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15 Things I Would Tell My 17-Year-Old Self

1. You are worthy of all things bright and beautiful. Wrap your arms around yourself often. Don’t let shame and insults be rent-free tenants in your one and only home. Your body, your bones, the beating beneath your chestfind ways to honor them all.

2. Say what will otherwise make you sick to keep inside. Holding back your truth will hurt you more than it could harm anyone else.

3. Make a list of what you want to be and I can promise you "pretty" and "skinny" won't come before kind, honest, empathetic, driven, adventurous, genuine, and brave. Make a list of people you adore and why you adore them and I can promise you "pretty" and "skinny" do not make the list.

4. Listen to your guidance counselors when they say you are important and can do hard things. One day, you'll know it to be true.

5. This year reveals what you have always known- he's sick. The apology doesn't come. The wounds from his absence don't heal in one summer. They don't heal while you stare at his empty seat the first, second, thirdfourthfifthsixth Thanksgiving. Longing for someone and losing them are two heartaches you'll revisit often. The good news? You get stronger with every season.

6. When you retreat to your room to write and tell yourself, "it's just a hobby"- you're wrong. You are a talent. Sing praise to yourself like your mother does in your birthday cards. The voice you are hushing? That's yours, my dear. You are the goodness of your own story so write it. ▶

7. Life is heavy. I wish this wasn’t so true. But it’s a lot less heavy when you let go of what is no longer yours to hold on to.

8. Feelings are often fleeting. Be light. Don’t sink your entire identity into a story that is no longer true. Float above the worries and doubt.

9. You already know this to be true, but I’ll say it again because you’ve got years of some powerful and precious memories ahead: this life of yours is without a doubt the most beautiful gift you'll ever receive. Find ways to always express how grateful you are.

10. When you feel like you’ve been treading water for what feels like years, place your feet down, my sweet. The ground is closer than you think. Sometimes we put ourselves in the way of suffering. It’s an easy (and fixable) mistake.

11. When your sister is in the hospital and you stare at her wondering if you could lose her forever, when you wash her hair in the shower and hold on to it a little longer because the doctors said The Word, when you drive through Red Rock and stop at the overlook to scream at the top of your lungs because someone, somewhere has to hear you, my goodness, I wish I could hug you as I write this. Because everything will be okay and sometimes it won't. You'll learn about the fragility of life and the art of handling it more carefully. Grace is an unrelenting force. I hope you pay attention.

12. In high school, you and your friends have sleepovers and talk about dream homes with his and her sinks and how you'll have a sweet hubby by twenty-two... I'm here to break the news: you don't get married by twenty-two. Instead, you nanny for a family that teaches you how love stretches and bends, you travel to Indonesia and then to France, you explore Europe, you live with people who make you better, you get an education in the one thing you’ve always held dear, you take jobs that you dreamed of. You make connections. You give bits of your heart away. You love all in a way that is big and unyielding. You are ring-less and right where you should be.

12. In high school, you and your friends have sleepovers and talk about dream homes with his and her sinks and how you'll have a sweet hubby by twenty-two... I'm here to break the news: you don't get married by twenty-two. Instead, you nanny for a family that teaches you how love stretches and bends, you travel to Indonesia and then to France, you explore Europe, you live with people who make you better, you get an education in the one thing you’ve always held dear, you take jobs that you dreamed of. You make connections. You give bits of your heart away. You love all in a way that is big and unyielding. You are ring-less and right where you should be.

13. Your faith will be strengthened by the mundane. You learn the most about words and the weight of them by living in a country where you don't speak the language. You will feel the power of forgiveness on damp cliffs of Ireland. Freckles on your skin will remind you that the light always get to you. Your mom's hugs will prove to be the safest place to rest and retreat. The little moments reveal the biggest truths.

14. You spend so much time feeling too big for your body and too wordy for those who just stare blankly and too forgiving for those who reserve their apologies and too emotional for people who never cry. Just be. Be all those things because it's who you are. Be the girl that cries when a stranger is hurting, be the girl that forgives because you've been forgiven, be the girl that knows a life doesn’t have to look like your own to be worthy. Be the girl that ignores the world when it claims you are a little "too" much of anything.

15. You are loved beyond measure so love back beyond measure. Live in the blessings spoken to you. Be kinder than necessary. I wouldn't change a thing about this life of ours because *spoiler alert* everything unfolds just as it should.

Katie Visconti is a dreamer and writer living in Las Vegas, Nevada where she works in advertising and leads gratitude workshops. She loves Mary Oliver poetry, slow mornings, and being in bed by 9 p.m.bykatievisconti.com
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