Sarah Rosemary at Sunny Side Up and I are hosting our own Reverb11, a series of prompts to look back on 2011 and manifest the new year. Please check our Reverb11 pages for details, and join in!
Prompt for December 11: Past Self: Write a letter to your past self, telling the old you about who you’ve become. Did you live up to your own expectations?
You put me in a tight spot, because you wrote such a good plan for me to follow. Then again, your passion for planning and documenting things (a la Harriet the Spy) has gotten you into so much hot water over the years, I should be careful of what I say.
So here goes:
That vow you made in 1994 never to drink; never to get drunk? I hate to break it to you — you gave up on it by the following year. You did, however, grow up to be a meticulously careful drinker and you ever made yourself sick from drink twice — once at 22, once at 30 (ugh). (You started taking a lot more risks once you turned 30, but that’s maybe a topic for therapy, not for the internet.)
When you were 16, two things happened to you: SwissAir lost your luggage and you spent a week in Rome without your bags. Later that year, your high school sweetheart (who had just gone off to college) came out of the closet. These two things changed you forever. First, it made you a master contingency planner. Second, you became an obsessive traveller. And third, you wrote: “Here I am at my kitchen table, sixteen years old and older than anyone and everyone I know.” You continue to feel that way, despite the high drama of it, and it will keep you from forming meaningful relationships for years to come.
When you were 17, you wrote: “So we went to this fab restaurant on Melrose – Chianti – quiet, dark and got a table on short notice and it was wonderful. they served us wine without question, however, I wonder what I will be doing at 30 if this is my life at 17.” In your 30s, you laugh about this.
Also in the mid-1990s, you wrote: “I will never understand why he does this: regardless of the heat or urgency or anything of it all, he’ll pause momentarily and kiss me on the forehead. Do all guys do this? Will they always?” Years later, men will still do that to you in the heat of a moment, and it will still leave you wondering. You’ll not have gathered any answers on that mysterious, intimate forehead kiss. The best you have determined is that it is because you are short.
You said, once, that you just wanted to marry a boy from Darien, Connecticut; one who drives a Volvo and who is the son of a Daughter of the American Revolution. (Your adult self, me, will read back on this — horrified — and to this day, have no idea why you arbitrarily picked that.) The marriage to the Darien boy ends badly. Being married was so-so. Being divorced is loathsome.
Your grandparents died. It hurt as badly as you predicted.
You were terrible at only two subjects in school — European History and Brit Lit (let’s face it, you weren’t bad at algebra or trig, you were just lazy at it). As a teenager, you noted that you “find accents ‘distracting.'” This leaves you woefully, hilariously unprepared to face all of the British men you kiss later in life. You later find yourself spending loads of time in London (ugh), and you will know nothing about a) the city, b) its history, or c) the British Monarchy. The only thing you really have going for you is that you didn’t have a particularly all-American upbringing.
But these are just…things. Who did you become? Did I live up to what you expected? The answer is yes-and-no, since you left me such a detailed plan to follow, and while I rarely deviated from it, life sometimes got in the way.
You became a lawyer, a writer, a wife, an ex-wife. Your family sorted things out. You ran the marathons you always said you would. You climbed those mountains, and you kept in touch with the friends who were so meaningful to you. You forged a relationship with the father who was always on travel — he’s your most trusted adviser now. Jade is still your best friend.
You had so many plans! Everything was so well-thought out; so clearly marked for me to follow. There were so many lists! But you didn’t plan for imperfections. You hadn’t counted on bad relationships and system overloads. You didn’t anticipate that your brother would be a drug addict — and how many resources that would absorb. You didn’t forecast your eating disorder; you didn’t plan to get sick.
Life happened. You weren’t (and aren’t) good at just living. But you’re getting better at it. That was what you didn’t plan for.
I think you’d like the grown-up you. I just think she’s nothing at all what you expected. Which is maybe what you’d hoped for all along.