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Archive for September, 2012

Dear Me

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I was reading a few blogs the other day, and a link caught my interest.   Emily, over at www.chattingatthesky.com, just published a book entitled Graceful, about teen girls (check it out at gracefulthebook.com).  She encouraged her readers to write a letter to our teen selves, and to share it with her readers.  I thought it sounded like a very good exercise, so here is mine:

Dear Me,

This is your 42 year-old self, writing to tell you some of the things you need to know, as you make it through this life.  I can see you right now, sitting in your room, listening to Duran Duran.  Those posters will be upgraded to Bon Jovi in a few months.  Really.  Life isn’t too bad right now, but it’s about to get rough.  You are going to have to move again.  I know, I know, not again, but it’s to a fun city: Indianapolis.  You’ll love it there.  You’ll get a bigger room, and your own bathroom!  How cool is THAT?  Quite frankly, some of the people you are currently running around with right now aren’t so great.  This will be a good change for you.  You will lose track of your current friends, but when you are old, you will reconnect with those that were important to you.  It might not be face-to-face, but it’s better than the phone.  Trust me.  You will LOVE this technology.

This is your time.  Right now, you don’t have to worry about a mortgage or working forty-plus hours a week.  Your biggest decision is what to do next Friday night, or whether you aced the biology exam.  You will travel to Europe next summer, and you will walk through a concentration camp that may have housed your ancestors.  That will change your life forever.  Savor that experience, as harsh and bleak as it is.  There will be fun moments, too:  drink a little Champaign and eat strawberries on your hotel balcony in Lucerne.  Dance and sing at the German beer festival in Munich.  Enjoy your freedom, on this trip and throughout highschool and college.  You will not always have it, but you will have these great memories.  These will ease your stress when your life isn’t quite as free as it is now, and you will be so glad you had those opportunities to make such memories.

In three years, you are going to suffer through a horrible car accident.  You will not have any real permanent damage, but it will be life-altering.  Here’s the really bad part:  it won’t be the worst thing in your future.  There will be other events, ones that will leave you shattered.  People that you thought would always be by your side won’t be.  These are the important people in your life – the most important people.  Don’t worry, its not Dad.  He always has your back – even when you are old.  I know he’s not your favorite person right now, but he will be again in a few years.

You will get through this time in your life, somehow, but you won’t quite be sure how.  All I can tell you is things happen for a reason.  You will move on, and great things will happen to you.  Please, please, please do NOT dwell on why things happen.  These are answers only God knows.  It’s not your time to know, and the faster you deal with it, the faster you can move on.  You don’t want to waste your life trying to figure out the “whys” in life sometimes.  Just push forward.  Better days are ahead, I promise!

Opportunities will come up, unexpectedly, where you can reach out to help someone.  DO IT.  You’ll regret the times you don’t, even the ones that seem really small or meaningless.   If the lady in front of you in the checkout lane is short two bucks, pay it.  Just smile and say, “happens to everyone.”  That friend of a friend who just lost her job?  Why don’t you help her with babysitting while she looks for another one (she can’t afford daycare any more).  Got a really grumpy neighbor?  Smile and say, “Hi.”  Just offer a little small talk.  Maybe he is just lonely.  That church right across the street from the house you rent in college – the one that’s your denomination?  Maybe you should go a few times.

I know, I sound like Mom.  Scary thought:  right now, I am older than Mom.  Scarier thought:  you are going to be more like her than you ever wanted to be.  It’s Ok – you’re  not a carbon copy.  Your life is going to be amazing.  You will travel, meet wonderful people, and raise a family.  You are going to be an eveil stepmother!  OK, hopefully not “evil” but you know what kids think sometimes, right?  There will be days that your life sucks.  There will be many more days that you will look around and say, “Holy crap, this life of mine is crazy but I LOVE IT.”

Seriously.  On those bad days, you’ll still listen to Duran Duran, and even Bon Jovi, and smile.

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9/11 remembered

I was not at Ground Zero.  I had no family members immediately impacted.  I was just one of millions, listening and watching in horror as the events unfolded that morning.  I was in my office at work, when I heard it on the radio.  I was 31 years old, single, and the first thing I did was call my dad.  Funny, some things never change I guess.  I didn’t need him at my side, or for him to tell me everything would be OK.  I just needed to know he was fine, my mom was fine, and my sister was fine.  They lived in Northern Michigan.  Of course they were fine.  Still, I needed that reassurance.

I had a Nokia phone:  the one “everybody” had back then.  Mine had this ridiculously ugly multicolored foil faceplate and a hanging antenna with a light on it.  I haven’t thought about that phone in years.  Weird how that detail sticks in my mind.  I can picture the little blue radio/CD player, with a Barbie sticker on it, and the paper-clip antenna attached with a magnet to my credenza.  I just remember staring at the radio, thinking, “This can’t be.  This is America.  We don’t get bombed.”

Flash forward almost five years, and I am standing at Ground Zero, with my 22 year old sister.  She’s old enough to remember that day very clearly.  We traveled to New York City, just the two of us, to go to MoMA and the Met.  It’s a five day-four night getaway, and we are having fun.  She has just graduated from college, and I’m getting married in a few months.  Despite our fourteen-year age gap, we are established traveling buddies, and have promised ourselves more trips later in life.  We stand there, just looking.  There is a big hole in the ground, and construction work is going on in the bottom of this big hole.  Take away all the 9/11 memorial information, and you might not understand what had happened here.  Until you turn around.  A tall building, a skyscraper by its own rights but most likely overlooked in the shadow of the twin towers, is blackened from the blast.  Windows are still blown out.  Five years later, and windows are still gone.

We were both awed by that building.  We were also amazed by how close the firehouse was to the towers:  the infamous Engine Company and Ladder Company 10.  It is technically INSIDE Ground Zero.  Somehow, I never understood just how close they were. As we are discussing this, one of their trucks goes by, emblazoned with a memorial to their lost brothers.  Life goes on.  It’s been five years.  Their house has been repaired, their friends buried, and there are jobs to do.

As much as I’ll always remember September 11, 2001, those memories are linked to the day I stood there, with my sister, attempting to take it all in, to make sense of it, to understand it.  I’m not sure I ever will.  I don’t really want to go back.  I’m glad they are rebuilding.  I’m sure the memorial will be amazing.  But I saw the hole, and the blackened building.  I think sometimes you need to see the devastation more than you need to see the repair, to really understand.

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