Monday, April 23, 2012
Note to Self
Dear younger self on the day of your high school graduation,
You are about to graduate from high school and in a few months you’ll head off to Los Angeles to start college and a new life. If I remember correctly, you’re equal parts excited and terrified about this prospect. It’s a feeling you might want to get used to, it’ll come up again and again. For the most part, the experiences you will have over the next twenty years will be pretty necessary, even if you think you could do without them some of them. That being said, if I were in a position, on the eve of my twenty year high school reunion, to give you some advice that might make the challenges easier to bear, the good stuff easier to recognize and the whole shebang happen in a more fashionable wardrobe, believe me, I would. So here goes…
You’re about to meet a guy, who weirdly enough, your 14-year-old sister is going to set you up with. He’s pretty awesome, and when he says he loves you, he really means it. You’re going to break up with him in a year and a half or so. You should. You’re young, you live far apart, you have lots to see and do before you settle down. But here’s the part that’s really important. This guy is probably the most truthful, genuine, caring guy you’ll meet for a long time, so he’s a good yardstick to measure the rest of them up to. If they fall short, and they will, chalk it up to a learning experience and just hang in there. When you meet another one like him, you’ll know it, and this time, you’ll be good and ready. You’ll pick some good ones, or they will pick you. You’ll also pick a lot of questionable ones, and on more than one occasion you’ll wish you’d never met those. Don’t. Almost every one of them teaches you something valuable. Well, except the really pretty one. You’ll know who I mean. He’ll turn out to be a good friend in the end but don’t go with him to that house party in the Hollywood Hills. It’ll happen pre-iPhone days (just wait, kind of amazing), and you’ll be stuck in a gilded bathroom with a handful of Hollywood posers snorting blow all night and you won’t be able to GPS your location to get a cab and get the hell out of there. You already know cocaine is stupid and pointless, and thankfully you didn’t have to learn it the hard way. So just save yourself the agony of that long night, because it’s gonna suck, and you won’t be able to get it back.
In the middle of your twenties, something pretty crummy is going to happen. It’s going to feel as if the world has turned you inside out, like you’re some pair of ill fitting clothes on someone else’s body. You won’t know how to make it through. I’m not about to tell you what happens, because there’s simply and absolutely nothing you can do to make it different. I’m just here to tell you, I love you and it won’t ever be okay, but you’ll get through it.
Generally, you’re not half bad in the fashion department. Your choices are often on the safe side, you could stand a few more pieces with patterns to break up all that solid color, but most days you’ll get through without someone whispering “fashion victim,” or “fail” behind your back. I said most days. When you start college, please for the love of God, do not wear Birkenstocks with socks for the better part of your freshman year. You’re moving to California, not a hippie commune. Yes, I know they are comfy and you have a long walk to class every day. That is what tennis shoes are for. And lose the stomach baring cropped sweaters senior year. You are cute, and post freshmen fifteen, in pretty decent shape, but you are not Britney Spears. As for the hair, skip the attempt at red highlights. And the blue. But keep the purple, those actually work.
Shoulda Would Coulda
I don’t want to tell you to change much about how you do all the things you are about to do. Because I think most of your choices are going to be the things that shape the woman you will become over the next twenty years, and that’s a woman who doesn’t believe in regretting choices or spending too much time looking back on all the things she should have done differently. That being said, there’s this one thing. You like to write. In college you’ll write even more – papers for school, lousy poetry for the boys you like which they will never read, and stories. You’ll write at night when you can’t sleep. You’ll write for fun even when you’ve spent all day on a paper for school. You’ll find that you love it. Don’t ignore that. When you think maybe you should take some writing classes, do it. If you find yourself wondering if a degree in Creative Writing is a good idea, remember that I told you it is. And that day, in the first year after you get out of college, when you start to write that story that you will think might turn into a novel, don’t stop writing it. Don’t put it down for months and years at a time. You’ll be afraid you don’t have it in you to write a whole book. That you can’t do it. You can. Just keep writing. Think really hard about whether that master’s degree you are about to apply for shouldn’t be an MFA. Decide for yourself, but don’t be scared to just go for it.
Life two decades from now will be pretty good, despite the fact that it will look exactly nothing like you picture it right now. And on the last weekend in April, 2012, you’ll be headed to your 20 year high school reunion. You’ll be looking forward to it, and you’ll still be friends with a few of the girls you’re standing now standing around with in white dresses with abnormally large bows on the sleeves and equally outsized white hats. Right now, in this moment, you all look the same. 84 women on the verge. In 20 years, you’ll be 84 different women. Because of it all. And that’s a good thing.