To the 19-year-old in this picture:
You have just arrived in Paris. In the next year you will face your greatest fears, your heart will break a few times and you’ll dance in the same thunderstorm as your future husband. You will enter the restaurant “industry”, you will sit at a genocide trial in Tanzania and you will quit a job in more glorious a fashion than ever again in the rest of your whole life. You will make some of your best friends. (They now have babies.)
In two years: you’ll be pretty seriously in love with your future husband (heartache fades). You won’t be living in France like you might have thought, but you’ll be heading to a new country, unsure of what the world will look like when you get back. It will be different, and will change your path in ways you never thought possible.
In five years: you will be well and good married. Your husband will own a restaurant that you helped open. You will be a new resident in a whole other country, adopting new groups of friends and communities that you never could have imagined. If you thought your family and your heart couldn’t grow any bigger, you’re wrong. They will. You’ll be thinking about law school. I won’t say you shouldn’t do it (it will open up a world of possibilities) but it won’t be your most enjoyable decision.
In ten years: you, your husband and his brother will be opening your fourth restaurant. You manage one. The coffee grinder of the neighbouring café whines at a high pitch, making you your daily cortado. The people who work for you are wonderful and numerous. The community you live in knows you. You may weigh a bit more than you would have hoped to, but you wouldn’t trade a single pound for what you’ve learned along the way. You run a fair bit, but sometimes your only exercise is dancing with your husband, after hours (that’s not a euphemism – sometimes you just lock up, play songs loud, and dance). You are moving into a home that makes you so incredibly happy. You will be most pleased to learn that you have a six-foot, built-in bookshelf (that you built yourself) and it fits almost every book you have ever acquired (you will ship home three suitcases of books from France, and one from South Africa).
You are very lucky for the enduring support of family and friends, far and near.
In all respects, you have absolutely everything you need.
As sure as I stand here now, everything that you ever dreamed could be in ten years, has happened. All you had to do was make it so. Keep going, heart open, ready for the best. You are magic. Keep creating, you marvellous thing.