Dear Me of Two Years Ago,
It is 2015. You have graduated college, blindly moved to Nashville, TN, lived in an intentional community, learned how to raise vegetables while working at a preschool, and are now a month away from starting seminary. How does it feel? Mostly good, some anxieties.
I think about you a lot. How you blindly and pretty much unquestioningly took a job at a small girls’ leadership camp in Pocahontas County, West Virginia…you didn’t question the choice until you were rounding the last curve on Droop Mountain and you realized that you had absolutely no idea what was ahead of you. That summer you learned so much about yourself as you accompanied girls younger than you on a journey of embracing their true selves through climbing mountains, identifying plants, dancing in fields, listening to music under the stars, and loving each other, and themselves, wildly. You swam in a river for the first time. You got your nose pierced. You caught a fish. You played trivia at a grungy motel bar. You fell in love…at least in that way of suddenly gaining vision towards things that could be instead of being so caught up in what’s going on right now. You made a few wonderful friends while taking long walks and driving through mountains and floating down rivers on innertubes.
You had no idea that two years down the road you would understand so much more about life, in such a short time: family, education, justice, love, sex, partnership, friendship, vocation, God–the way you have seen all these things has changed immensely in the past couple years, and I think it’s all for the better. Right now, sitting in 2013 missing the guy who left a columbine flower under your windshield wiper and started you on dreaming of building your own house, you have no idea that you will have your heart broken. Crushed, really. That you will not get the love you don’t even know you deserve. Right now you haven’t begun to confront the internalized sexism and patriarchy that has characterized so much of your worldview. You apologize too much, you accommodate too much, you don’t call people out when they treat you badly. You will learn.
Right now you don’t think you will go to grad school. You definitely don’t think you’ll go to seminary. You like environmental education, and you’ll keep doing that, but you haven’t shut up enough to listen to the bigger voice going on around you. You love people deeply and love the church, though sometimes you forget that. You will soon meet so many amazing women in ministry, all of whom will guide you and hear you out and lay hands on you and recognize the talents within you that you are, as of now, intent on hiding. Listen to them and treasure their stories in your heart. They will continue to teach you.
Right now things aren’t great with your family–you worry about people working too much and spending too much and drinking too much and escaping too much. All these things are much deeper than you know at this point, but don’t worry too much. You will get more accustomed to dealing with the heartbreak of those around you, and you will have the chance to usher some of those close to you into times of grieving and healing and letting go. You will do all those things yourself, as well. Letting go of images that you know are false is harder than you will expect. But people love you, and you have the best friends in the world. You’re gonna be ok.
You deserve a lot. A lot of time spent in kayaks on calm lakes, looking for great blue herons. Nights spent under the stars in sleeping bags zipped together, legs intertwined. You deserve shooting stars. Sparklers held over your head while you dance barefoot in the grass. Bonfires and bluegrass and hospitality that makes your head swim. Honest conversations told with courage and unconditional love. Hands held and hearts shared and ice cream suppers and singing Simon and Garfunkel.
Don’t settle for less. Someone will come along who will want to have dinner with your crazy family sometimes, and will even sit with you all as you tell the same jokes and the same stories year after year, and laugh until you all cry, every time. Someone will want to build a tiny house with you and tow it through mountains and meadows and fields of corn. Someone will want to comb your hair while you grieve. Someone will want to debate you and read the Sunday comics to you and pray with you.
And if that someone doesn’t come around for a while, you’re going to be fine. Because love is more than bodies being close to each other, more than petty past encounters that get in the way, more than agreeing with you all the time. And you deserve more than all those things. And guess what? If you don’t have that someone at any point, here are some things you can do.
Call your mother at work just to say hi. Make cookie dough just to eat it. Spend many evenings watching Gilmore Girls. Write in your journal. Sleep diagonally across your bed. Get a fish. Take long walks at sunrise. Drink coffee at a cool cafe and sneakily people-watch. Find a church you like and get to know some folks who have been around a while. Have a picnic with yourself and your favorite book. Write poetry. Sing in your car. Go kayaking. Dogsit. Visit farmer’s markets right when they open. Light candles and strings of lights just because you like the ambiance. Take long baths with lavender soap. Run or walk ’til you get really sweaty. Cover yourself with dirt while gardening. Make friends you never thought you’d make. Hold on to people who seem important.
See? Anita of Two Years Ago, you have it so good right now. The world is open to you. You are beloved, a child of God, and beautiful to behold. You do you. The rest will come.
ps–23 has been pretty rocky, so savor 22 while it lasts. TayTay was right.