A Letter to One-Year-Old Me

Recently I stumbled upon what is quite possibly my favorite picture from my childhood. Ever.
1987 was a good year.
This photo is precious to me for far more reasons than I could ever blog about. As one of 5 (count 'em, FIVE!) sisters, the sheer fact that I had a moment alone with both of my parents - and that the moment lasted long enough for someone to document it - well that is nothing short of a miracle.* It was taken at the location of some of my most treasured childhood memories: Sunriver. Just looking at this picture, I'm transported back to a time of annual summer vacations, Loon Lane, lip-syncing competitions, lazy floats down the river, family bike rides, tunnel-echoes, peanuts for the squirrels, mini-golf, making up our own rules to backgammon, music videos, and of course Goodies ice cream

It's just a snapshot, but for me it represents the elusive family of my childhood - which at the time I took for granted, assuming it would be around forever...just like my daddy's trendy suspenders or my momma's perm.

So tonight, I'm channeling that sweet, innocent little chubby-cheeked toddler for just a moment and wondering what it would be like to be her again.

Dear One-Year-Old Natalie,

Do you see how firmly and confidently you are taking the world by charge? Where did you find that kind of determination? You are far too young to have been formally taught about the importance of self-esteem (or humility, for that matter). No one told you how to be bold in your own skin, but then again, no one had to tell you that either. No, what you have is sheer, beautiful, child-like instinct. You may not yet possess the walking skills to do it all on your own, but you certainly aren't going to let something as silly as the fear of falling slow you down or stop you from pursuing whatever it is that brings you joy.

Those two hands you are gripping so tightly for support? Darling, they will always be there for you. God knew what He was doing when He blessed you with this family. As a matter of fact, you should probably thank Him for that, because let me tell you; you are going to stumble and fall a lot in your pursuit of your dreams. And I won't deny it; there will be times when you will grow angry at this loving guidance which you currently embrace so unabashedly. You might even mistake their supportive grasp as an attempt to hold you back or somehow prevent you from becoming the fullest version of yourself.

But I encourage you, little one, to turn around every once in awhile and just look at those smiles. These people love you. And they want absolutely nothing but the best for your heart. You are going to spend years and years of your life desperately trying to earn this love and approval which has already been given to you. I see it right there.

Can we talk about your sassy sense of style? Girl, you are rocking that tuxedo-t-shirt-turned-dress and Flinstones-esque ponytail like nobody's business. Who cares that you are also wearing ruffle-socks with sandals? Certainly not you. I'm jealous of your boldness. I'm envious of your ability to disregard materialism in exchange for simpler things. I yearn for your intrinsic priority to enjoy life.

Sweet child, you may not be able to read, write, or even speak. You haven't earned any advanced degrees or traveled the world. Your greatest heartbreak is having to go to bed earlier than you'd like. You have so much life ahead of you. And yet, you are wise in a way I wish was never broken, because you still believe in all you have to offer this world. You haven't been tainted by rejection or embarrassed by failure. Not only do you march to your own beat, but you invite others to join in the parade. 

You still know that you are a miracle and this life is a blessing which should be embraced and explored more than it ever needs to be understood.

While I may never be able to step back into your tiny shoes again, I can live inside your heart, which is as tender as it is pure. I pray that I might learn from you and once again take steps towards my dreams, even if my knees wobble. I pray I will remember that it's okay to let others help me every once in awhile - it doesn't make me any less brave. And I also kind of pray for a tuxedo t-shirt, because that, my dear, is just fantastic.

Cling to your vulnerability, cherish your innocence, and continue your quest for joy. 

All my love,

*never mind the fact that there were technically only three of us at the time this picture was taken.