Last month I turned twenty-three, and it's hard to believe it's been five years since I've written a personal blog post...
Dear Eighteen year old Haley,
You're twenty-three years old now. You are doing well, and you've grown a lot even though you would never feel like it since you are your own worst critic.
Your faith has grown so much. You learned to pray like you never did before. You don't have a Bible study anymore, but you were faithful to obey when God called you to do it even though you had only one person consistently show up. You were a kids camp counselor when you were twenty-one and prayed for other girls out loud. You finally got baptized last year after being a Christian for so long. It was one of the best days of your life, and you got to do it with your sister, Bella.
You graduated high school six years ago. You wanted to start your business so much that you graduated six months early when you were seventeen. You worked retail full-time for five years while doing photography on the side. Now you're doing photography full-time.
You've lived on your own for the past two years. Sometimes it gets a little lonely, but you love your freedom.
You're still single, and not married with five kids now. You enjoy being single even if you went through one of the hardest heartbreaks of your life. It taught you what it meant to love. You also got out of a toxic relationship last spring, and you're thriving alone. It's better to be alone than with the wrong person.
Your beauty standards of being tan came at a cost. You got skin cancer, and had to get it removed on your neck four months ago. You're okay now, but you probably never thought you would have to have surgery or get stitches. You survived, and God gave you the best friends ever to help you during that month. Also I think you're beautiful even without using a tanning bed to live up to the world's beauty standards.
You went to a church group for about two years, and you met some of your closest friends there. You have some amazing friends in your life who prioritize spending time with you, support your business, and love you. They have helped you through two breakups, PTSD, skin cancer, your business, etc. God answered your prayers for good friends that you had prayed for several years. You will learn that it's better to have a few good friends than lots of bad friends. Good friends won't make you feel like you're not good enough or pressure you to be someone you're not.
You drink every now and then. You'll learn that it's better to drink socially with close friends than drink to fit in with people or to help your social anxiety.
You'll be diagnoised with PTSD and social anxiety and realize there is no need to hate yourself. You went through trauma, and it caused damage to your brain so that's why it's hard for you to learn new things and why you get anxious more than most. You've went to over twenty therapy sessions, and you're doing okay now. You'll learn that being kind and loving Jesus makes you beautiful, not changing who you are to seek the approval of others. At the end of the day, you need to do what's right for you, not what you think others expect of you. In fact, you'll go to therapy and realize that you need to quit being a people pleaser. You still have a lot of fear, but you've become a lot more adventurous. Driving two hours away doesn't scare you anymore, you've rode dirt bikes, learned how to shoot a gun one time, drove a skid loader, work with new photographers all the time, and people hire you to be their wedding photographer. You'll learn that a lot of your fears are not as big as they seem. You just have to take it one day at a time, and you'll be alright.
You started writing stories again like you once did. In fact, writing is theraputic for you so you journal and write frequently. You've even started writing poetry again.
You made one of the best decisions you could've ever made for your business in October. You quit your retail job of five years to do wedding photography full-time. You've second shot twenty-seven weddings, and shot three weddings on your own. Your teenage dream is a reality now. After ten years of dreaming about being a wedding photographer full-time, you did it and made your younger self so proud. Guess what? You're doing great. Everyone's version of success looks different, and you're gonna make it. You already are making it.