My mom gave one final push and there I was – 1:28 AM on Wednesday, September 9th. Forty years later I am imagining what it would be like to talk to my six-year-old self face-to-face and tell her stories of the people she will meet, places she will go and everything in-between.
Do you ever imagine doing something like that? Would you tell your young self of the amazing moments of your life or would you just dive right into the warnings with dates and times?
So let’s make-believe. She sits crisscross applesauce while I kneel and rest my body on the back of my feet. Five minutes to spill the tea with six-year-old me. Face-to-face.
I’ll begin with an easy one.
- You are going to want a spiral perm. Rethink that.
- No. The answer you hear when you ask to go to the Alanis Morissette concert on a school night in ‘96. (She also will be your motivation for picking up a guitar and writing your first song)
- Do not quit piano lessons.
- You will be handed a cigarette at age twelve. If you take that first drag, it will take you twenty-three years to stop. It’s really not worth it.
- Trusted adults will let you down. They are human. They are doing the best they can with what they know. Release your anger towards them sooner rather than later.
- Your mom will pray at your bedside until you fall asleep every night. Listen to what she says. She’s teaching you how to talk to God.
- There really is no need to try out for any of the sports teams your friends are on. Bless your heart! Buy yourself something at the concession stand and enjoy the game.
- You are not responsible for the feelings of other people. You are also not responsible for how those people communicate those feelings. You take care of you.
- The theater will become your home away from home. You will find magic there.
- Your worth as a person is not based upon your talents or performances on a stage (See #9).
- Someone you look up to will call you fat at your 8th-grade birthday party. The shame will cause you to sneak food when your family is asleep so they don’t see you. You will have a complicated relationship with food till adulthood. Listen to me right now. You are not fat.
- What you are experiencing are panic attacks. The first one will be when you are eight. There are doctors and medications to help.
- You will lock your keys in your car after driving to the movies on a date your junior year of high school. If you want to avoid a scene of your dad whisper-shouting your name in a dark theater to give you the spare key then please put your car keys directly in your purse.
- A dear friend will choose you as the first person he comes out to. His road will be harder than you would ever know. But almost twenty years later you will sing at the wedding of him and his husband!
- You will not make the 8th-grade cheerleading squad because you can’t do a front or backflip. (See #16)
- Do not quit gymnastics when you are seven. (See #15)
- Start loving yourself the way you love everyone else.
- You will climb the Great Wall of China and ride a camel at the very top!
- You will also make it on to Michael Buble’s tour bus with his horn section while in Chicago. (But you really won’t remember that night because of alcohol…)
- I’ll just let you in on this now: D.J and Steve don’t end up getting married but Cory and Topanga totally do!
- No, you do not have to go to college at eighteen. There is no rule.
- People will not understand all of your life choices. They will recover just fine.
- 1997. Do not blame yourself. It is sexual abuse and it is not your fault. You are scared. Keep speaking until someone helps you. You are not alone.
- That year will forever blur how you view your body, alcohol, intimacy, and trust. This is not something that you can snap out of or pray away but you are not broken. Start therapy now. You will heal, darling.
- You will regret not moving to NYC. You will always wonder what if even at forty. (Maybe you should just do it…)
- You will get married at age twenty-one. You will file for divorce by age twenty-five. Your affair with alcohol will begin before the ink is dry. (See #24)
- Write down all the places in the world you would like to see. Do everything you can to make that travel possible – preferably before 2016 or so because driving with two toddlers in a mini-van is not a vacation. It’s a trip with snacks, dirty diapers, and tears.
- At age thirty you will stand and sing on one of the oldest and most renowned stages in NYC – Carnegie Hall. You will wear a black gown with your hair down. It will be everything you thought it would be.
- Spend the extra money on good shoes and good mattresses.
- 2014. Your wedding day will be the most fun day ever. It will be the perfect day – even if you do forget to exchange rings or even sign the marriage license…
- You and your dad will see the Cubs win a World Series in your lifetime and it will be epic.
- A six-week-old baby boy is needing an adoptive home. Your foster care manager will call you at 2 pm with this news and you will have only three hours to prepare.
- You and your husband learn that you do not know how to properly install a car seat.
- Your heart will literally skip a beat and you will stop breathing when they lay this perfect eleven-pound baby in your arms. That baby boy becomes your forever son and will change your world in ways you can not fathom.
- Don’t sell all of the baby equipment and toys in that yard sale in March of 2017. You will need them about nine months later.
- You will see miracles happen on the day you give birth to your daughter.
- 2019. You will find the courage to tell your husband about your bisexuality. With his full support, you share with the world. But life would be much less complicated for you if you come out earlier. You will have more support than you think.
- March 2020. You do not need all that toilet paper. Invest in a bidet. It’s a game-changer.
- All of sudden you wake up at forty wearing full-coverage underwear and elastic pants and peeing a bit when you pick something up
- You will know more about yourself at forty than you did at twenty.
I look up from my list and I see her (myself) with glazed wide eyes and her hands clenched. I reach out and place my hand on top of hers. And then all at once, she’s gone.
“I’ll be with you every step of the way,” I whisper under my breath. Only I am talking to myself.
Darn it. Was it the elastic pants comment?
Wait. I forgot to tell her about 9-11, Columbine, and all the amazing strangers that she will meet in the craziest spaces. I should have told her about parenting and that our mom, at only forty-seven years old, will be diagnosed with progressive MS. I should have told her that, right?
Should I have shared more about marriage and mortgages and sex and racism? Or falling in love and her first kiss? Or how her writing will be published and her own show will sell out a theater?
Do I tell her that she will survive all of it? Because she does. She survives the hell out of it.
Even if I could go back, there is absolutely nothing the ‘present me’ could do or say to protect child me, adolescent me, teenage me, and young adult me from the hard things of this world. Because I can’t go back. I shouldn’t go back.
The hard things of this world will always be hard just as the beautiful things will always be beautiful.
Ya know, I just should have told her how much she is loved. I should have told her how proud of her I was.
Because isn’t that what I want for myself right now? Isn’t that what I want for my children?
Happy 40th, Katy. You are loved.