Wednesday, November 30, 2011
to a younger woman
i'm home sick with strep throat and it's snowing outside. what a perfect excuse for an afternoon blog post. a letter to my 15 year old self inspired by sugar's letter to her younger self.
you are about to fall in love. relish that. your first love is a roller coaster. be an idiot. it is the first time in your life that you will be called to dig deeply into your insecurities. it is the first time you will feel you are a version of yourself apart from your family. when he says i will love you forever and then some believe him. later when then some has passed be grateful that for a time you stood under orion's starry belt and believed that you would have only one love in your life. hold that idea like an old woman holds a weathered photograph of her pregnant form. you will spend years wondering about this love and what it meant and what it means for future relationships. this is partly because you are young and naive. it is partly because you are you, uniquely designed to weigh, measure, and fortify memories. let it breathe. let to go. there is nothing wrong with the progression of the heart. be wild in your consumption of adoration.
you will always love water even after the 6am water polo practices are only distant memories. spend as much time in the ocean as you can; you will not always live near it. don't spend too much time thinking about leaving. the sea is your first great love even proceeding the aforementioned adorable boy who will give you a bracelet among other things with your name, first and middle, engraved on it. you will return to the ocean methodically. it will be your metronome of self. sand and sea are blessings you cannot escape.
when you walk around the park that day in july eating raspados with your ponytail askew and your shin guards flopping around your cleats walk slowly by each tree, over each uneven slab of concrete to the place where your friend stood laugh and speak loudly over the music. don't ever be drowned out by anyone's music unless of course what it has to say is more important.
watch your brother sleep. remember everything he says. learn about joy through his reactions to the world.
when your english teacher asks you to join the cheerleading team because they need girls with good grades it is okay to say no even though she is exquisite in your mind. you have never been nor will you ever be a cheerleader. your teacher will still become one of the most important women in your life. down the road a young woman you've poured into will put into words to you what you always wanted to say to that teacher, "thank you for knowing that who i am is infinitely more interesting than who the world suggests i should be. thank you for fighting for my mind."
when somewhere down the road you find yourself in your first college dorm and a boy spends an hour talking to you about your hopes and dreams and how your hair really does look like light on the sea at dawn do not arrogantly presume that because you are from a rough neighborhood you have everyone's number down and he is a flirt without substance. he will later surprise you with one of the most meaningful friendships of your young life.
keep loving on people the way you do. never doubt that wisdom. be brave in your friendships. you will be called into bravery many times in the years to come. face those times with conviction, laughter, and a belief that forgiveness is the great victor. sweet girl, forgive all the time the large and small pains. you will learn to tattoo forgiveness onto your palms everyday. your faith will run like a living red ribbon through your veins, a more glorious option than blood. do not resist any of this.
when far down the road you realize you have lost touch with los angeles and its people, your people, do not be afraid to reach out. life is a winding river that sometimes comes full circle. do not fear the circle.
when, in your freshman year of college, you have strep throat do not hesitate to share a room with a girl who also has strep throat on the dorm ski trip. you will lay in bed together sick and discuss jane austen. others will find it amusing and photo worthy. late at night your throat will be burning so badly you're crying and she will be equally feverish. do not be afraid to pray together. this girl will become your one of your best friends in the world.
in a few years from now you will walk out of a friday afternoon practice with a body drained from a distance swim, eyes burning with chlorine, and mind fatigued from competition. do not forget on this day to go and visit your best friend who is not feeling well. do not forget to bring her a get well present because she loves presents. her room is a shrine to color. do not forget to brush her thick black hair so long you could live in it. do not leave the room without talking to her about your boyfriend and how she is sprung for the introverted Russian boy with an older brother so beautiful that he reminded you of snow. etch into your mind the calla lily rosary she has taken to bed with her and rests between her thumb and middle finger as she spells out all the details of how she wants to kiss the Russian. do not forget to do any of this. on monday she'll be dead.
wear her ring everyday on your middle finger until the years and mornings spent sleeping instead of swimming have rounded you out and you must move the ring to another finger. do not fear this. do not put away the ring for the fear of the flesh. your body and soul will round with time as you move away from girl and to woman. this is natural. do not waste time or creativity on the fruitless pursuit of a perfect body. dear sweet girl, love your precious fingers.
when you are 26 you will be showering. it will be snowing outside. you will not be living in los angeles. your breath will unfurl against the cold air. you will submerge in heat, water, and lather. this same ring will catch your hair tugging at the tangled mess of waves. you will think of your job, the time sheets unsigned, the patient returning with a question, and the coffee pot left out. you will think of the man you love as a brother, or a friend, or a lover, or something in-between. for a moment as your hair grips your ring you will think of this best friend and her long unruly mane. you will think back to when she died and you could not speak to anyone. you could only manage a shower letting the water's weight and monologue move you from one life to the next.
sweet girl, do not forget water will always be your vector to self.
photo: me at age 15 before a water polo away game with blue lipstick