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Dear Reta Jayne:
I know life is all “lollipops & glitter” right now. . . (Okay, maybe not. Maybe it's emotional and angst-ridden, as most teenage years are. . . But, trust me, honey, in comparison to some of the things you go through later, it really is a beautiful time.) Either way, I need you to know, in less than six months, you & your family are going to go through something you never thought you would have to endure. . . I don't want to take away from your teenage years any more than life already will, but I know you.
I know that you're the type of person that requires quite a bit of time to digest major changes. . . That you have a need to chew things up & spit them out, then rearrange them all over again all within your mind. . . That is something about you that will never change. SO, there's so much I want to tell you. . .
Your world will forever change on April 11, 1998 when you get that phone call at the birthday party you're trying to enjoy with some of the “older kids.” It'll be your step-dad — no matter how annoying — telling you that he is using your car to take your mother on that thirty-minute drive to the nearest emergency room. That the “not right” feeling she has been having lately has gotten serious enough for her to want to consult a doctor at this late hour.
It may not seem like it at the time, but that phone call will be a pivotal moment in your life. Realize this, please. Don't be so worried about getting that time in with your friends. . . Or about making it to your Saturday shifts at the local department store. . . Or how you'll celebrate your seventeenth birthday. . . Or whether you'll get your drivers' license in a decent timeframe.
Instead, spend more time with your mother, who, over those next nine months (exactly) will be battling for her life. Don't distance yourself from it, under a guise of life responsibilities & teenage obligations. . . Those things will be there for you to pick back up later.
Sure, continue to make sure your brother & sister get on the school bus every morning. . . And, please, don't be so hard on yourself for resigning as senior class president & switching to the alternative school two months into the school year so you can have more flexibility to do just that. . . (Even though you probably could juggle everything, should you? Really??)
Visit your mother as often as possible. . . (And thank your friends out in Cedar Grove more often & more emphatically for allowing the use of the “French Fry” to take your drivers' test so you could be licensed to do just that.) Do it more often than you may feel is necessary, because your time is limited. You might have a nagging feeling that it might be, but don't let that voice tell you that it couldn't happen to your family — your mother. Have a higher sense of urgency!
Then, that day sometime during that last holiday season. . . The day that you are in your mother's hospital room, staring out the window into the gray that is Seattle. . . When you hear your grandmother excitedly — yet solemnly — exclaim that your mother's eyes are open, for the first time in what feels like forever, even with the ventilator tubes shoved down her throat. . . Instead of shaking your head & pretending to continue to stare through your streaming tears out the rain-streaked window, push through & actually go look into your mother's eyes & tell her how much you love her. It will be your last opportunity to do just that. . . And not taking it will haunt you for the rest of your life.
Later, months after the oxygen is slowly turned down on the machine that is keeping your mother alive. . . Take an appropriate amount of time to grieve & scream & cry. . . Don't bottle it up. It'll stick with you so much harder that way. It is okay to have a few of those crazy moments now, to avoid having to have so many of them later. . . Then, maybe — just maybe — you won't have to do that hardship withdrawal from your community college classes that fall, ultimately paving the course for not getting the degrees you always pictured for yourself.
Don't be in such a rush to move out on your own after your grandmother takes you in. . . Don't indulge so much in the unhealthy habits as a distraction. . . And keep in better touch with family during your young adulthood. Maybe it'll save you from a few more life-altering paths that might not have been so necessary.
Take a few more calculated risks than seem prudent, rather than so many reckless ones. . . Steer clear of some of those self-destructive habits & actively practice a little more self-love. . .
Take a little time to better educate yourself on personal finances & pay closer attention to your money. Credit isn't something to be messed with. . . BUT, perhaps in doing so, you will realize that there are paths you can take that don't involve ignoring your debt when you lose your job. . .
Don't allow anyone's happiness to take precedence over your own. . . No one will win in the end if you succumb to that. It's a hard lesson to learn — & one that'll take you a few years to figure out. Relationships are about balance — a delicate dance of giving & taking. . . It may not always be equal percentages, but it also shouldn't feel like you have to keep track. . .
When you feel something strongly, act upon it. You're naturally the type to thoroughly think things through — backwards & forwards & from side to side. . . SO, if after analyzing the Hell out of it, you still feel strongly about it in one way or another, do something about it, regardless of how irrational it may seem to others. . .
Your list of regrets really will be made up of the things you didn't do, rather than the things you did. Start pounding that into your brain now so that the list might be shorter than it seems to me now, at double your age.
Take heed, Reta Jayne. . . Your path could be so much different from mine. They do not have to be one & the same. You do not have to create so much extra heartache for yourself. Take heed, my younger self.
With much love,
The Reta Jayne that is twice your age.
P.S. Now that I think about it, maybe you shouldn't pay me any attention. Your life is pretty fabulous in sixteen more years. Instead, know that what you're about to go through will help mold you into a pretty fabulous woman in several more years. You have a good head on your shoulders, despite (or maybe because of) your mistakes. And, even if life doesn't go anything like how you picture for yourself, it is still pretty damn good. Please remember through it all: God has His plan.
This post was written in participation of two of my favorite link-ups thus far:
The Two Shoes Tuesday link up hosted at Texas Two Shoes. Every Tuesday, Josie will give two prompt words to choose from. The word does not necessarily need to be a part of our entry, as long as it is used as inspiration. This week’s prompts were “Yesterday” or “Young.” Please pop on over there to see what everyone else came up with!
AND, the Come Along Wednesdays blog hop at The Adventures of Noble & Pond. It is a collection of blogger's most recent posts, because, as Megan puts it, ” there is no one in the world who isn't important, and we want you to share your latest adventures with us.” Be SURE to check it out, as I am SO honored to have LAST WEEK'S Come Along Wednesday post be featured this week!
I’m glad you added the p.s. I know life has thrown you many curveballs but they have made you who you are. Thankfully they also caused us to cross paths. You are an amazingly strong, loving, caring woman and I’m glad I get to call you a friend. ♡♥♡
YOU’RE one of the people I thought of as I added the post script. . . 😉 Thank you.
Dear 16 year old Reta,
You grew up all right. You are one of my best friends, and I am so happy to know you as you become. Also, you have adorable children and a loving husband, so, maybe just take a deep breath. I feel like learning to breathe will be the best thing you ever do for yourself.
That would’ve been good to learn back then too. . . Perhaps, that way, I would have it mastered now. LOL. 😉 You’re SO right.
Wow! This is an amazing post! So very insightful, even kind and understanding. It sounds like your life has been anything but easy, but in the end you note that you are happy where you are now. I wrote a letter very similar to this a few years back, and at that time I had no idea that my life was about to change 180 to wonderful! I agree with you that all the things we go thru, both good and bad, make us into the person that we are, and we are pretty good for the most part! We aren’t striving for perfection, just for being at peace with ourselves and our lives. Forgive yourself for the things you neglected to do, or avoided, we see things so differently when we are young. Only later do we realize that we could have done better. But I believe that at the time we did the best we could.
Thank you for sharing this powerful piece of introspection with us for Two Shoes Tuesday! Keep a copy tucked away someplace safe, and pull it out every ten years and add an update… you will be amazed at how life changes and how far you’ve come. If you really want to finish school there is nothing to stop you, people of all ages go back and do it now, even online. Blessings and hugs to you across the miles!
You’ve hit the nail on the head, Josie. . . Perfection IS far from what I strive for. . . It IS peace with myself & WITHIN myself that I seek. Like many, I am my own worst critic, yet I can still see the logic in many of my past decisions. . . I will definitely refer back to this regularly, (as I seem to do with several of my posts thus far); I find it is therapeutic.
As usual, thank you so much for taking a few moments to stop by AND share your thoughts, Josie. Blessings to you as well.
How honestly and beautifully you wrote this. As one who does not reveal himself much in his posts may I say how touched I was by it.