Along with Brad Paisley, Maria is the inspiration for this entry. I really do wish there was a way to go back and give just a little encouragement, or at least a heads up, to that person I was. I think maybe some parents perform this function, and some kids are able to hear them and steer accordingly. I did not have that parent, nor was I inclined to listen. So, here is what I would like to tell my seventeen year old self...
Dear Rebecca, aged 17,
First, let me tell you, good job turning yourself around. The last year or two have been hell, but you hung there. Good job. Now, keep your eyes on the prize. You're right, college is your ticket out. Keep plugging away.
When you get to Maine, relax. You can more than handle the workload. Concentrate on that. Your penchant for getting attention using your sexuality will backfire. Girls won't thank you for it, guys will use you for it and you'll wind up miserable.
Be sure to thank Ed for dumping you, so that you found Michael. Great guy, but probably not THE ONE. He'll graduate before you, and go back to MA. Don't fall apart. He didn't reject you, he graduated. If you know this going in, you can avoid a lot of pain and embarrassment.
Whatever you do, do NOT transfer to SUNY Purchase. Go to the moon if you have to, but stay the hell away from Purchase. Your mother will decide to attend that school, and you will share classes with her. She will be unsympathetic when your heart is broken. Even though you live on campus, you will not escape her, and wasn't that what you were looking for when you shaped up in 11 grade?
Partly due to tension between you and mom, you are going to reconnect with your father. Make it count. Forgive him and yourself for your years apart. Make the most of what time you have, he will die when you are 37. You might not think so now, but trust me, you will be devastated.
You are going to go through a doozy of a transition at the age of 22. You're going to feel scared and alone. You WILL get through it. You will discover your own strength, determination and will. Don't let your fear of being alone convince you to settle for a relationship that is not completely satisfying. Take the time you need to discover who you are as a person and as a woman. Live alone for a while. Spend some quiet time. Heal. Then you will know what you need, and go after it in a healthy way.
Your relationship with your mother will come together and fall apart several times until your 30s. Let it go. You will never measure up to what she wanted, don't try. It isn't your issue, it's hers. The effect, however, is toxic to you. And really, you always knew the day would come. The best you can do is learn from what happened, and make sure your son (yep, you'll have a son one day) never feels the way you did.
A few more notes:
• Be careful with your choice of words and tone of voice. Your command of language and inflection can be devastating. Sarcasm is a weapon, use with considerable care. It isn't cool, it's mean.
• Your appetite will outstrip your metabolism in a few short years. Save yourself some horrible self esteem and body image issues by reining it in now.
• Be sure to give as much or more than you take.
• Learn now to deal with things head on. Hiding doesn't work and you can't run forever. You will lose some of the most important relationships of your life if you don't.
• Be gentler with yourself. Quiet the critic within. If you are less harsh with yourself, then you will be less harsh with others, and they with you. It is ok not to be perfect. No one expects it, nor do they want it expected of them. A corollary: It is completely ok to ask for help if you need it. You want to be there for others, and they want to be there for you, so don't shut them out.
You're a bright, strong, lovable and loving woman. Remember that. Keep your head up. You hold the key to set yourself free any time you choose to use it. Don't wait too long.
Rebecca, aged 41
17 was really a pivotal year in my life. I think I always knew that, but it helps to actually write about it. But man, it would have been easier to have learned and employed some of the life lessons earlier than I did...