I used to think I would live a really short life.
I mean, I used to spend so much time wondering about funerals, and eulogies, and people slipping through my fingers when I was younger that I wondered if I’d die young. I couldn’t picture the white of my own wedding day. I never envisioned the texture of my children’s hair. I guess I wondered if that mean’t I would live a shorter life. If some tragedy would happen to me. If I’d be here one day and gone the next.
I know that’s morbid. It’s not the way to start a letter but the news told me yesterday that life was fragile. And a funeral told me last week that time is kind of like scratch-off tickets: you win sometimes but most of the time you’re just gambling.
My mind winds back to you and I, sitting in the middle of a driveway and I couldn’t quite pin down the words to describe how my hands were shaking. August was the queen that night, her humidity hissed and tangled through my hair. We set down a blanket. Laid on top of it. Laughed under stars. You’d brought a boombox to sit between us, weaving the power cord all the way from the garage so you and I could hear love songs play on the radio. Delilah-style. Just like old times. Before we knew we were capable of changing and wanting different things.
Everything around me in that moment seemed to tell me, “You are getting older but you’re still so young.” I’m sorry, I haven’t figured how to stand in the chasm of that space yet.
You see, I want to go and do and be. I want to fill my life with action verbs. But I’m still human and I’m still fearful. I’m still the one who whispers to herself at night, “Don’t dream too big. Don’t fly too high.” I’m scared of rejection. Of things I can’t see. Even though every quote on Twitter tells me to seize life like a lover in the airport, I am still fearful of a life where I fail. I’m still always wondering what it would be like to stand in the middle of a crowded room and be the one not chosen, the one no one ever asks to dance.
So that’s why I am writing this. Because even if I am fearful, there is much to say. And it’s selfish to let my insecurities speak louder than my love. I don’t care if my life is big or grand or short or long, I just want to make sure I told you everything when I had you. I don’t want fear to be the pilot, flying an airplane full of unsaid words.
First thing I’d like to say: I tried. I tried so incredibly hard to be good. I know it’s always up for debate as to whether humans are “good” or not, but I know I never wasted a day without trying to be the best I could possibly be. It didn’t always work out that way. And a lot of times I was way harder on myself than I needed to be. But I tried. I tried to love you right.
I hope you know I always tried to look up at you. I tried to look away from the screen. I tried to smell the flowers and hear the rain. I tried to feel life, and feel feelings, and cry when life pushed it out of me. I tried to place myself in situations where my palms would still get sweaty, and life would still surprise me, and people would still break me. I mean, I didn’t want for people to break me but I’m learning that’s just half of our existence: being broken by people who tried to love us right and dancing in the redemption that comes with putting the pieces back together.
I tried to stay hopeful. I tried to say the right things and not let anger speak first. I tried to believe in angels and forgiveness. I tried to believe in people: always, and constantly, and first.
I tried to constantly be this better version of myself even though I look back and think I should have just let myself “be” sometimes. I should have left my eyebrows intact in the 8th grade. I shouldn’t have given myself those bangs in the 5th grade. I didn’t always need to be a better version— sometimes I just needed to tolerate the person I woke up as that morning.
I mean, evolving is good. Learning is good. Becoming better is better. But there could have been the nights where I ate the ice cream, and took off my shoes to feel the sand, and just decided to speak or not speak. There should have been the days where I didn’t start the argument, where I didn’t need to be right, where I wasn’t so cold just because you hurt me and I thought “getting even” was a strategy. There should have been nights where I left you and nights where I didn’t leave you. I’m sorry if I never held your hand when you needed it more than whatever words I said to try to fix the things that only God could touch.
People say “have no regrets.” To me, that’s just silly. I have regrets. I live inside those regrets sometimes. And if it weren’t for those regrets, I wouldn’t know how to make my whole life run smoother. And kiss people harder. And squelch my pride. And say things while I have people standing right in front of me. And not say things when I know words said selfishly have the power to keep two people standing in one place forever.
That’s the other thing I’ve learned as of lately: people aren’t things. You can’t keep them. You can’t control them. You can’t get mad at life when it takes away all your precious pawns. You can’t make a museum out of who a person is today, that never gives anyone the freedom to become someone different tomorrow.
I think back on that night when we were sitting on the bed, facing the white wall. The night with the beer bread. And I wish I found the way to whisper out the truth to you, “You could be a different person overnight if you wanted to be. I’m just so afraid you’ll let Plan B fit you.”
I’d like to go back and say that to you— you and all the “you”s I have in this world. Plan B doesn’t fit a single person I love. I won’t care any less or more if you choose that path but I just see so much potential for people that it breaks my heart. I see their possibility. I see their goodness. And maybe my friends tell me I am too hopeful but I’d rather see what you’re capable of then be the one who gives up on you when you just needed someone to stand beside you and help you claim the bright things for your life.
So this it. My end of the world my letter. My “God forbid” letter. My “this life is so fragile and quick” letter. And it’s just a lot of hopes I’d like to place in an envelope and tuck in your mailbox: Hope that you’ll say the hard things. That you’ll make the tough choices. That, when life tries to make a leader out of you, you won’t shy away.
Your heart is credible, so listen to it speak. Life is messy: choose to laugh at that instead of cry. Keep people’s feelings at the forefront of your mind but don’t always sacrifice what you want for making other people happy— sometimes you have to make yourself happy.
Don’t search so hard for this happiness thing. People will make you feel like it’s the sort of thing you uncover with a metal detector or a shovel or a magnifying glass. Happiness is tiny glimpses of “okay”ness slipped into the ordinary days. It is cool drinks. And bare feet. And sunburn that looks gracious and kind-of beautiful on your shoulders. Happiness is barely ever big or boisterous, the thing that comes traipsing into the room to make a big scene. Happiness is microscopic on most days, it flows in and out of your daily life. And, on the days when happiness isn’t there, don’t bully yourself so hard: remember we had so many grey days that one vacation with the yellow shovels… funny how I remember the grey days best.
You might never feel ready for the world. Or for other people. Or for someone who wants to hold your hand. Maybe ready isn’t the point. Maybe we get so consumed with the “finished products” and the “ready moments” of this lifetime that we forget real life was just quiet moments we never fully enjoyed. Instagram swept all the mystery away with a filter.
Just choose life. Just choose the people around the table instead of always choosing the ones who are miles away waiting on you to double tap their photos. They’ll be there when you turn back to the screen.
Choose who you have right here, right here. It’s precious. It’s urgent. When they ask you to go get margaritas after dinner, go without reserve. You can buy groceries the next day. Choose long drives. Choose screaming Taylor Swift at the top of your lungs. Choose saying “yes” to dates, even if you don’t know if they’re “the one.” I guess I just want to beg you to let people in. Welcome them in. Just let people hold your hands and buy you dinner. Let them compliment your smile. Let yourself feel beautiful for five minutes.
Choose dishes left in the sink for nights beneath the stars. Choose random chats in Target with the cashier. Choose using people’s names more often than you don’t. Choose slow dancing in the kitchen.
Remember to give people the decent shot they deserve— you said it yourself, you’re always so hopeful people will take a chance on you.