Dear Silly Twenty-Three Year Old,

Right now, you are probably swamped with assignments, papers, early morning classes and a small child to boot. I know that you are having trouble, not in academics, but with coping as a young, single mother.

So much else is going on around you-even on campus there are so many things you want to do. Curiosity has always been a driving passion for you, but in college it is at its peak.

Seminars, classes, dinners, parties…all the things that you dreamed about in high school. Things that meant that you were no longer under a parental unit’s home.

It’s not fair, I’m not going to tell you that it is or that “it will get easier” or any other well-meaning advice. It doesn’t get better, not in the way you think.

I would like to impart you with some things I’ve learned ahead of you.

So, grab a highlighter and an extra piece of paper and make a quick list. I’ll wait. You will want to remember these things:

See? That didn’t take too long. Put on some music and relax.

  1. College life is not reality. Life, with built-in automatic consequences, will be waiting for you no matter how long you stay in college.
  2. You will amass a lot of student loans and once you leave the comforts of college, they WILL expect you to begin paying off the loans…with actual money, not promises.
  3. Not everyone is who they appear to be. I love your naivete and it will serve you well in many areas, but not in interactions with people. Take your time getting to know others, even family members.
  4. If you have financial problems, which you will—trust me—do not let pride step in front of you. Ask for help. But that is a double-sided coin. There will be people in your life that will initially welcome you in with open arms—but keep your wits about you. Watch for warning signs and keep your damn eyes and heart aware of your surroundings.
  5. Keep your priorities straight. I will help you with this one by listing them for you, in case you are unsure: daughter, education, safety are the top three. Not relieving your loneliness or escaping from the responsibility that goes along with these top three.
  6. It will take a long time finding, loving, accepting and forgiving yourself. Be patient. It will happen.
  7. Spend a lot more time with your baby. Not only will she grow up quicker than planned, you won’t always have her close to you. Kiss her often, get to know her well. This will anchor you both when life turns upside-backwards
  8. Don’t stop writing for yourself. I know you write all the time, read constantly—you have to when you are in college. But don’t stop completely. Make the time—focus—start small and save often. You will want those stray verses again in the future.
  9. Life will get much more difficult from here on out. People you trust will turn on you; mental illness will rear it’s ugly head; you will not get to practice your dream career.

I need you to know that it will be damn hard—nearly impossible—but not quite.

When the nightmare comes knocking, I need you to remember three things:

  • you will go on past every single disaster intact;
  • take a breath and record your feelings/reactions as they come;
  • things will get better.

10. I love you. I believe in you. You have so much to offer. Embrace and accept change. Don’t ever give up.

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