My friend Abby has two of the best words of advice I’ve ever been given. Walk tall. They’re not so different from the advice my sister gives me when she is helping me dust myself off after having busted my ass once again on life’s crooked sidewalk, “Chin up, tits out.” They are both brilliant and wise and haven given me the gift of words – my sister by teaching me to read and Abby for bringing me back to writing after years of allowing it to gather dust in the shadow of my fears. I love them both fiercely and they are both gaining one more year of wisdom this week.
There are some days and weeks when I feel strong and tall, long-limbed and loose, and grounded with gratitude. But there are also weeks, like these past few, where I feel small and lost, huddled up and bobbing along, while I struggle to find a horizon to set my sights on as everything churns and shifts around me.
As luck would have it, this week I came across something I had written in a writing workshop years ago with Abby. The exercise was to write a letter – from anyone and to anyone – to tell a story or give some advice. I chose to write a letter to my younger self. Good advice, that apparently, I still need to be reminded of to this day:
Stand up straight, for god’s sakes. Don’t waste your long-legged youth hunched into corners of self-doubt. Get rid of those bangs, they don’t hide that bastard step-child of a nose you have and it only serves to hide the truth in your eyes. Ease up on the make-up, the war paint (as your grandfather called it) was never something you were taught to wear. You wear it as awkwardly as you stumble in those silver spangled heels.
Focus more on your hopes than your fears. The what ifs should be the wind that pushes your dream clouds across the skies of your mind. They are not the harbingers of storms.
Yes, you are smart. Please stop waiting for someone to tell you. It will not be in the books you read, on a billboard, or etched in the ink of your boyfriend’s tattoo.
Your failures are your successes. They are not things to carry around in your purse like rusted razor blades. They are yours – THAT is the shadow you should wear on your eyes and paint your face with.
Use your gifts. They are not meant to be kept in a box, placed on a table, or looked at wistfully. Break the box so you can’t put them away. Shatter the table so that you have no choice but to hold them in your shaking hands and use them every day.
Let the seeds of disappointment grow green-leafed hopes. Tend to them carefully, fighting off the plagues of selfish relationships. Use water to feed the plant, keep it away from the blight of family doubts.
Trust. You’ve done well to place the bird nest of your heart in the hands of others, to carefully rebuild it when it has been dropped or stepped on. But you need to learn to place it in your own branches, trust the strength of your roots, your ability to bend in the storms and stretch in the sunshine.
Trust your next steps and stride confidently into the future. Walk tall.