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An Unfinished Letter to Myself at 16


But she did look back, and I love her for that because it was so human.

Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut


You, my love, are in for a wild adventure.

What you don’t know now is that the road will not be easy.

That linear path everyone thinks you’ll take when they vote you most likely to succeed from the Class of 1993? It takes a tailspin into the woods.  

That friend who showed up at your door in seventh grade? He will die in a car crash when you are 20 and it will rock your world so hard that you will get lost in whiskey shots and late nights. But those will also be the days you find your way back to the page and fall in love with philosophy class and listen to Ani Difranco and Liz Phair on repeat. You will be finding your spirit’s pulse. And it will drive you on.

Speaking of drives? You will drive across the country twice and nearly get lost in mountains and campfires and open skies.

You will let yourself study what you love and trust that it will get you someplace. Most days, you will be right. The things you thought were important—the law degree, the move to the big city, the bank—aren’t.

You come to know how hard you mom worked each day; and you love her even more now than you did then. Your Dad, too. Your sister still has your back, even though she is miles away today instead of across the room.

Not too long from now you will befriend food. Donuts and French fries, even. Then meatloaf and artichokes and soup that takes all of Sunday to simmer on the stove. You learn to listen to your body, to know what it wants, and to honor that. You learn to savor.

All those feelings? Oh sweetheart. They are you and they are beautiful. They make you the most tender of story catchers. What feels like too much now becomes your greatest strength.

He will never, ever come back. Know this. Let it go, burn the letters, and know that he taught you how to love.   And that, in itself, is enough.

You’ll have regrets—not going to New York with them on New Year’s, for one—but not loving him or having them.

You will find a love so gentle and true that it still amazes you. You will write your vows and have two beautiful, soul-stretching kids. You will have a son who is as sensitive as you and can look straight into your heart. You will have a daughter whose joy reminds you that life is for the living.

You will give birth at home and the midwife won’t make it in time. This will teach you that you have a warrior woman inside that you had never accessed. Listen to her more.

You will sit with women who have bruises and scars and stories so gruesome to tell, that some days you will want to get in your car and drive far away. But you don’t. You take those stories and let them shape you. They soak in your bones and swim through your blood. You learn that you are them and they are you and we are all in this life together.

You have forgotten how to dance. And how to run. And maybe even draw. And you still don’t have a tattoo.  But you’ve learned to say fuck yeah and to wear cowboy boots and how to say the hard things.

There will be moments. And days that make you ache. But you are a moment hunter and have lifetimes of fierce inside you. Don’t be deterred.

There is so much more to say but for now know that what you are living will serve you soon. Nothing is ever wasted. Trust me on this. And go easy.

With so much love,



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