Dear Me at 17,
You started this blog yesterday night. If I remember correctly, you were up pretty late into the night typing away, using the backspace bar more than you were actually typing. You named it “This Side” after your favorite bluegrass song by Nickel Creek. It was a poignant choice, even if you were the only one who knew it. I guess it was a little like a secret code, symbolic without being all-out noticeable.
You didn’t know that 366 days later you’d be writing your sixty-ninth post. That’s three hundred and sixty-six days, written out, because I know you hate reading numbers. Makes sense – you are a girl of words, not numbers.
But in a few months, you’ll come to realize that you like numbers a little bit when you read Dante’s Inferno with your favorite English professor in Western Lit. You’ll still prefer words though. That won’t ever change.
It’s a little crazy for you to think right now that you’ll be graduating from high school in less than two weeks, I know. When you stop to think about it, you feel like your head is going to explode right on the spot. Just breathe – you’ll survive that feeling of sheer excitement to get rid of high school. And you’re right, the only thing you’ll miss are a few of your teachers and friends and those lazy French classes beneath the giant oak tree.
Still, you’re having a hard time truly imagining “real life” beyond the walls of East Hampton High School. Makes sense, those bright yellow lockers are pretty distracting. But don’t worry. The next 366 days will be some of the greatest.
Oh, heads up. Doctor Berry will throw a “dance party” for your graduating class in the middle of the ceremony. Party in the USA is the song of choice. Just go with it. And Roberto’s tassel is going to fall off mid-ceremony. Be prepared to fix that.
You’ll go on a roadtrip with Elisabeth, Suzanne and their moms to Palmyra with a few hours notice. They’ll ask Thursday night, and you’ll leave Friday morning. You’re going to cram in the back of a tiny Buick, listen to music really loud and have a blast. A handsome groomsman in a hay wagon will invite you to crash the wedding reception. You will have a blast. Near the end of Pageant, look up at the sky to the right of the stage. 3 shooting stars.
Patriarch will give you your patriarchal blessing. He’ll remember part of it when you see him in the fall and ask you a question. Just smile and shake his hand and say hello. Remember how awesome Patriarch is.
You’ll go to Girls Camp, have a blast, and leave the next Monday. But not before you give a talk at Church (you’ll be told that Friday by Sister Puida and Sister Black. Sister Puida will try to hand you a MormonAd poster saying “write your missionary” – take the Master Servant one. It will save you a headache. Ignore the smirk.). You won’t remember what your topic was, but you’ll remember that you talked about your girls and about Christ and how you were grateful to the sisters in the ward.
Just a heads up. There will be a stake rep on the stand. Don’t worry. Just give Bishop a quick look and everything will be okay. It always is.
You’re going to love Southern Virginia. Absolutely adore it. You’ll be a little homesick for a week or two, then you’ll be good to go.
You’re stupid though. 7 am biology is a terrible idea. It’s going to kick your butt. 366 days later you’ll still be trying to find a lesson in it. That’s okay. That’s life.
Buy rain boots. You’re going to need them. And not just for the weather.
You’re going to live for Sundays. Sunday nights are your favorite hours of the week because of Hymns on a Hill and your new tradition of Sunday walks. You’ll have great times walking around campus and BV with your friends.
Speaking of walks, the best time to see the stars is about midnight. One fantastic night you’ll find the perfect spot – you’ll know it when you see it – and spend hours talking and dreaming and laughing with a friend. You’ll remember it clearly. Also, it’ll be the first night of fireflies of the summer, so keep an eye out.
There are things to remember – there are no such things as original plots, the earth hangs from Heaven on a golden chain in Milton’s universe, extra pens are always good, the Holy Roman Empire does not equal the Roman Empire (keep them separate forever), Jane Austen can be funny if you let her, you can ask questions about the universe and have them answered, your favorite novels say a lot about you, if you ask nicely you can have class on the front porch, the Canadian kid can totally take you disagreeing with him, and the dog will come to you. Thanks, Dr. Cluff.
Don’t stay up too late studying for your finals. It’ll be okay. You’ll be fine. Come, Come Ye Saints will get stuck in your head – the last verse. The teachers know what verse you’re humming frantically under your breath. It will make them grin. You won’t die. Promise.
The best thing in the world is Chinese food with Kambyl and getting Ben & Jerry’s from the grocery store after. Yes, the food is yummy, but the best part is hanging out with your friend and talking. Remember that the lo mein might have peppers. Try to avoid that.
Fortune cookies always tell the truth.
You’re more claustrophobic than you thought. Get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Go down to the front porch of Main. You’ll love it there.
Hannah is going to get engaged. You will call it down to the day. Don’t let it go to your head that you have that skill.
You’re a photographer because you’re trying to capture words. You’re a poet because you’re trying to capture photos. You’re a writer because you want to be both.
Enjoy your writing friends. You’re different, but they get you. They understand what the ink stains mean.
Your spinner ring will break halfway through the year. Don’t freak out.
You’re an awesome letter writer. It’s okay to write five pages because you know what? They’ll enjoy the stories of adventures, the lame jokes and the attempt to be serious. Cartoons are always a plus, but nothing can beat your illustrated envelopes. You even wrote a poem about writing a letter.
Your friends will quote that letter-poem back to you and it’ll make you warm and fuzzy inside.
Never title your poems.
October General Conference. Bring extra tissues. There will be an announcement that will make you cry and laugh and you’ll remember it every day after that. Share your excitement.
Getting thrown from a horse isn’t as scary as it seems. It’s not a big deal. Other people freaking out will freak you out more. And you’ll get through the shock.
Also, it’s a strange reaction to get up and calm your horse. But he’ll appreciate it.
Institute is going to be your sanctuary. You’re going to learn so much that you’ll feel like your head is going to explode. But it will calm you down, let you figure everything else out. You’ll love Brother Moss and Brother Stuart. Brother Moss will be impressed that you can match your pf flyers to your shirt and Brother Stuart will shake your hand and say, “you’re good.” Make sure to copy some of your better notes for them – they’ll appreciate it.
Love the river and the random creeks and waterfalls you’ll find. Clean clothes don’t last forever. Memories do.
Memories don’t last forever. Write in your journal before you forget. Take lots of pictures.
Go to Church and the firesides. You won’t be able to describe the singles ward, but you don’t have to. You’ll enjoy it.
Remember the home ward though.
The banging noises in Durham are nothing to worry about. They add character. They remind you that SVU is authentic.
Country music is your soundtrack. As much as you like Kambyl’s music, the good old twang is what you inevitably turn on when you’re alone in the dorm room folding laundry. Go ahead and dance to it.
Speaking of dancing, you’re gonna take lessons. Just have a blast and don’t think about how little rhythm you have. Appreciate the good dance partners. The one in the plaid shirt is going to be your favorite. Just go with it. Remember, following the Tornado with a slide and a dip in Swing isn’t a good idea. Do it anyway. It will make you laugh. Others will be impressed even if you’re doing it all wrong.
You’re going to have the opportunity to attend stake conference with Elder Christofferson. Go with your gut and get home in any way possible. You need to hear what he and President Taylor have to say (pay particular attention to President Taylor’s topic). Note how alike Patriarch, President Taylor and Elder Christofferson look. Look Elder Christofferson in the eye. He’ll make a comment during the next General Conference that will make you think of that and laugh.
Traveling alone isn’t a big deal. Just breathe. And put your headphones in.
Paper boats and fish ponds were made for each other. Besides, the koi like to pretend they’re Moby Dick.
Main Hall is the perfect place for hiding hershey kisses. The professors like it too.
Harry Potter jokes should be cracked often. Narnia too. Twilight never.
Pizza doesn’t last long.
Paper airplane races during Spring Break is the best thing ever. Just give in to the silliness.
Packages from home will make you everybody’s best friend.
The Rules to Cowpunch: 1 slug for a cow, 2 for a white cow, 1 poke for a calf. Rinse and repeat. Play with Kambyl and Bruce for the most laughs.
Drives are better with the windows down and Sweet Home Alabama blaring.
The Pink Cadillac Diner is tradition. You don’t mess with tradition.
You’ll learn a whole new language down in Virginia. We’ll start with ‘rockawhile’ and go from there.
Always listen to the musicians in main hall. A favorite will be the boys from upstairs with their improv songs about trains. Quote that song as much as possible.
Enjoy the fact that SVU is always singing. Guitars in Jonzzeys, ukeleles out by Chandler, Nate in the gym, the basket ball team (it’s okay, they’re gonna sing “going to the chapel” but just leave it be). Be prepared for random bursts of “Hey Soul Sister.”
Bowties are the new cool. Always wave to Provost.
Be friends with Rod. He’s not going to be here forever.
Go to Walmart looking rough every so often. It’s refreshing (look out for the blonde Cadet – you and Kambyl will name him Wendell).
Thunder is going to be often, but you’ll survive it. Tornadoes can be fun.
Pranks are totally acceptable. Use codenames.
Sisters are there to harass you. Harass them back. It tells them you love them. Adopted sisters too.
Remind people that while you’re from East Hampton, money runs towards the ocean and your little town is landlocked. You live in Connecticut, not New York.
But you’re still a New York girl.
It’s perfectly acceptable to say “hey ya’ll” as long as it doesn’t preface “watch this.”
When you’re home, get to writing. You’ve lost time and you need to make it up. It will keep you sane. Keep in touch with your friends from BV. Keep in touch with adopted sibs. Remember that prayer is constant, it’s like having a secure line to Heaven. Use that.
Life has its bumps, but the best thing is grabbing the ceiling and laughing along the way. Goodbyes are never forever, and a hug says everything. Fist bumps are the best way to celebrate, and pinky swears are binding. Roll with the wind (and Alexander Rybak) is the song to listen to, and “come what may and love it” is the motto. It’ll be a good year, girl, enjoy it.
See you in 366 days,
You at 18.
PS – come to love the postscript. You will have a ‘ps war’ with a friend and it will be hilarious. There will be some jaw-dropping postscripts that will have you laughing. Save up the best one for last every time. Comics also count. ;)