Monday, June 8, 2015

Happy Birthday: A Letter to My Teenage Self

This is one of those little trimmings of life that everyone should do. It's a reflection. My opinion is we shouldn't have any regrets in life. Everything that could possibly be pointed out as a regret is actually a path to something better - - if you remain open. I have actually traced those paths of would-be regrets, and sure enough, the path led to something good.  

Write yourself a letter. Write it to your teenage self, and you don't have to wait for your birthday. Write a letter to your newly-wed self. Write a letter to when you first became a parent. Don't worry about grammar. Just write.  It will be quite a revelation. Here's mine. 

Dear Me,

You probably won't believe this, and especially something you would never fathom, but last year was a very significant birthday. You graduated from high school in May, 1972 and a few weeks later after graduation, on June 8 you turned 18. Last year was 2014 - - well you do the math, even though math was not your strongest subject in high school.

Unfortunately, you didn't have time to celebrate this significant birthday as you were busy with another retail project (you've always loved retail) and you were two weeks late with a book deadline. Can you imagine? It was about a few months before you graduated, you had the English Lit teacher's assistant tell you that you would never become a writer - - and here you wrote a book - a history book, at that. 

This year will be different. You are going to celebrate your 61st birthday, and make up for what you didn't celebrate last year. That includes writing a letter to you - my teenage self. 

Unfortunately at the time, but fortunately for your own good, the folks were right about everything they suggested you should do and what you should not do. Yup, they were speaking from their own experiences.  

It was wise to listen to your mother about washing your face every night before bed and first thing in the morning with the expensive "beauty bar" she bought for you at the salon. Acne was kept to a minimum and it gave you good habits in future skin care. This is going to come off as vain, but the last facial you had a month ago, the technician pointed out that you had good looking skin for someone of the "establishment." Okay, so she didn't say - - "establishment," but I thought you could understand the word since I believe it use to be in your teenage vocabulary. 


I know that you felt out of place in the summertime because you were so pale in your bikini in comparison to your friends who were so shiny brown from baby oil and long days of baking in the sun. The good news is that it paid off that you could not stay in the sun for very long. We didn't know the harm the sun can do to us like we know now. 

Do you remember feeling embarrassed when your Dad picked you up from school in the old '49 Studebaker pick-up, instead of picking you up in one of the cool sporty cars that he bought for mom, like the new '64 cherry red Comet Cyclone or the turquoise '66 Mustang - oh, and remember the cute senior boys who often asked you for a ride in Dad's '70 AMC Javelin SST Mark Donahue Signature Edition? As an adult I can promise you, you would do anything right now to have your Dad pick you up from school in front of those cute senior boys, in that very same old pick-up that you were once embarrassed by. 

You were smart to keep your old brown suede purse with the fringe and the studded peace symbol on the purse flap. It's iconic and is still a conversation piece at most parties. I am glad you took it to your 40th class reunion.   

It was very bold of you to wear a tampon for the very first time when presented with your "monthly bill" the same day as a co-ed pool party. 

I know it was a painful experience when your high school English teacher stood by and let her teaching assistant from a local college  accuse you of plagiarism on a writing assignment and yet, the TA could not even prove the source for the so-called plagiarism. To make matters worse, the teacher allowed the TA to make mean remarks, and even agreed, that you would never amount to anything, never become a professional writer, let alone ever have anything published. Aren't you glad you didn't let their bitterness and their own imposing insecurities keep you from doing something you love? By the way, congratulations on the release of the book, last November. It was a wise decision to hang onto the encouraging words of your 8th grade English teacher when he lavished compliments on your theme about the traveling pop bottle.  

It seemed corny at the time to play "Color My World," by the band Chicago, on the oboe. All the other pageant contestants were doing "cool" cheer leader-style dances. You also wanted to be "cool" and do some cheer leading dances on stage for your talent, but your band instructor and mentor was adamant to use your talents as an oboist and perform something not so typical for a symphonic woodwind, but something that was pop and trendy. Yeah, it still seems rather corny, but you have to admit your band instructor knew best. Which reminds me ....

You learned a valuable lesson that if you ever had your own daughter you would not to make her be in a beauty pageant, no matter what the teachers or a local business sponsor suggests.

There is a reason why you still get these nightmares about being late for school or skipping out of class. Guilt has a way of surfacing when you least expect it.

It's good to hear that you do not feel any regret that you chose not to attend that expensive fashion college in California that your father worked hard to pay your first year tuition; and instead you chose to stay close to home to be with your father during his last days on this earth. 



It was shrewd of you to figure it out early in high school to remove your crush on Paul McCartney and finally understand he would never marry you. It was best to trade the grade school crush and keep an eternal flame on John Lennon instead. Both you and John looked swell wearing the same wire-framed glasses. Besides, Paul fell out of grace for awhile when he married that psychotic one-legged bleach-blonde model. Paul is forever tainted. John will live forever in your teenage heart. 

Speaking of crushes, eventually due to this thing called Facebook, which you will learn about later, you will hear from one of your high school crushes. He was a senior and you were a junior. You were the one he asked to his senior year homecoming, while many of your peers were envious, and constantly grilled you on what it was like to go on a date with "him." Today, from his messages, it sounds like he has drastically changed careers from real estate to baking pastries and writing novels. In fact, he even mentions your former business in one of his novels. It is one of these things where you will realize that looking back in time is magical, especially when it makes an "old girl" smile with a young girl's heart. 

You either had very poor judgment or truly acted like your father's daughter the day you stood up to your dad regarding your music choices and especially when your dad questioned you on the lyrics of Steppenwolf (I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man …) and also the songs of Neil Young (I've seen the needle and the damage done). You are lucky you are still alive when you mouthed off ... but then again, he probably would have done the same and fought for the lyrics sung by Slim Whitman, Dean Martin, and Patsy Cline, if needed.

You know it was against the law for you to sneak into bars while you were still a teenager, right? But good for you for not getting caught, but don't be bragging and telling everyone that I commended you for this - you little rebel, you. 

My wish for you is that you would have been more of a renegade. Perhaps a hitchhiker, a devout follower of the Grateful Dead, changing your name to Scarlett Begonias or China Cat Sunflower. Maybe traveled to Europe with other youngsters your age and drank bottles of cheap Cahors in France, and lived on bread and cheese. I wish you would have attended more peace marches and rock concerts. No worries or wishful thinking as it's still not too late to do these things anytime you want - - just remain young in your heart, no matter what your old bones may tell you.

Happy Birthday. Start taking care of yourself. 

Love Always,

Me

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