I can’t believe it’s been 22 years since I was 16. It’s been nothing if not a learning experience. Happy birthday to me.

Dear Betsy,

You should be nicer to boys. Even though it seems like the ones who fall in love with you are never the same ones you fall in love with, you could be a little kinder to them. They are taking your every word and action more seriously than you realize.

And yeah, it is frustrating that the guys you like don’t seem to get you, and that may not change for a while, but eventually you will find a man who understands you completely and adores you. This will happen later than you had planned, but in the meantime you will still have many adventures and kiss plenty of boys. Don’t worry.

You won’t be a journalist after all but you will be a writer and you will love your work. You know how you’ve always loved to interview people? You will continue to do that and get pretty good at it. Sometimes people you interview will cry. Sometimes they will make you cry. Don’t freak out. The ability to listen to and tell people’s stories is a gift.

You already love to volunteer but no one has ever told you that you could actually get a job and have a fulfilling career working with nonprofit organizations. You don’t even know the word nonprofit, but all those places where you volunteer are nonprofits. And being a candy striper will be great experience for working in a diverse environment and getting along well with different kinds of people. Despite having to carry around containers of urine, it’s worth it.

Please drive more carefully. Slow down. Even if you’re all giddy after a date, watch where you’re going. Boulevards have two sides. Don’t go down the wrong one.

It is ok if your friends graduate and move away. You are loyal, sometimes to a fault, and you will always be sad (sometimes devastated) when friends fall away from your life, but you will eventually make new ones, and thanks to the Internet, sometimes those lost friends will be found. The Internet is a technology that will change your life (and all of society). Friends will value your kindness and often reciprocate it. But sometimes they will be flaky. Try not to take it personally. Some people (most people?) are just not as obsessively proactive as you. That does not mean they don’t love you or they’re mad at you. Maybe they’re just lazy or busy but they still want to be your friend.

It might not be a bad idea to rent after you get married instead of buying, but oh well.

Believe it or not you will someday play soccer. You will love yoga. You will run races, albeit slowly. You may not be an Olympian but you will learn to enjoy sporty things. Stop believing people who say you are clumsy or uncoordinated. What do they know?

You’ve always wanted to be a mom and you will be a great one. It’s still not known how many kids you will have, and there will be some tough spots along the way, but you will have a spectacular little girl and have so much fun with her. You will not get to be a stay at home mom like you had expected, but it still works out ok because you make it work, and because your parents are awesome.

Oh yeah. You live not far from your parents. I know you swear you will not live in Northern Virginia when you grow up because you think Annandale is lame. You will move away after college, and be miserable, and come back. But don’t worry, you will discover a really cool place called Arlington that’s just 10 miles away from your parents’ but a mile from DC. It’s an excellent place to live and not lame. So never say never.

You should dye your hair a fun color while you have the chance. Later you will feel like you missed the window of opportunity.

Life is not easy, but you’ve still got a great one. You are lucky. You are blessed. Try to stop taking everything so freakin’ seriously. It will all work out.