Dear teenage Shannon,
Yes, the Pulsar is the coolest of all possible first-cars, although when you're riding around with the t-tops off, I hate to break it to you, but you do not look like Mary J Blige. Even in the hoodie dress and sunglasses. Take a pic of the Pulsar, though, because in 15 years, no one on the earth will remember this car model having ever existed. So take those T-tops off, velcro the CD player to the dash, and rock on, girl. These days are good. In 20 years, you will still text (it's a thing you'll understand later) Gina every time "California Love" comes on the radio.
You have stumbled upon one of the great truths of life at an early age: a perfect eyeliner application can always improve your mood. We really should talk about that hair, though. I know, I know: it was the 90's.
Something you should know: Mom and Dad are actual people. Hard to understand at this age, I realize. But they have feelings and struggles and hearts and hurts, and you need to be a little sensitive to that, ok? One day you'll be a mom, and you'll understand how hard it is to be a mere mortal charged with the heavenly task of raising children. Even when parents fall, they still are heroes. Mom and Dad are not necessarily perfect human beings (don't worry - they already know this), but they ARE amazing and selfless parents (you may want to let them know this sometimes - they can be hard on themselves, I think). They can still perch on those pedestals, even though they are real. Your parents are truly amazing people. You'll be sentimental about them forever.
Boys are really not worth the trouble. If you could not be bothered with them until you're about 25, that would be great. Focus on your girlfriends. They are the best! There's nothing better than laughing until you have tears in your eyes over a million inside jokes that will never be funny to anyone else. Enjoy all your friends.
God has a good man for you. You'll meet him. He will take care of you and your kids, he'll even take care of other kids, because he's really amazing. You'll be crazy about him. Besides being totally handsome, he's also brilliant. You don't know now that such a good man will love you one day, but that's because you're young and silly and really should put all thoughts of dating and boys on the back burner until you are older and smarter. There really is a man with a beautiful heart and who is strong and worthy of respect and who will chase after your dreams all over the world with you. God made him for you. Years will pass, and you will never stop being in awe of this man you have.
Be sure you get all your favorite childhood recipes. You'll love to cook these meals for your kids one day. And don't be annoyed that Mom makes you cook once in a while. You'll be a decent homemaker one day. (Which - are you sitting? - will become your dream job.)
Don't be afraid to look stupid. Don't worry about going to something you want to attend just because no one you know yet is going (you'll remind yourself of this for the next 20-something years), because there are probably new friends waiting for you there.
You'll never be tan. You're Irish. If you are smart, you'll stay out of tanning beds and really not go overboard on the spray tan. Just rock the sunscreen and the Celtic complexion with pride (and maybe a little spray tan). One day you'll have a daughter who's biracial and you'll want her to be proud of the color God made her (although you will be jealous of her year-round mocha skin).
Get to know your grandmother. She's super-amazing. Try to learn everything you can from her. She knows a bunch of cool things. She can sew. She can cook. She can do the jitterbug. She knows as much about how to live with joy and vitality as anyone, possibly in the history of the world. Your kids will love her. But they will be annoyed with hearing you say each time you drive by her old house that you hope to buy it someday. (You'll say it anyway...)
The smell of fresh soil and cucumbers will always make you think of Bampa. You'll never forget him. You'll tell Mom often how much he would have liked your husband. Sometimes you'll say "Oh boy" to your kids, and you'll stop and think, "Oh my word! That sounded just like Bampa."
Mom will actually be your best buddy one day. I know she cramps your style now, but it's only because she's trying to keep you alive to adulthood, so you two can shoot the breeze and enjoy lunches out and talk for hours on the phone. You'll realize soon that she is probably the most intelligent woman on earth. Honestly. You think you want to live in a big city now, but when you're older, you will live in the same small town as Mom and will think it's the only possible thing to do. You won't be able to imagine living too far to pop in and visit. She's really quite a lot of fun. She puts up with a lot from you. Be sure you thank her profusely at least once later on.
Dad will always make you feel like a little girl inside, like his princess. He'll always be larger than life. In 20 years, he will still stand at the end of the driveway and hold up "I love you" fingers when you drive away. And every time you'll cry. (Your husband will understand completely after you two have a baby girl. He'll stand by the sonographer when she tells you that your baby is a girl, and his first words will be, "I'm ruined," and he'll smile.) Save money when you're still in your 20's to go to Ireland with Dad. It won't be easy years later, with lots of kids, and you'll regret not going. He'll never stop calling you "Pooks." You'll actually catch fish with him as an adult. I know, you can't imagine either of you doing something so unrefined, but you will be hysterical laughing, dragging a bass through the lake alongside a paddleboat a week after he has a stroke, and you'll thank God for small moments that really are full of treasures. You will wear a fishing hat. I know... "Say whaaaat?!" You'll be cute in it, though. Don't worry.
There's a reason why they offer classes at 8am in college, as well as at later times. For the love of all things good, don't sign up for the 8:00 class!
There really will be a day when you don't aspire to own a Mercedes. It's the truth! You will -- wait for it...! -- happily drive a minivan one day. Not forever, just for a couple years, until you don't need to tote pack-n-plays and strollers with you. God will mess with your mind, and you will start to want to put your money into all sorts of crazy things like "other people" and "missions" and "caring for orphans and widows."
Other dreams will change, too. That fashion designer version of your future? Not so much. You will actually dream of being a housewife and having lots of kids from all over the place. And you'll want to live in an old Maine farmhouse. Your wonderful husband will humor you, but he will always draw the line at buying you a goat. He's probably exercising wisdom.
Finally, you are beautiful and precious and loved and valuable. Please don't take unnecessary risks. Please don't ever forget that you are the workmanship of a loving God who has good plans for you. When things in life hurt you, don't build up walls. Don't self-destruct. The pain will still be there. You can't numb it by being stupid. The only thing you can ever really do is take it to the Cross and let Jesus carry it for you. You'll figure that out one day. You'll grow up and have a wonderful life and enjoy your parents and have amazing kids and a handsome husband. All the hard stuff now is temporary. The good stuff is what to cling to. The future is one fabulous adventure. You'll learn to endure hard things. You'll have wonderful friends. You will love your church family. You will dream big dreams and watch in anticipation as a holy God refines them and guides you. You will marvel that He would send his only son to die for you, and one day the weight of that truth you've known so long will land hard on your heart, and you will actually write things to share His love with others. And you'll see some of the friends you love now come to know Jesus, and you'll wonder a little bit if they ever saw him in you, so be careful how you live and what you say now, because the only thing you can take with you to heaven are people... you'll hope that you are a beautiful example of his grace going forward. Because life passes quickly, and you'll get a better sense of that when you're older.
With great love for you,
Your 33-year old self
(Today, bloggers all over are sharing letters to their teenage selves in celebration of Emily Freeman's new book for teenage girls, "Graceful." What would you say to your high school self? Let me know in the comments!)