Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Letter to 35 Year Old Me

Getting mail is so delicious, isn't it? This week, I read "A Letter to Future Me," a note penned from perennial single writer Katrina Kieltyka to her future, dating self. I swooned over this idea, because playing with the time-space continuum and letters are two of my favourite things.

I think it's also important to recognize that change brings about both positive and negative fallout: the author of this piece, for example, reminded her future self that she loves to read in bed, and dating someone who would be uncool with that would be a major bummer. Katrina's married friend said wisely/weirdly, "Girl, the person you love will bring a new you out of you," but hopefully, that new Katrina will also enjoy reading in bed. She also recognized that, if/when she gets all coupled up, she will continue to have single friends, and they will likely not enjoy feeling like a third wheel; indeed, some of her best friendships are with couples who don't make the shell of being with The Two of Them hard to crack. Promising to carry that intention forward is a way of honouring both her present and her future self: recognizing today when being with couples is an onerous chore, and promising tomorrow to be aware if she ends up creating that same chore for her friends.

So, here's my letter to myself, at the age of thirty-five.

Dear Future Kaitlyn:

Hey girl hey. I'm writing to you from December 2013, two weeks after your 30th birthday. It's 2018 now. Did we ever get hoverboards? Or even self-lacing shoes? (If you didn't buy those hideous self-lacing shoes, just know that I'm disappointed back here.) Since you have so much free time now—lacing your shoes takes, like, minutes, every single day—feel free to kick back and relax with this missive from the past.

First up: work stuff. Remember your 29th birthday, when your mom made business cards for you? They said writer on them, and you cried a little because it felt powerful and real? I know since then, you've done lots of writing, and lots of emotional work to feel worthy of that business card. I hope that, at 35, your business card says something about you that feels true. I bet it says writer, but if it doesn't, that's okay. We'll get there. You've always searched for a vocation—the thing you feel called to do—and recognizing that feeling when you sit down and open up a fresh, blank document was a major milestone. Don't take it too personally if you needed to learn Adobe InDesign to pay the bills. Consider yourself someone who thrives in the slash: a writer/event planner, or a writer/research assistant. Keep the slash alive for as long as it's useful, then ditch it.

Secondly, I bet kids are happening. Maybe we had some kids, maybe it's all our friends—and when it starts happening, I bet it's going to feel like every single person we know is pregnant simultaneously. I really hope it happens for us. If it doesn't, it's okay to be sad. It's okay to feel betrayed. And it's okay to spend a bunch of weepy months at the therapists/reproductive specialist's office. And it's also okay to take time away from friends with kids, as long as we eventually get back to them. But try not to reduce yourself to the kids/no kids binary. Be gentle with the people in your life who don't have kids, yourself included.

(And be gentle with the people who do, yourself included. I bet they're all really, really tired. Remember, when the baby is crying and the toddler just pooped in the laundry basket wearing a grin of spiteful glee, that this is damned hard work, and it will feel like nobody is giving you any credit. So go ahead and give yourself some. And take your babies traveling. I don't know why I feel so strongly about this, but I do.)

I recently heard maturity defined as being okay with imperfection, and it made me think of my relationship. Mike and I are 98% awesome, but sometimes that 2% looms large and black and evil in your mind. Knock that shit off. Be okay with the 2%. The imperfection is the black soil where things grow from. Don't strive to wipe it out, and don't get so sad when it pops up. It happens. It's okay.

I bet that, at 35, your body looks different, especially if you did have a couple kids. Mazel tov! Remember realizing that you didn't need to be afraid of slasher films, because only teenagers die in those infernal movies, and you're not a teenager? Apply this thinking to your body: you aren't a fashion model/teenager/movie star, so you don't have to look like one. Keep yourself healthy by eating good food, dancing with your friends and family, and remembering that Walter Miller quote, "You don't have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily." Feed your soul and your body with only the best, and don't let anyone shit down your neck. Especially your own self.

Above all, remember that it's okay to ask for help. There will be days when everything is stupid and sad: people will get sick and die, your relationship will seem like a sheer cliff that can't be climbed, your friends will move away or get busy, and you will probably always struggle for money. It's okay to say, out loud and to an audience, I feel crazy. I feel sad. I feel left out. And when things are good, it's important to say, This is great. I'm so happy! I made a good choice. The value in this is immense: connecting with the people around you by being honest ("I'm having a terrible day!") gives them a chance to dig in with you. ("I can't fix your problem, but I am making some cookies and would love to see you eat some.") And it also gives you a chance to do the same with them. These connections will be the measure of your life: more than money, or kids, or bylines, or boarding passes. Knowing what you need and asking for it is tough; give yourself credit for how tough you are when you're vulnerable.

And that, really, is where we want to be at 35. And, you know, right now.