A Letter To My 18 Year Old Self (Alternatively Titled: Year V)

IMG_9342 Dear 18 Year Old Hannah,

On the night before your first day with your first university class, you stayed up, decorating your agenda and making sure your mug was ready for tea in the morning. You charged up your laptop, creeped on your friends and their move in days, watched too much TV, & thanked the Lord that half of your face stopped looking like a human fat face app.

You were really scared, really nervous, & you had no idea what you were getting yourself into. You knew you were always the girl who was going to leave & you made sure everyone knew it - I bet they wouldn't have even had to say, "Hannah is going to Ryerson for journalism" when you walked across the graduation stage. You let everyone know you were not going to stay. You were going to write, you were going to Toronto, you were going to get involved, and you were going to chases your dreams.

It is four years later. You wrote. You stayed in Toronto. You got involved. You chased your dreams.

But you also learned it takes more than words to change the world, and to be honest, you fall in love with the action side of changing the world. You stayed in Toronto, but your heart feels scattered between Hamilton & Jarvis & Honduras & you’re not quite sure where it will land. You got involved, far more than you ever expected when you unloaded your boxes and carried them with Fred up to the fifth floor. And you chased your dreams, even though your dreams look a lot different than they did at eighteen.

I want to tell you a lot of things, because the world seems big and scary at eighteen, and right now, you want to hide, drink Coca Cola, and watch Glee. But that’s not who you were made to be, Hannah Van Dyk. Right off the bat, four years later, I can tell you - that is not who you are. You’re going to go through the lost years, “The Dark Days of HVD” as you and Mel dubbed them. That’s gonna really suck but it’s also going to be really good for you, because you’re going to learn about vulnerability and about not running away. You’re going to get close to people you maybe didn’t want to get close to.

I know you’re feeling absolutely petrified & unprepared for being a responsible adult & you’re largely just wondering why nobody prays before anything is that: it all turns out for the best. There are going to be a lot of days when you do not want to hear that. There are going to be a lot of days when you ignore that. There are going to be a whole host of days when you flat out don't believe that to be true. But I can tell you, four years after that blue van rolled out of Jarvis with your family & your possessions in blue bins, it all turns out for the best. Every single plot twist. Every single character development: the people who got written into your story, only to be written out. The people you tried to write back in. The people who God placed in your path to love fiercely. Every setting change. Every personal development. Every time you stretch the plot to somewhere you never thought it'd go. It all turns out for the best.

& also: you just didn't know how good it was going to get. You had no idea how much your heart would expand, how much your brain would learn, how much your hands could hold. You had no precursor for how much love would fill your heart, how many memories & friends this place would hold. You're gonna venture out to a hockey game, in the middle of winter with two friends, & when the bus doesn't come on time, you'll walk for 20 minutes & think there's no way you walked through that without developing frost bite. You also find that maybe your life calling is to be a cheerleader & not in a dancy way - in a way that you'll always want to be in the front row with a blowhorn or bam bams, cheering on the characters in your story. (Just don't be so busy cheering that you forget to live your own life.) & you're going to spend an evening blowing up balloons for your best friend's birthday, only to wake up the next morning & find they look like absolute garbage. You're going to explore, find little secret places you can call your own & big places you can share with your favourite friends. You’re going to develop a belief that breakfast can be a very spiritual experience. You will struggle to find a church home but people will always show you what Jesus’ love looks like in action.

Spoiler alert: you’re staying for a fifth year. That’s a really good thing but also a really hard thing to explain to people. And it wasn’t the plan. As adaptable as you like to think you, you’ve had a hard time adapting to this major game changer. 18 year old Hannah: this fifth year wasn't the plan but you've mastered changing the plan & turning it into something greater than you could have imagined.

There’s this story in the bible where Jesus turns water into wine after they run out of wine at a wedding. It’s easy to write off as a kid, but you are going to re-read that story right before you go into your fifth year. First, you’re going to note that next to the title of, “Jesus Changes Water Into Wine”, you’ve written #partyJesus. Why? We don’t know. Then, you’re going to skim through until you reach this verse, where the bridegroom comes up to Jesus & says, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:10). P

Hold onto the truth that Jesus saves the best wine for last. He has saved the best till now. This fifth year? This is your choice wine, girl.

Kid President says, “You were made from love, to be love, to spread love.” You know who you are, Hannah Van Dyk. Go love people like Jesus does. Go help them tell their stories, in whatever mixed up way you can. Go stand in the front row of people’s lives, cheerleading them (but skip the blowhorn because an unexpected blowhorn scares people).

Lots of love,

22 year old Hannah