advice from the future



Dear 21 year old Mary,

I look at this picture and want to tell you so many things from your future self. Since I am turning 26 this know I am full of so much more wisdom than you. 😉 I know how you are feeling at that exact moment in this picture…

It’s the first day of June in 2008 and you are celebrating your friend Bethanys birthday in a Massachusetts park. Your closest friends are by your side and you even just welcomed a cute little poodle into your family. You surprised the birthday girl with tickets to see Rilo Kiley that night and you are just so excited to go dance with your friends while listening to some of your favorite music. Your fiancé made the trip from Vermont to spend time with you all that weekend and even squeezed in some wedding planning, as the big event is only 27 days away. You are graduating in a couple of weeks and are ready to conquer the world. Your portfolio passed it’s final review and you are more than ready to walk across that stage. You are dreaming of photographing couples in California as you are moving there in a little over a month. Yes, California…no…you don’t know anyone there. Your whole life is about to change in such big ways and just when you think the whirlwind is over…God will show you He has a few more tricks up His sleeve.

You will move to California. The first six months of that brand new place will be so incredibly hard. You will take jobs that you will dread going to every morning just to pay the bills. It takes some time to make friends in Los Angeles, the city of a million people just wanting to fit in. You will eat ALOT of frozen yogurt…yes it’s as amazing as it sounds. You eventually will learn to love the state you live in. You will make friends where ever you go and one day you won’t even have to use your GPS to get around. You will travel the whole state north to south and will even fall in love with a couple of places called Joshua Tree and Big Sur.

That girl Bethany that you were celebrating that day? Yes..she will become not only your best friend but your sister. She will call you every evening during those first 6 months you are in California and so very lonely. You will see her every year I promise…heck you are even going to photograph her wedding to Ryan..can you believe it? One day she will fly from New York to California when your heart is broken into more pieces then you could imagine and you will take a road trip to San Francisco together for a short getaway. You will meet in various places through out the next few years but it will never feel like a lot of time has passed. And just when you think that Bethany couldn’t be anymore awesome….she will surprise you on your studio door step the day of your organizations first event and make you bawl your eyes out because in that moment, you needed her more than you knew.

You know that poodle sitting by your feet? You ended up calling him Rilo. That dog will steal the biggest piece of your heart. You will go on many adventures and he will literally attach himself to your hip. There will be a time where you go hiking every day together and he will crawl up on your chest when the tears are falling at night. He will be patient with you, comforting and so excited to see you everyday when you open that front door. You will travel together and sometimes you will have to leave him behind….but I promise he will never forget you.

June 28th is the big day right? The sunny seaside wedding in Maine with sunflowers and picnic baskets and blankets for all the guests? Well…heads up…it’s going to rain….but it will still be fun. Your soon to be mother in law will surprise you with a horse drawn carriage to get you to the ceremony site and your soon to be father in law will help you down the steps. I know what you’re thinking…it’s raining…you’re going to probably slip on your butt and make a fool of yourself. Surprisingly, you won’t. You will make it down the aisle without any bruises to the lovely tunes of Feists Mushaboom that your friends are playing acoustically. Your hands will be shaking because of the cold or maybe just from the excitement of committing your heart to someone forever. You will be happy…really, truly happy.

I really don’t want to be the bearer of bad news on this next part my dear but you won’t even make it to your second anniversary. There will be a day that you just feel the pit at the bottom of your stomach that something isn’t right. You ask that question, wanting so badly to hear the desired answer of “yes, of course we’re fine” but alas…you hear the answer that only nightmares could be made of. It’s raining and you rode your bike to his work and you take off in the storm because this simply is not the time and place to have the conversation. Every morning you will wake up hurting and wondering “how can I make him love me again today?”. That month will be the worst month of your life. Finally, after 30 tortuous days…you will let go and accept the truth that there simply is no more “us”. Rings will come off, bags will be packed and separate ways will be had.

Oh man..I really didn’t want to tell you that. I thought that maybe we could skip over that part and continue telling you more about your future but there is just no way around it. Yes, you are a divorcee. Gross right? No one ever wants to be called that. But you know what? It’s going to be one of the best things that has ever happened to you. I know, I know…that doesn’t make sense now…but I promise you will understand it one day. Want to know something else? After some time and growing up separately, you two will actually be good friends who have forgiven and support each other to no end. He will even watch Rilo when you go to Africa for six months…

Oh right…you’re going to Africa for six months! Crazy right?! It will be your first trip overseas and in 2012 you will have gotten on a plane and headed to Uganda 3 times. You will fall in love with the people, the culture and even sleeping under a mosquito net. Your days will consist of loving a lot of children, taking pictures, telling stories and meeting incredible people. I would love to tell you more about this adventure…but to be honest, I am currently living it. Just know that Uganda will steal your heart and will always be a big part of your life.

Speaking of your heart…it will heal. You will try your hardest not to build a fortress up around it and it will actually get hurt a couple more times. Sounds exhausting right? It is..but you will always get up, pick up the pieces and slowly start the reconstruction process over agin. You will learn to be safe with it, for it is quite fragile but also because you will understand that it belongs to someone very special that maybe you aren’t even aware of yet and they deserve a strong heart that is open, forgiving, understanding, kind and patient…not scarred and wrapped in barbed are more than aware and hopeful that true love still exists. You will learn to love in a way you never thought possible…not only romantically but to everyone you meet. You will see the beauty that resides in each one of their souls and will humble yourself to them. Your life will be defined and driven by love and you will be so happy spreading it.

Yes, you are still taking pictures. You actually will travel the world and teach orphans how to do so. You will have that wedding photography business you were dreaming about night and day. It will actually involve many talented young people who truly love to capture the beauty of a wedding celebration…and you might have met most of them on Craigslist.

I know I told you that you were lonely for the first 6 months in California, but I want you to hang in there. Soon you will have an amazing group of friends that you will confide everything in. You will meet them randomly in the wedding industry but just know that they will be the biggest gifts to you. They will support you endlessly, be there through your hard times and celebrate with you in your good times. They will surprise you with not only one birthday party but two! They will pick you up and drop you off at the airport numerous times. They will support your traveling addiction and watch your dog and move your car on street cleaning days. You may even end up living with a girl you met on twitter that also takes pictures. Her name is Megan and she will be one of the most amazing people to ever step in your life. You will sit back at the end of so many days and just beam with joy thinking about this life that you live full of so much support and love from your friends…and I promise you will never feel lonely again.

You will keep dreaming big. You will desire to make the world a better place. You will stare at a map and figure out when and how you can see it all before you leave this beautiful earth. You will still have long hair and glasses. You will get braces though and will learn to love your smile. You will eat meat again…but then you will stop. Your sense of smell still hasn’t come back but who knows what the future holds. You still covet hot sauce and no the world is NOT going to end December 21st of 2012. You will learn to run to God for everything and will fall madly in love with Jesus that people will probably think you’re crazy but you don’t care.

You will be happy.


25 year old Mary

  • January 11, 2013 - 9:52 am

    Natalie - Oh Mary, this is lovely. Retrospect is an amazing thing, isn’t it? Hugs from Calgary.ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 10:04 am

    BreAnne - I absolutely love you.ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 10:34 am

    julie harmsen - And I’m bawling again. Gosh, you’re so incredible and your story is made of pure gold. What a unique, beautiful woman you are Mary and I’m so grateful to be a part of your journey. You’re an inspiration to so many. Thank you for all that you do and for keeping your heart open and not wrapped barbed wire. That is a sometimes seemingly impossible thing to do and you embody so much grace. I love you.ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 10:52 am

    Morgan Kidd - This was beautifully written! I really love this Mary and it made me cry!! I am so happy for you and continue to wish the best for you in all that you do. You are always inspiring me and everyone who knows you! Keep smiling beautiful girl :)ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 12:16 pm

    RebekahJean - This is so beautiful. And to a 19 year old girl, it’s hope. I know that I may make many mistakes in the next 5 years of my life, but I hope to come out on the other end beaming with the love of Jesus as much as you do. Thank you for sharing, I am sure that wasn’t easy!ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 12:38 pm

    ari - tears. so beautiful, my beautiful friend.ReplyCancel

  • January 11, 2013 - 1:30 pm

    Rache - I love you. like TONS. so many tears, just beautiful. xoxoxoReplyCancel

  • January 12, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    Megan Welker - and….I’m crying. YES. crying! This is so beautiful Mary!ReplyCancel

  • January 13, 2013 - 7:37 pm

    Pam Harmsen - Mary,

    This is an incredibly moving letter. I was moved to tears. Just as you wrote this letter to young Mary, your heavenly Father is writing His love letter to you in the chapter of His story (history) entitled “my lovely Mary”. How wonderful your passion for Jesus, for love, for orphans, for new life! Blessings to you as you grow in Him, PamReplyCancel

  • January 14, 2013 - 7:10 pm

    dorothy - oh mary. what an incredible blessing it is to call you a friend. this was such a beautifully written letter and so real. thank you for sharing. you are such a light and a testimony to who our Savior is. love you so.ReplyCancel

  • January 15, 2013 - 1:24 pm

    wreckless - i love you. you are a blessing to me, mary. always hoping and praying for you.ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    Abbey - Hi Mary …
    I’ve been a long time follower to your blog, your instagrams, your photography … but a first time commenter. Your post made me tear up a little. But in a good way, because this is life. If only we could write letter to our selves, right? It would make things so much easier. I had no idea you’ve been through all of this and it only makes me love your work and you more. (Even though we have never met). The part about Rilo and him crawling up to your face even when the tears are flowing is what got me. I had one of those dog-friend-soulmates too. And they are absolutely more than just a dog. You inspire me, your photos inspire me, and your heart inspires me! Keep doing what you’re doing. You’ve got a lot of people (even if you haven’t met them yet) rooting for you and supporting you from wherever they are. (In this case, Michigan).


  • January 21, 2013 - 6:18 am

    Around the Web {January 2013} « Never Static - […] Advice From the Future – from  Wandering With Mary […]ReplyCancel

  • February 11, 2013 - 5:07 pm

    Dana - Words can not express how overwhelmed I feel right now. I’m 21 and moving to California at the end of this summer. I was married and divorced at 19 and every emotion expressed in this letter was once, and most days still is, felt by me. I can’t help but feel like you wrote this to me, the 21 yr old stranger crying her eyes out because for the first time in a long time she knows everything is going to be ok. The fears I have about moving to California, knowing no one, are a little more tamed knowing it happened to someone else wearing the same shoes and she is just fine. I honestly can’t thank you enough for these tear stained cheeks of relief. I am ever grateful.


  • February 25, 2013 - 12:52 pm

    Felicia - Tears are literally streaming down my face. And I can’t even freely cry because I’m at work. This was such a blessing to read. You are such a blessing to me and I cannot wait to be more involved in each others life. Maybe one day we will even live close to each other. If not, we have eternity. I love you sweet one.ReplyCancel

  • February 25, 2013 - 1:12 pm

    Kathrina - You are so loved. Thank you for this. Keep smiling because you are beautiful inside and out.ReplyCancel

  • March 4, 2013 - 12:17 pm

    Brigitte - This is beautiful beyond words. Incessable tears. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • August 14, 2014 - 6:29 pm

    Blair - This is so beautiful. You are an amazing soul xoReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2015 - 7:09 pm

    Becky - Mary, I remember taking this photo of you, sitting in the park in Turners Falls by the water. I think of you often and am always so impressed, jealous, motivated, and speechless by your work and the life that you are leading. I am not sure if you will get this message but I do hope that some day soon we get to see each other. Take care – BeckyReplyCancel

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