Monday, June 06, 2022

letter to my 18 year old self

(While I knew my reunion was coming up courtesy of the facebooks, it startled me to realize that it has been 30 years to the day that I donned a scratchy weird red polyester gown and walked across a stage on June 6, 1992. That girl feels inaccessible to me, mostly because what journals she kept are intermittent and mostly sort of vapid and annoying the way teenage girls usually are. The pictures show me a girl who needs to stop cutting her own bangs and badly needs a proper bra. But I wrote her a letter nevertheless...}

Dear Graduate,

Though you will leave the midwest like you so badly wanted to, you will be back within the year. The good news is your semester in North Carolina will teach you a whole lot about being independent as an adult,  as well as how to play cards and engage in a lot of underage drinking. Don't worry that your favorite drink is coke & Malibu, it will transition to whiskey, and later tequila. The South will introduce you to that delicious perfection known as banana pudding and a tendency to  say y'all, which you will continue your whole life.  

The bad news is you will not become a marine biologist as planned. You're too bad at math and too good at other things like words and books and that pretend play we call theater. Later, you will badly want to be a lawyer, a politician, or a psychiatrist. Then a teacher. You will read so much you never would have thought possible. The poems you wrote in your little blue diary with the lock, the ones you scribbled on pen pal stationery, they will become your own kind of gospel, and you will pick them up at intervals then put them down. In a year, you’ll typing skinny, hopeless poems on the electric typewriter you will buy in the next few weeks. You'll send them out. They will all be no’s, and you will get a lot of no’s in your life, so you’ll get used to it. College will be a lively time full of late night rehearsals and hours crouched in a cubicle in the library reading.

Things not to do:  Don’t be a joiner just to plump up your resumes and award applications. Much of it is just wasted time.  Don't ride in pickup truck beds driven by southern boys. Don't fall for goateed philosophy majors who have no interest in you and never being a pen to class. Don't get your grandmother's wedding ring remade into a more modern ring, you will miss the original vintage style and want it back. Stop hating your body and undertaking strange diets of bare chicken breasts and Nutrasweet smoothies.  Your mother did her best but set a horrible example that will take decades for you to unravel and learn to be at home in your body. Just do it now and save yourself years of angst and unhealthy habits. And your mother was right in all those fights, you will miss her when she's gone. You will dye your hair red in a few months, which will never be your color, but you  will settle with dark brown with a few short forays back to blonde.  You will learn to love clothes again in your late 30's  after years of hiding your body and never being sure how to dress it. You will even learn to love the color yellow.

Your friends will drift and not always be your friends.  You will make new ones, but most will drift, too over time. The internet, that strange thing you won't hear about for a couple years yet will pull things in a bit, and though you're not close, you will see their lives unfold in photos and memes and updates. You will scarce imagine how important those connections will help you feel like your life is a continuous history and how important that will be. Men will come and go, and though you will always feel like you got a late start, it will matter much less. You will try men on through your late 20s and 30s like dresses, some ill-advised and some downright painful, but in the process will learn exactly what you want and don't want . Those relationships good and bad will provide endless fodder for writing projects, so keep at them.

You will live in the city you fell in love with just a couple short years ago. It will take a few years to get there, but you will want to stay forever. You will live alone, with lots of cats, and while this one would have seemed a sad desolate sort of life to you right now, you will absolutely love it.  You will work in the libraries that built such a huge part of your infrastructure, and then eventually, you will leave them to work on your own. You will publish poems and books and start lit journals and presses. You will do readings and travel to give workshops, and people will give you money for writing things, and while very small, you would never have guessed this.  You will start a journal next year in mead composition books and it will eventually become this blog. You will discover a passion for visual arts and bookmaking around the time you turn thirty, something which will surprise you as much as it does others. You will spend the rest of your life between those two worlds --the visual and the written and it will deeply inform what you make and do. You will also, in the next couple of years, become enamored of thrift stores and vintage, and will become a lifelong obsession, along with the horror movies you already love, and the books you are just beginning to hoard. 

This summer, you will spend hours staring at the materials sent from college, the socials and schedules and campus maps, plotting out what your life might look like this semester and none of it will probably really happen. But so much else will, and mostly better than you even imagined it. ..

Your Future Self

PS.  While you'll say no to weed this fall offered by your hippy roommates like a good DARE child of the 1980s, it will eventually be legalized and become one of your favorite vices in your 40s…

No comments: