Dear 21 Year Old Me, Twenty Years Later

Dear 21 Year Old Me,

Today you are turning 41. Before your poor little, fun-loving college student heart starts to panic at that age being broadcast to the world, trust me when I tell you, over 40 is a great place to be. Over 40 is a milestone, and over 40 is a celebration of growing up and finding yourself. And that is what you have done. Over the last 20 years, you have found yourself and become someone I know you would be so proud of. It has not always been easy or happy, but you became stronger, braver, wiser, and more confident than you ever imagined you would be. You have found yourself in a career you would never have imagined for yourself, and you are excelling in it. You have an amazing husband, {yes, it is Tim}, and you guys are raising an amazing little boy.

woman and her husband stand in front of riverBut even knowing those key things, I wish I was sitting next to you today, as you turn 21. As you take your first “legal” drink, as you celebrate with friends, those you still have and some you do not. As you ideally imagine what is to come in this life as you fully embrace the Aggie Student life, I wish I could be there to tell you these things.

Listen to mom and dad; they know what they are talking about

I know you are right now rolling your eyes at this statement but trust me on this. Right now, the advice they give you seems more like nagging, but in the years to come, you will realize that they are guiding you to become the adult they know is inside you. Mom will become one of your best friends, and dad your greatest encourager, so listen to what they say. Treasure their words and knowledge because it won’t always be there.

woman and her father

You will survive.

Everything is not going to go the way you want it. Things will get messed up, people will let you down, and plans will just fall through, and it is ok. You will survive these moments. I know it does not seem like it now, but you will. Surviving these moments is not fun, but they will show you what it means to be resilient and strong. Your strong desire to plan our every detail will get rocked over and over, but you will survive.

When you fail, get back up

Failure sucks. You hate it as a 21-year-old, and now as a 41-year-old, you still hate it; you always will hate it. But every failure you will encounter over the next 20 years is going to give you the chance to get back up and try again. Every failure will teach you something about yourself. Every failure will provide you with the chance to rise higher than you were. Every failure will give you the opportunity to prove that maybe you stumbled, but you never broke. Let yourself feel the pain of failure, and then lift your head and straighten your crown and keep going as the queen you know you are and get back up.

woman with eyes closed and arms outstretched

Believe in yourself.

Looking back, I know how hard you are on yourself. How much you doubt your abilities and what you can do. But I want to tell you to believe in yourself. You are so much more capable than you give yourself credit for, and you are going to do so many amazing things. I want to wrap you in a hug and tell you to believe in the person you will fight so hard to become. Believe in your strength. Believe in your intelligence. Believe in the future you are mapping out for yourself.

Sign that reads "Believe in Yourself"

Let the nonsense go

Sweet 21-year-old Whitney, so much nonsense is about to take place in your life. From family and friend drama to work-related issues and so much more. You will feel the need to get involved, do not let it go. Do not worry about the nonsense and the things you cannot control. Just let it go. FYI this phrase will take on a whole new meaning thanks to an ice-wielding Disney princess in the years to come, consider yourself warned. Letting go is hard, and you will not be able to do this well or all the time, but I hope you find the healing power of letting go as freeing then as I have now.

Take all the trips you are offered

You will be offered the chance to go on amazing trips, study abroad in Italy, and backpack through Europe, Hawaii, Israel, cruises, and more. Take them, all of them, every single one. Figure out how to pay for them and go. You are going to discover more about yourself away from home than you ever will close to home. Take the trips, embrace the difference, and let it shape your awesome self!

woman with arms outstreatched stands in front of waterfall

Listen to RBG and speak your mind

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but Ruth Bader Ginsberg died recently. It hurt your heart so much, but I remembered something when she died that she once said that we first learned about when we were the you that you are right now, “speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” For so long, people have told you not to speak your mind, but this quote helped you find your voice when you needed it. Listen to this quote, hold it close, and even when it is hard, and when your voice shakes, speak up and use your voice. Your voice is going to lead to a career you cannot imagine right now. Your voice will take you farther than you ever imagined.

woman becoming ordained minister

You are going to become a runner

This is not a joke or a drill. You will experience some heavy things in life, and you will find that running clears your head and frees your spirit. You are going to not just run but run half marathons, and you are going to run a lot of them. I know 21-year-old Whitney is laughing hysterically right now, but you will run over the Manhattan bridge one day in the New York Half Marathon, and you will look over the water and know that I was right; you are a runner.

woman running marathon

21 is a big year, and you are changing and growing. You have yet to meet all of the people that will shape you completely, but they are coming. Some of them you already have by your side, Ashley, Kim, Dora, and others are there too. Some though you have not met yet, but when you do you will know, they will get you through this chaotic thing called life. I promise you, you will not do this all alone.

My biggest wish for you 20 years later is that you know your worth. Realize it is not tied up in how others see you or what others think you can accomplish, but in you. Your worth lies within the person you are becoming, and lady, it is a beautiful person. So on our 41st birthday, I am choosing to hug and celebrate my 21-year-old self and be thankful for all she went through to bring me here today.

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Whitney Peper
Whitney P. was raised in the Houston area, the third oldest of six children. After high school she attended and graduated from Texas A&M earning a degree in Communications and Political Science where she met her husband Tim. After college, Whitney worked as the Communications Director for a private school in Austin before returning to Houston in 2008 to work as a corporate fundraiser for non-profits before her the call into ordained ministry. Whitney resides in Katy and is an Associate Pastor at St. Peter’s UMC overseeing Care and Special Needs ministries. Whitney and Tim adopted their first child Jase {March 2013} in 2013, and he is living his best dinosaur loving life. Besides her work and family, Whitney’s greatest passions are reading, discussing and celebrating anything related to Harry Potter, traveling near and far, and training for half-marathons. Whitney has a personal blogOur Color Filled Life.



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