LETTER TO MY 18-YEAR-OLD SELF

I’m turning 28 today and while this doesn’t feel like much of a milestone, knowing that I’ll be married in three weeks makes this age feel more significant. Today I’m sharing a completely self-indulgent letter to my 18-year-old self reflecting on the last ten years and how life came to look like it does now. It’s a fascinating exercise to recall memories from so many years ago and see which ones feel like they could have happened yesterday and which ones seem like they happened to a totally different person. I’m not sure how exciting or inspiring this will be for most of you, but at the very least you’ll know me a good deal better by the end of it! Thank you as always for reading.

design darling letter to 18 year old self

Mackenzie,

At 18, you’re two weeks away from moving into your freshman dorm at Bucknell. You’re nervous about making new friends, and you’re right to worry that freshman year isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. But this year will teach you the value of getting outside your comfort zone (cheerleading — who knew?!) and by the end of second semester you’ll feel you’re finally finding your footing. You’ll actually be excited to get back to campus in the fall!

design darling letter to 18 year old self

Big turnout this year…

At 19, you’ll have your first experience with learning to trust your gut. As everyone around you pursues degrees in business and engineering, you’ll stick to your guns (read: extremely impractical interests) and decide to major in French. You’re extremely lucky to have a family who supports you 150%, and this won’t be the last time you’ll ask for their blessing in taking the road less traveled. You’ll also join a sorority that completely changes your college experience. Suddenly you’ll have girlfriends you’re going to have in your life well past college, even in your wedding nine years from now.

design darling letter to my 18 year old self

AXO babies 🙂

At 20, you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live with a French host family in the Loire Valley and spend your weekends gallivanting across Europe. Don’t take this time for granted — you’ll be pining for these memories nearly a decade down the road! You’re going to start this thing called a blog during this time, and I’m proud to tell you that you’ll stick with it much longer than anyone thought you would. What starts as a way to post pictures for family and friends back home becomes a creative outlet for your interests in design and style — you’ll be surprised at how much this little side project starts to mean to you.

Casually hang gliding in the Swiss Alps… can we do this again please?!

At 21, you’ll savor your final days as a Bucknellian and start to spend every moment between classes and theme parties in the café on campus, writing blog posts and poring over other people’s blogs across the world. You’re starting to feel part of an online community well outside of tiny Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and this time spent writing, honing in on your sense of style, and nurturing this little pet project is a time you’ll never regret. Sure, it’s not particularly “cool” and some of your classmates won’t get it, but the friends who have your back now are people you’re going to have in your wedding at 28.

Blogger vibes circa 2011 ✌🏼

22 will be a roller coaster year for you. First you’ll move to San Francisco to intern for a digital magazine, an opportunity you find through blogging. It’s cool to see your name in (well, digital) print, but you’re going to miss your family and friends too much to stay on the west coast. Next you’ll move home and land a job in PR in New York, only to find yourself crying on the train to work, wondering how tweeting about rain boots is ever going to give you a sense of purpose. If I can tell you one thing about this year, it’s that it’s okay to fail, to feel embarrassed, and to do a total 180. Without knowing it, you’ve been paving the way for all kinds of freelance opportunities, and you’re going to rely on a bit of advice your editor in San Francisco gave you: “leap and the net will appear.” Believe me when I say you’re too young to feel hopeless or stuck at something that doesn’t excite you — so quit that day job, throw yourself into the blog you love so dearly, and start laying the groundwork for a more lasting career: your own online boutique. And take a moment to thank your lucky stars for family, friends, and a boyfriend who are with you every step of the way this year, even if they’re secretly shaking in their boots. Believe in yourself and know you’re lucky that they believe in you too. With them by your side, you’ve totally got this!

Assembling furniture as an intern… very profesh attire

At 23, you’re hitting your stride professionally and spending your days packing orders, emailing customers, and sourcing new vendors from trade shows nationwide. You’ll finally be pursuing work that matters to you, even if you have days where you know you’re wholly unqualified to be running your own business. There’s so much you don’t know, so stay humble, be patient with yourself, and continue to learn something new every day. It will feel hard at the time, but you’ll forever cherish the days of shipping boxes from your Upper East Side studio, your high school buddy chipping in on his days off. (And by the way, he’ll be a bridesman in your wedding one day!) I’m sorry to say you’ll decide to part ways with your college boyfriend this year, even though you know he’s a totally stand-up guy. Your girlfriends will be there to pick up the pieces, and you’ll do the same for them a dozen times over the next few years. You’re forever learning to trust your intuition, and it’s exciting and empowering to learn to live on your own for the first time. In fact, this heartbreak paves the way for new adventures in dating, particularly with the advent of a new dating app called Tinder. You won’t know it at the time, but you’re even going to meet your future husband on your very first real world date (!).

DD HQ 2013 – 2014 💙

At 24, you’ll realize you’ve gone a little too boy crazy and refocus on your blog and online boutique. It takes a guy dumping you in a text to get you to wake up, but better late than never. You’ve got a great thing going, and you don’t need any distractions! This will be a huge year for your business, culminating with a pop-up shop with four fellow small business owners at their office space in SoHo. You’ll move into a new apartment, make more trips to the post office than you ever thought possible, and spend every moment of free time soaking up the city with girlfriends. And of course, when you’re not remotely looking for it, this is when it happens: that guy you met on your first date reaches out again, and something about the guy from Texas just feels really right. You’ll drag your feet for a while, but I’ll say it for the umpteenth time: in good times and in bad, trust. your. gut!

Moving on up! I loooved this apartment 🙂

By 26, you’re seriously dating your future husband, and halfway through the year, you’re moving to his hometown of Dallas. You haven’t done well living away from home in the past, but you know he’s worth the homesickness, and you spend a year and a half getting to know his family and friends, establishing your business in a new state, and trying to find the right employee to help manage your business. You’ll make some amazing new girlfriends this year, even despite missing your people from back home like crazy. It’s harder than you thought it would be to learn to live with someone else (and you’ll learn you’re not the easiest person to live with either) but this is one of those years where what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. On Christmas Eve, this original Tinder date will get down on one knee while your families wait inside with champagne to celebrate.

Yes!

If it sounds like you have a bumpy road ahead of you, know that you can look forward to 27. Will will miraculously get a job that brings him back to New York, and while you’ll be sadder than you thought you would be to leave Dallas, there’s nothing like the feeling of coming home. You’ll move fifteen minutes away from your parents, get to work out with your mom leading up to your wedding, reunite with your New York friends, and even spend the summer on Nantucket with one of your best friends, her husband, your brother, and his best friend. You’ll agonize over the decision to step away from your online boutique after hitting the five-year mark, but you know in your heart it’s time for a new adventure, or at least a renewed focus on the blog that’s still (eight years later!) at the heart of your daily routine.

Let’s do this thing!

At 28, three weeks away from your wedding, it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since you embarked on your Bucknell adventure, and you’re exceptionally lucky to kick off the next decade with someone like Will at your side. Your twenties have been a wild ride so far — short-lived jobs, your first real heartbreak, cringe-worthy dates, building two businesses and ending one of them, and finding so many of your people — but you’ve come a long way in learning to trust yourself and paving your own path. You’ve taken big risks, made costly mistakes, hurt people, and been hurt by people, but ten years from now, you’re happy and hopeful and surrounded by people who truly want the best for you. You have a lot to be excited for, and you have a lot of people in your corner to help you through the tough times too. Keep working hard, keep finding the good in people, and keep learning and changing and doing your own thing. You can do this. I love you.

Love,

Mackenzie

30 thoughts on “LETTER TO MY 18-YEAR-OLD SELF

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  1. I really enjoyed how you emphasized “trusting your gut,” as that is such a scary thing to do, at first– and it is great to see how pleasantly that all worked out for you. I met you the other day at 101, and you were even nicer in person than I imagined. Good luck with the wedding and thanks for the honest post!

  2. Happy Birthday! This was such an amazing and inspiring post to read. Your blog is one of the first that I started reading years ago and how you’ve built your business and have taken risks at such a young age is truly inspiring.

    Angela

  3. I knew this was going to make my cry before I even started reading. I love you and am so proud of you!!

  4. Hope you had a happy birthday, Mackenzie!! I’m sure that first cheerleading pic of an empty Sojka pavilion is from a women’s bball game. ha. We appreciated you guys being there even if no one else came!

    I also love this line: “Believe me when I say you’re too young to feel hopeless or stuck at something that doesn’t excite you” and I think I’m going to use it with some of my 22 (and 25) year old friends 🙂

  5. Dear Mackenzie,
    This is your second cousin, Victoria (Abbott) Riccardi, and I have been reading your blog for quite awhile. I have so enjoyed “getting to know you” through it and am immensely proud of and happy for you, particularly at this time in your life. This last post inspired me to write, given how much you shared about your hopes, dreams, worries, failures and everything in-between. I loved being able to share in your humanity, your joy, and the lessons you learned from daring to try new things. I think many people struggle with figuring out what motivates them in life, in part, because they are afraid to listen to their heart. You, obviously, do listen to your heart and know it well. I will think of you, Will, and your extended family on what I know will be a very, very happy day three weeks from now. In the meantime, Happy 28th Birthday.

    xoxo (Cousin) Tori

  6. You are a beautiful little flower that keeps blooming! This blog makes me feel like I know you even thou I only met you when you were little at Kathy & David’s wedding. I enjoy your blog. Your a beautiful, smart and special little lady. I wish you mush happiness in your future. You will be a beautiful bride.

  7. I am a long-time reader but have never commented — this letter was so well written and captures so many of the things I have felt over the past 10 years that I couldn’t not comment here. I went to a school very similar to Bucknell (and almost went to Bucknell, actually) around the same time as you and am also recently married, have made a lot of moves in the past few years, etc. and this just really spoke to me and made me tear up at the end! Loved it.

  8. Happy birthday to you! I loved this post!

    I got married at 28 too, and now just six months from my 30th it is amazing to see how much has changed for me in just the short time period I have been married. It is true when they say that the best is yet to come, and the love you feel on your wedding day really is just the tip of the iceberg as you embark on life together. Soak up this special time, and thanks for taking us along for the ride!

  9. Oh Mackenzie I so loved reading this! I am 24 and currently strugggling to get into a different career because the one I am in is certainly not what I want to do forever! This was so motivating and I hope to be able to write one to myself down the road similar to this! Thank you and Bally Birthday.

  10. Crying! Love this! I have followed since almost the beginning and this is such a great culmination of ten awesome years. HBD!

  11. i love you so much, you precious sweet thing! i’m pretty sure (slash i’m hoping) that i took that picture of you in 7th street…. i can’t wait to see you in THREE weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Such a sweet post! I’ve followed along on your blog for years but I still feel like I learned a thing or two! Happy 28th birthday! Wishing you all the best for the next decade as well (:

  13. oh, i just love this (and you) so much….

    happy birthday, my dear friend!

    even though we hadn’t met in these earlier years, i truly feel like i’ve known you forever (matching limited too tank tops suggest that it could have been a possibility). you are such a special person and i’ll never, ever forget the day (January 21st, 2013….to be exact) that changed the course of everything.

    have a wonderful day <3
    amy

  14. Love it! I hope that younger girls can read this and see that some of those unexpected twists that life takes wind up being some of the best!