I see you now. You are young, and shy, and earnest, and you hide your shyness behind an outgoing personality that often comes across as brash and loud. You are such an innocent. You know well the power of people to hurt. You’ve been watching people hurt each other at home most of your life. You’ve retreated to books and writing for safety, and you love school because you’re smart, and because there, you get positive affirmation for being who you are.
I wish I could tell you all the amazing places you’re going to go, and the people around the world that you will meet. I wish I could tell you that you travel because you love new places, yes, but also because you ran from love because it scared you, and you ran to get away from home. You’re a runner. When things get too hard in one place, you run to another. You’ve started over more times than I can count, but the trick is, you can’t run away from yourself. I wish I could tell you to be yourself sooner and not try to be what everyone else wants you to be, especially men. I wish I could tell you not all men are bad, there are good ones out there, but until you think better of yourself, you won’t meet those good ones and be ready for them. You’ll meet men who are emotionally unavailable like your dad was, but you won’t figure this out for thirty years. You will believe that the failure of your relationships is all your fault. But one day, you will understand that while yes, it does take two, you’ve been picking what you’re used to. You’ve chosen what you believe you deserve and what you believe about yourself–that you are unlovable, invisible, and unimportant. Your dad did a number on you.
You will meet a man who will turn a light on in a dark room for you. He will be the light that shines on a whole new world for you. He will be interested in what you think and who you are, and will like you for yourself. He will give you Blake, and Dylan, and Billie Holiday and Nanci Griffith, and you and he will spend hours talking about all the places he’s gone in the world and listening to this, and to all he knows of literature and poetry and culture will light a fire in your heart to see the places he speaks of, and know more of the world he does, because you’d like to be able to keep up with him in conversation. He will call you his girl with the gypsy feet. He will be the most confusing, wonderful , tenderhearted man you have ever known, and he will break your heart, not because he was callous, or heartless, or mean, but because he was good, and kind, and he taught you how a real man acts towards a smart woman he considers his equal. He will die, and you will want to, but you will live–first for him, then later, you will learn to live for yourself.
You will be broke most of your life. You will go to Ireland and write in your journal in Bewley’s Cafe. You will visit Shetland Islands and sit on the docks and write by the sea, with the sharp smell of fish, and the briny smell of sea water, next to battered old fishing boats that have stories of their own. You will go to Belfast and look at the murals and wonder why people can’t get along. You will wonder why people can’t get along all of your life. You will go to Russia, and see the Hermitage and the Bolshoi Ballet, and Moscow and ride a train across Russia with cockroaches for bedmates and cheap Georgian champagne while listening to the life story of one of the coach matrons who tells you how her parents were collective farmers and she grew up wanting to go to college and become a teacher, but instead, works on the trains. You will visit Moscow University. You will meet many Russian people who are emotional and passionate and good, and kind, and beaten down. You will wonder again, as this is the end of the Cold War, if Russia can learn to be a democracy. You will find out they have trouble holding on to freedom.
You will become discouraged at the selfish, self centered nature of people. Of the rich people who work the system to get what they want, while depriving others of what they need. Greedy pepole who believe freedom is only for them while taking others’ freedoms away. People who believe that violence is the only answer and power is everything.
But there will be moments, when the world reveals itself to be a miraculous, beautiful place. When you see deer. When you see random acts of kindness by strangers. When you see selflessness. When you see a tiny flower growing out of concrete, or see a sunset on a prairie in Nebraska, or the Northern Lights in northern Minnesota. At those moments, you will believe in God.
Keep going, be strong, and have faith. It gets better, girlie. You will be much more yourself, more self-confident and you will know what you want when you are almost fifty, but….better late than never. Your whole life will be a sacred pilgrimage to your sense of spirituality, God, and yourself. You get to help people, and love, and be loved.
You get to go home again, and be happy in the end.