speak will be become real prayers of faith. Your faith will become an important part of your identity and life. Do not force this to come about wait till the slow opening of your eyes. The journey will be long but magical.
But most of all remember live everyday as I have already because without those hardships you will not know the love I have today; without those dark days you will not become the tower of strength that I am now; without those days your relationship with God will not develop. You will say and do many silly things but if they lead to this day then it was worth it.
“Life will often be tough, but you will find more love than you can imagine” (The Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.)
Justin Welby was the inspiration for this post today. The quote I added to the end of my letter came from Justin Welby’s own letter to his 14 year-old self, which he posted to Facebook over 24 hours ago. In the post Justin Welby asks us what we would like to say to our 14-year old selves and the words constructed above are what I wish I could say.
Writing has become a therapeutic art form for myself. It has given me the opportunity to reflect on my thoughts and grow as an individual, especially within my faith. Although at times thinking of a topic for these posts everyday has been stressful, usually a topic comes along and with each word typed the stress melts into the background, I become free.
Writing the letter above was a perfect opportunity to reflect on my life with how far I have come. Being able to look over the ups and downs of the last 11 years showed me that although I did not understand a lot of it at the time, each experience has shaped and moulded me into the person I am today. I have grown a lot since that version of me but the best bit yet is that I still have a long way to go.
Today is World Book Day and to celebrate many children in England dress up as their favourite characters from their favourite books. Children are getting excited about books! Reading and writing are both important to our health; whether it be reflecting on what has been or allowing stresses to dissolve in the imagination of good book, they both can help your brain to process your own life.
I have two challenges today. The first for you to take the time to write a letter to your 14 year-old self. What would you like them to know? Then write a letter to your future self, whether 5, 10 or 20 years. Give them a snapshot of who you are right in this moment. What is it that you think you will achieve? Who do you think you will become? I am going to privately do this second challenge and maybe if I am still blogging in 5 years time, maybe then I will share who I thought I was today.
“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
*Just a note that the featured image is a much earlier image of myself. I have hopefully burned or buried all images of my at 14 years-old and the image above is the closest I have to hand.