Someone in my family mentioned the other day about how they had spent their whole childhood wondering what they would be like when they were 30.
I did too.
I remember when women I love turned 30. My mom. My aunt Donna. Lea. Each of these women were in a very different phase of life by the time they turned 30; their lives looked nothing like mine. My frame of reference for 30 did not prepare me for what life looks like for me right now.
As I crept closer to 30 I met peers whose lives looked like mine. Single parents, unmarried, college graduates, homeowners. Beautiful women who were either role models or cautionary tales. Women who've loved us, uplifted us, led the way.
But I have very few people to look up to who knew how to navigate 30 the way I am going to have to.
And that's the only part of the new decade that scares me.
Otherwise, I am happy to be here.
I struggled for days after my family mentioned how during childhood we daydream about 30.
I grappled with what my 12-year-old self would think of me today.
I worried that I have not made her proud.
The truth is, I wouldn't have.
There's no way 12-year-old Anna would be proud of who I am now, because 12-year-old Anna would have zero frame of reference for what it took to get here.
She'd not understand that being married and having a house and being a writer was not the only life worth living.
Recently I left a really hard thing and paused, telling myself and the people standing with me: there are things in life that I am very thankful we don't know how hard they are before we go into them.
There are seasons of life, tasks, events, milestones, jobs, relationships, roles, that had we known how hard it would be... we'd have never started in the first place.
I'm afraid had you told my 12-year-old self I wouldn't have any of the things I wanted back then... she would have tapped out. Run for the hills.
I am so thankful we can't always see what comes next.
I am so thankful we don't encounter something until we are almost ready for it.
I am so thankful for attributes of resilience and flexibility.
We've all seen the movies. The Kid, with Bruce Willis, comes to mind. As does Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. A character travels back in time and meets themselves as a child (in the case of the Meatballs, he travels forward and meets his future). Ultimately a character is given a decision. Do you alter your life by interrupting the course of events? Or do you allow your former self to experience life as it comes?
I'd tell my 12-year-old self to be prepared. To get ready to be surprised.
That life would be hard.
That even the next year of her life would be unbearably painful and scary.
But that life doesn't have to look like we planned to be good.
I might be tempted to tell her what catastrophes to avoid. When to leave and who to walk away from and who to speak up to. But even then, I risk unraveling the whole story.
A story that, I hope, is nowhere near ending.
A story about a lot of hardship, a lot of loneliness, but about a lot of adventure. About a brown-eyed boy who thinks you are the most beautiful. About rediscovering your strengths. About being brave.
I'd tell her, just wait. It's not easy. But it's going to be good.