Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tracy in SLC

Dear 8th grade Tracy,

I might as well get this out of the way because I know it’s the thing you’re desperate to hear—you get pretty. I know it seems absolutely impossible now, with the red hair you haven’t yet realized is curly, braces on your teeth, huge glasses all over your face, and, firmly securing your current unsightliness, an awkward, cumbersome, scoliosis back brace. I’m not gonna lie, you don’t look too hot this year. People avert their eyes sometimes. The nicknames aren’t kind. Boys don’t like you. Girls don't like you. I know. But somehow, miraculously, you get pretty.

But guess what else? That’s so much more important? Thanks to the state of things now, you also get funny. And interesting. And brave. You have to be, if you’re going to have even the slightest shot of surviving socially. With everything that’s working against you right now, you’ve got to force some things to work for you. And you’ll manage to do it, sort of. Enough to get by. And these things that are crutches for you now will be trademarks for you later, and you will love them. Not everybody else will, mind you—your constant personality overcompensation will annoy and irritate and frustrate a fair share of friends and strangers and lovers. But no matter. Little 8th grade you have handled much worse. You took the brunt of it for us, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for what you’re dealing with now for our sake. I promise, promise, promise, it will be worth it. It will make you cool.

Now I wish I could tell you that the cursed back brace worked. It didn’t. Your crooked twisted back will never stop hurting you, and will present you with challenge after challenge and surgery after surgery. It’s crappy now and crappy always. Yippee. But, there is a bright side. That crooked twisted back and all the extensive care it will require will give you the gift of learning just exactly how much your family and friends love you. And it’s a lot. You will be mind blown and heart broken—in the good way—by the kindness and compassion and long-suffering of the people in your life. You will be spoiled rotten just because your body isn’t quite right. You will get to see the very best in people. You will be so, so loved. Lucky you.

Oh little ugly Tracy, hang in there. I know it’s tough and you feel like you’re not ________ enough, but you are. You’ll make it. I’m so proud of how you’re scraping by right now. You will be proud of the person it helps you to become. That person is rooting so hard for you. Good luck.

27 year old Tracy

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lori in Park City

Dear Me,

Listen to your grandmother as you paint with her that rainy Saturday when you are nine. As she guides your hand to transform a spilled dollop of Prussian blue into a swirling sky, she will tell you:

1. Paint thick over thin.
2. Always use fresh paint.
3. Take the time to prime your canvas.

Later, you will realize that she really means:

1. Let your authentic self wash over before worrying about the little details.
2. Buy quality in art and food and ensure that there is a variety of color on your palette and your plate.
3. Grounded by your faith and family, figure out who you are before leaping into work, relationships, and politics.

Armed with this, you’ll be free to make decisions instead of being paralyzed by them.

Do good things!

P.S. When your daughter arrives, you will name her Grace, too and her great-grandmother’s twinkle will be an unmistakable reminder of her presence always.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I'm waking this blog up again...I have some women I am hoping will contribute. For now, here is a letter I wrote a few years ago to my 16 year old self on the eve of the Homecoming Dance that I have to constantly re-read.

Dear Miss Katie,

I'm really sorry that you aren't going to the dance tonight. I hope it's at least a little better because if I remember correctly, the boy you liked senior year doesn't even go to your school. That probably sounds like a dumb and not helpful adult thing to say though doesn't it? (What if I tell you that you will see that boy on the street in about five years and you will look adorable and he will look, well, not?)

I wish you knew all the truly amazing things that are going to happen to you in the next 15 years. You will have experiences and opportunities that you don't even know enough to daydream about yet. But one thing I will tell you is that you aren't going to grow up to be a dater. Boys are always going to be one part of your life where you will fail way more than you succeed and will be a near constant source of frustration. My advice to you is that right now-as you are sitting there telling your journal that your grades and your friends and your lead roles in plays and the enormous amount of effort you put into making good choices don't count because you didn't get asked to the dance-is that you learn to stop giving your dating status any sort of power over your happiness. Over the next few years, plenty of boys are going to come in and out of your life. Some of them will feel really significant and then when it turns out they aren't, you will end up wasting a lot of time and energy explaining away the great things about yourself because they weren't interested in you. I'm not trying to depress you-there are some lovely romances ahead I promise-but the overriding state of your love life will be sorta grim. Even now, in my "older and wiser" state, I'll admit to still panicking every once in awhile that I will die alone. But I will also promise you that your thirty one year old self can look back and say that not one of those marathon crush boys you've had or will have is someone you missed out on. There will be some awesome men in your life and some real turkeys too, but worrying and fretting won't change either of those facts. You really won't want to trade the experiences you WILL have for more dinner and a movie nights with random boys. The sooner you can learn this lesson, the more you will be able to enjoy what's coming up. I know somewhere in your heart you know this but getting a boyfriend is not an accomplishment. It's obviously a great goal and hey, I hope we get married one of these days too kid. But if set your worth in the areas of your life that you can control on something that is entirely subjective, you set yourself up for a pretty sad and ungrateful life.

You are such a good little person and it's frustrating as an adult to look back and see how often you tied yourself up in knots over the opinions of sixteen year old boys. Although if I'm honesty with myself, it's not just you. I suppose the sixty year old me will probably say something similar one of these days about the men around me now.

Let yourself cry tonight, there is nothing wrong with wanting to have those quintessential high school experiences and being sad when you think you are missing out. Just know that "missing out" is relative. It will shock you someday to talk to your current classmates as adults and discover that even alot of the kids at that dance right now spent high school feeling just as lost and insecure as you do. But tomorrow try to do something outside of yourself. Help with your little siblings or write a thank you note or something. Just don't wear yourself out on something that you simply cannot control.

Your life is pretty different now from what you imagine and sometimes fear right now so go ahead and cross "senior prom" off your list. You aren't going and yet somehow, you will still manage to get into college and speak french on your mission and kiss plenty of really good lookin' boys someday. Go easy on yourself, it'll be super helpful to me one day.