Joey, one of my good friends from college, is moving from California to northern Virginia very soon for grad school. Earlier today, I was 100 percent certain I saw him playing beer bong with a bunch of guys in front of a house in Falls Church. I walked closer to the grass and stared for several minutes, oblivious that the entire group of boys could see me watching them. They all started laughing, waving, and saying hello, but by that point Joey had responded to my text message and said that he had not moved to the east coast yet. So I scurried away, ignoring their beer pong invite. Perhaps next time, when I’m not wearing work-out clothes and carrying my lime green yoga mat.
Yesterday on the bus, I felt envious of a fellow rider who had dizzying earphones. I took several pictures of them and thankfully she didn’t notice, although the people nearby definitely raised their eyebrows at my paparazzi ways:
Bubble tea drinkers, I need your help. I’ve only ever bought some at Georgetown’s Snap, but if you know anything about the D.C. area, you know Georgetown is a pain in the ass. It remains my favorite part of the district, but I can’t make the trip out there every time I crave tapioca pearls. Where else can a gal buy bubble tea in the nation’s capital? Chinatown? DuPont Circle?
At the end of my senior year of high school, my history teacher instructed all of his students to write a five-year letter, which he promised to mail to us sometime in 2011. I wrote about my place in the world as a 17-year-old who was getting ready to attend the University of Arizona. Because I addressed the envelope to my mom’s house, I knew she’d end up reading my note, so I kept it light and appropriate.
Even as a teenager, I thought ahead. My mother received the letter this afternoon. She read it aloud to me over the phone and holy Lord was that embarrassing.
I didn’t say anything too bizarre, but I did make a weird statement like, “Never forget the love of your life, Kevin,” referring to my high school sweetheart. I really, really, really wish I hadn’t said stuff like that back then, but I was probably just grief-stricken and bored. Either way, I managed to channel love-struck, overly earnest “Twilight” character Bella Swan before her creation, so that’s pretty impressive. Stephenie Meyer totally stole from my MySpace page (sarcasm).
I’m happy to report that I’ve accomplished more than my 17-year-old self predicted. Though I loved writing back in high school, I had no idea how I’d put that hobby to good use. I certainly didn’t think I’d write for my college paper, win awards, or become a news writer/editor in D.C.
“Did you graduate college or have you been slacking off?” reads the letter. Unfortunately, I finished college on time last May. I could have really used another year at UofA. I guess I didn’t expect much from myself!
I also listed the names of my high school buddies and said I hoped I’d stayed in contact with them. At the time, I hadn’t yet created a Facebook account, which would ultimately help me maintain my childhood friendships. I rarely talk to most of these folks, but we laugh about our shared memories from time to time.
Two weeks before I’d written myself the letter, my father lost his battle to liver disease/cancer, so I wrote it from the lens of someone who had no idea how to cope with death in the immediate family.
“You’ll always be upset about dad, but I’m sure you’re over it by now,” I wrote. Yes and no. You simply can’t move on from this sort of thing, although I think about the situation a lot less now than I did in 2006, 2007, and 2008. After a few years, you’re sad that you’re no longer sad about what happened. Ralph Waldo Emerson explains this reaction in one of his essays. After his little boy died, Emerson was crushed about the fact that he’d moved on from the tragedy. In a way, you feel like you’ve betrayed the deceased. I don’t feel guilty anymore, although I do wonder how different my life would have been had cancer not thrown my family off-course. Whenever I get to thinking about what I would have done had this not taken place, I remember one of my dad’s biggest rules:
“What kind of a question is that, Laura?” he’d say.
“A ‘what if’ question,” I would respond.
“And what do we know about ‘what if’ questions?” he would ask.
“They’re not allowed because they’re hypothetical and not constructive,” I would reply.
These memories kill my “what could have been” train of thought. That’s not to say everything is certain. I’m often perplexed by my mom for snagging boyfriends after her husband died.
“She deserves to be happy,” others say. While I agree, I’m not so sure rushing into a relationship fills the void of a deceased spouse. There are no quick fixes for grief, and you can’t expect to have more than one big love in life. I’ve explained this at length to family members, but we just don’t discuss the topic anymore.
I’m tired of everyone expecting me to be maudlin, weepy, and sentimental on anniversaries, Father’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc. It’s draining and irritating when everyone wills you to be a poor little sad girl. In reality, I wouldn’t think twice about those dates if others didn’t bring them to my attention.
“Oh my God, are you going to be OK on Sunday?” someone will ask.
More often than not, I wouldn’t have even remembered nor cared.
As I was scrawling out the letter, my brother Kevin was expecting his first child, to be named Sawyer. That little boy is now four years old and he has a younger brother named Lukey. My other brother Mikey now has two kids as well. I’m totally and completely in love with all four of these toddlers and I wish I could see each of them more often. Am I a bad aunt for living so far away from them? Sometimes it seems so. Regardless, I can’t wait to see the people they grow into. I’m sure they’ll all thrive in adulthood.
As I was writing the five-year letter to myself, I’m pretty sure I intentionally set the bar low. I didn’t want to be disappointed in myself if I experienced a rough patch and made epic mistakes. If I write a letter like this to myself again, I’ll be sure to aim high. By 27, I hope to have penned a memoir, met Bill O’Reilly and Ke$ha (my two favorite famous folks), traveled the world, lived in Europe again, appeared in the New York Post as a writer, purchased an apartment in New York City or San Francisco (both of which are way cooler and less sanitized than boring D.C.), and been on Fox, MSNBC, and “The View.” Dream big!