Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Dear 16-year-old Self
Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: None of the dreams you have now will come true! None.
You will not go to university and get a degree in English. You will not get a degree in anything, because you will not go to university at all. You will not become a famous author, nor will you become a dancer. In fact your long, slender legs that you love so much and consider one of your best features, next to your lovely blue eyes, (which, by the way, will fade to an indeterminate shade of something you will eventually refer to as hazel, for lack of a better word), will become chunky and you will become overly attached to maxi-skirts long after they disappear from the fashion magazines. I won’t even bother to tell you what you will think of fashion magazines.
You will not even graduate from high school. You will quit school in a fit of pique, after a clash with your grade 12 English teacher; the point at which your anger and frustration at having been wrenched from your school and home town and relocated to Houston reaches critical mass and explodes in belated teen-age rebellion, producing unsatisfactory results. You will, however, get your dogwood some ten years later when you ace the GED exam at the local college.
You will not backpack through Ireland, you will not see the sun rise at Stonehenge and you will not vacation in the Maritimes. You will, in fact, develop agoraphobia and suffer from sever anxiety attacks. Flying will become out of the question. Driving will be difficult enough. But you will fight it and overcome much of the fear that will nearly, but not quite, cripple you. You will learn to cope and to deal with the anxiety attacks, though they will never go away completely.
At 18, you will fall in love with and marry a man 13 years your senior and spend the next sixteen years of your life in a passionate and tumultuous relationship that will end with his death. You will feel utterly lost while you watch cancer kill him. Again, you will be frustrated and angry. You will rage and rail at the world for the cruel injustice of his rapid decline. You will mourn his brilliant mind, but not so much the peculiar applications to which he applied it at times.
After his death you will fall in love with another man; this one eight years your junior who will disappoint you in ways you cannot even begin to imagine. Your love for him will never waiver, never flag. Even through all the frustration and anger you will experience. (Do you see a pattern developing here?) You will feel heavy sadness over the way he stifles his own creativity, while you take great comfort in his faithfulness and dutifulness. You will eventually, after 14 ½ years, move out and learn for the first time to stand on your own two feet. Even so, you will maintain a pretty special relationship with him.
You will choose where you live - and oddly you will chose to live in Houston - for the first time in your life when you are 47 and you will name your new home Alegria (which means Happiness – Which is a choice!) You will build a labyrinth in your back yard. You will figure out how to landscape the rest of the yard around it. You will renovate rooms as you are able. You’ll build a fence and grow a garden.
You will take all that frustration and anger and ball it up and bounce it off the heavens, ricochet it off the mountains and sink it into the deepest depths of the oceans. You will once again rebel against the constraints and expectations of others, the conventions and conditioning of society, and you will stand tall and proud as yourself (though your legs will still be chunky).
You will have a series of different jobs, but no career. You will do well at all of them, even find some measure of success at some of them, though none of them will really stir your passion. You will dabble in a variety of interests and earn certificates in things like Yoga, reflexology and healing touch, but you won’t really do much with them. You will search for ways to live creatively and you will always desire to make a living that way.
You will always long to paint and you will putter with a wide variety of crafts, but you will learn that your talent is in knitting and you will become quite good at it. You will start to design and you will be very proud of your accomplishments. You will discover that yarn is your palate and you will use it to create many beautiful things. Even this, however, will wax and wane.
You will struggle spiritually for many, many years. You will look to established belief systems for the answer until your realize that you don’t need dogma or doctrine to be spiritual. You will research and practice and review and rethink and then one day you’ll wake up and find better uses for your time and energy.
You will always question things, though. You will always love pondering, philosophizing, analyzing and theorizing. (now and then it will get you into a bit of hot water, but you’ll survive) You will love learning. And one day you will actually be humble enough to admit that you do not know everything.
You will treasure seven things above all else: your three daughters, two (to date) grandchildren and the two men in your life. These are your reward for giving up university, dancing and writing the great Canadian novel. Your daughters will awe you with their creativity, their passion and their amazing minds. Your grandchildren will enthrall and inspire you. The men in your life will vex you considerably, but you'll be okay with that. They will teach you a lot and you will be grateful for their lessons - even the painful ones.
You will begin to take chances, to risk failure and, when you find it, overcome it. You will learn to do things you never thought you could do, like use power tools to make useful things. You will make friends that will make you laugh (you will even build a blanket fort with some of them one night and sleep in it when you’re 50 years old). You will learn how to have fun again; to dream again.
After all this, when your dreams start to reawaken, you will do incredible things. You will learn to love yourself and love loving yourself. You may not go to university. And I’m pretty sure you will never, ever be a ballerina (those chunky legs just won’t pull off a tutu). You may not ever get to Ireland or the Maritimes or see the sun rise at Stonehenge. But that novel… well, it’s still in there omewhere. Perhaps next to the latent painting skills and the myriad knitting designs and the dozen or so lifetime’s worth of other creative ideas that keep you awake at night and vex your bank account on a regular basis.
The most important thing I have to tell you is: You’re gonna be okay!
Love and Light
Your 50-year-old Self