Dear Gail at age 18,
The used Ford Galaxy your dad is going to give you has bad brakes and it will cause you to t-bone a car that darts in front of you. Don't worry though, no one will be hurt. The lady you hit will try to blame you for the accident, even though she’s the one who took a chance, going across three lanes of traffic during rush hour in the pouring rain. Fortunately, insurance sides with you since the roads were slick and the other lady was making a dangerous maneuver.
Better enjoy your freedom now because 10 months after your 18th birthday you will be impregnated by someone who isn’t in love with you, although he does the "right thing" and marries you. This pregnancy will take you into the hottest summer on record with no air conditioning in the car. That same sorry car will leave you stranded numerous times, with you and your big belly sitting on the side of the road feeling frustrated and scared.
You will get your first office job at an insurance firm, but will stupidly pay a monthly fee to the agency that placed you there. The job doesn't pay enough to warrant this. Fortunately, your mother goes to bat for you and somehow gets the contract voided. Way to go mom!
Your aunt will soon recommend you for a job at the plastic plant she works for. It will be your first introduction to a computer so big it is housed in a chilly room all by itself. Watch out though because your lecherous new boss will French kiss you through your car window as you try to leave the parking lot late one evening. You speed away shaking and worrying how this affects your future with the company. Karma is faithful though, and shortly thereafter he is fired for something unrelated. You will get another boss who is the size of Godzilla with a personality to match. He expects you to work on weekends and when your new husband tells him to shove it, you are fired the following Monday morning. Not to worry - this will allow you to stay home with the new baby, collecting unemployment.
If you would only take higher education seriously, you could enjoy a nice career, more pay, and complete autonomy. An air conditioned car could be a reality, not just a dream. At least the man you married obtained his degree so it looks as though some of life's luxuries are within reach, although the marriage is destined for failure. It does, however, produce two more beautiful children. In that regard, it will all be worth it.
Well, it is your journey after all, to take the paths that seem exciting, or to follow a crooked, dark path that seems scarily alluring. If you must make life-altering choices, at least learn from them. Figure out ways to improve your life and help those around you. As long as you're learning and growing, you're getting wiser which is always a good thing. That's all I have to say to myself.