Dear 12 year-old me:
Hey. It’s me, your 45 year-old self. You’re probably sitting in your room, alone, reading Tiger Beat and pretending everything’s cool. I know you’re lonely and wishing you weren’t. I know the sadness inside of you is as big and dark as that room you’re in. I know how different you feel. It’s going to feel like that for a while. Quite a while, in fact. You’re going to hate me for saying that, but it’s true.
There’s a lot more shit to go through, but what I want you to know is that you are going to make it. Through all of it. You will not come through unscathed. There will be scars and memories and pain.
When you turn 45, you’re going to be woken up. I know, I know, that’s a VERY long time from now. You will have many moments of clarity, but nothing like the clarity you’re going to get when you’re 45. There are times in our lives when we need to be shaken up. Need to be moved to do better things with our histories. We read someone else’s story or hear someone’s grief and we’re reminded we aren’t alone on this planet, no matter how small we feel. Every once in a while we are woken from the emotional coma we walk around in and find that coma is optional.
You’re going to read a few books when you’re 45 that are going to change you. They are going to remind you of things you’ve done your best to forget. You will feel like someone threw water on your face and shook you a little, but then hugged the shit out of you and said, “hello and welcome home.”
I don’t want to tell you the names of these books, because you’ll know. You’ll know in your gut what they are the same way you know that Carrie is not the name you would ever have chosen for yourself.
You’re going to work in a bookstore (yes, somethings do turn out just right) and people are going to tell you how great that first book is. You’ll scoff a bit because you hate reading what’s popular. (Just for the record, you’ve never read “The Bridges of Madison County” “The Help” or anything by Nicholas Sparks. You’re also going to scoff heavily about something called “Fifty Shades of Grey,” in case it comes up.) You finally give in because you discover there’s a nipple and water on the cover. You will always be a sucker for nipples and water. You cannot control yourself when the two come together.
You’ll read this memoir and you’ll nod. A lot. You will see yourself mirrored in many ways on those pages. That suit of lonely that weighs you down will lighten. You are going to understand in a way you never have before that you really are not unique. I don’t say this to take away from the amazing person you will become, but to let you know that unique can sometimes be a prison.
I know this is probably freaking you out, so I’ll simplify it. You are going to identify yourself in the following ways at one time or another in your lifetime. Ready? Here goes:
- abused, in whatever form that takes
- the cat lady way before your time
Okay, catch your breath. You are also going to have many people tell you that you are:
- completely lovable
- a great father (what???!! Yes, father. I don’t want to spoil the surprise…)
My point is that you won’t pay too much attention to the second list because you don’t believe much of it. You’ll nod and say, “thanks,” but you’ll go back to the first list every time. When your tired hands turn the pages of her books, you are going to finally feel home. You will finally discover the reason why people like us need other people like us.
The big lie is that your only family is the one whose name you share. This is not true. It’s bullshit, even. What a beautiful thing to discover that we can still create family at 45. That we can still recognize a sameness in someone else and feel at home. That we can open our hearts and not worry the door will slam in our face.
I want you to know that every single, motherfucking millisecond of your pain, your heartache, your joy, your disillusion, your comprehension….all of it…all of it counts. It’s big. It’s important. It’s what makes you the man you are at 45. It makes you lovable, vulnerable, a truth teller, a witness, incredibly sexy, and it makes you present.
So when you’re 45, make that author a cake. Make it the best cake you’ve ever made. Put the best parts of yourself into it, because you’re still pretty awkward when it comes to saying thank you for making a difference in my life. You won’t get a piece of that cake, but it’s one she won’t forget.
Zach (we’ll talk…)