Dear 23-year-old Stephanie::

You’re on the other side of the world right now.  This adventure you’re on, it’s one of the greatest gifts you’ve ever been given.  Don’t waste it.  Learn all you can, but stop taking yourself so seriously… try and laugh a little more.  You’re actually really funny.

You’re going to take a job that will steal your joy. You’ll survive and it will teach you so much.  You’ll be lonely, but you’re going to make it.  You’ll walk away at exactly the right time… so hang in there! 
You’re going to walk away a lot in the next five years. 
Sometimes it will be walking away from good in order for better-  other times you'll be walking away from things you ought to have avoided all together.
Don’t be afraid to walk alone… don’t be afraid to like it. 

In the same breath, don’t be afraid to walk back into things.  Don’t be too prideful or arrogant to admit you made a mistake… ask for forgiveness and do the difficult but rewarding work of rebuilding the greatest of friendships.  Walk back into the Church, despite apprehension and hurt; you will be welcomed- and you will be gently reminded of the goodness of His mercies.

You’re still going to be in school at twenty-eight… it’s going to be tough for quiet some time. Keep your head down and work all the jobs, this too shall pass.  Learn boundaries as soon as possible- you’re going to end up spread too thin. Learn to say no, even when it’s hard.

Invest in friendships.  Forgive quickly and often.  Don’t ever stop giving and receiving feedback- it’s one of the most valuable gifts.  Surround yourself with people who are honest and don’t shy away from telling you when you’re out of line.  Pay attention to things that offend you- there are lessons to be learned from them.

Don’t become so preoccupied with doing “important things.”  As Momma T said, “Faith is love in action not in feeling.”
The most important things you will do are not at all related to travel or adventure.  While those things are good and will give you good blogging material- you’ll soon find that the most loving and faithful thing you can do is show up consistently.  Show up to church, show up for your family, show up for a friend.  It’s not always going to give you the warm feelings you hope for- show up anyway.  

Keep dreaming big. 
Keep your standards high and expectations low.
Keep writing, even when the words don’t come easily.

I’m really proud of the woman you’re becoming,

-Steph

P.S You’re going to bring in your twenty fourth year in a night club in Bulgaria, miss the last bus home, and spend the wee hours of the morning in a Subway.  It’s not one of your finest moments.  Take a shower, pick yourself up, and live the next five years with a little more grace…

P.P.S.  You’re going to start running again.  This time it’s not going to be for a guy, and that will make the miles all the more meaningful. 

P. P. P. S You’re going to be able to drink tequila again someday.  You can thank Aaron Luke for this.