Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Dear me
While clearing through some old books recently, I found a letter I had written to myself when I was about 16 years old. According to my note, I was having trouble sleeping and as was my habit, decided to write myself to sleep. The letter was especially meaningful for a few reasons. First, I do not recall writing it or having seen it since that night. I have no idea how it ended up between the pages of a book I managed to hold onto for all these years. Second, all my journals written prior to my mid-twenties were stolen during a breakup. My former boyfriend took them when I was moving out. I have no idea what became of them, but since I have yet to recognize my tales of angst in the published world, I can only surmise they were tossed into the garbage. It was a horrendous violation and simply reinforced my decision to end the relationship. Thus, this single sheet of paper written by the teenage version of me truly is a gift I may never have discovered, if not for COVID cleaning. It is one positive I will take from these days of shut down.
In the first paragraph of the letter, I explained my inability to sleep and then went on to list several of my shortcomings including, sadly, my need to lose weight. Oh, those teen years! Luckily, my journaling that night took a turn toward gratitude. I listed my circle of friends as blessings and reminded myself of the many positives in my life. There was mention of the recent death of a fellow student (who I cannot recall) which gave me pause, and the understanding that life was fleeting. Even then, I understood the uncertainty of the human condition and pledged to live a full life! I shared the realization that even though some things were less than stellar at home, in my core I was happy, loved and supported by my friends – and the family I created for myself.
After tucking the letter away, I thought about what I would say to that girl today. There is no way that girl could have imagined the experiences that would unfold over the many decades that have passed since, and life — as it stands today — is beyond comprehension.
My grandparents survived the Spanish Flu. My parents survived the Great Depression. My siblings lived through the Civil Rights Movement. Who would have ever predicted living through a pandemic, financial crisis and human rights uprising concurrently? Each generation had war as part of their experience as well, so it can certainly get worse.
To say the least, the day to day struggle to adjust to this “new normal” is taxing. Each day I wake up with any number of approaches to the day. I have run the emotional gamut. One day I feel optimistic. Another day I awake with a feeling of utter hopelessness. There are days I feel incredibly resilient followed by moments of utter despair. Ultimately, I find my way to the sunny side and put one foot in front of the other, finding the good side of whatever situation each day presents, which is not always easy, but is absolutely essential.
Against my own common sense and advice of those wiser than me, I watch, read, listen and spend way too much time on social media, following the news of the day. Though the headlines walk us down a doomsday path of corruption and hopelessness, the smaller print is full of the opposite—stories of people helping people. Tales of honor and survival. That is where I prefer to focus.
There is so much uncertainty and the entire world is struggling. Naively, I believed this virus would come and go and life would return to normal. Just a few months ago I still believed I would be travelling this fall. Plans to attend concerts, plays and sporting events seemed viable. There are still many days when I resist accepting that today is really all we have. Making plans is an exercise in futility. The true challenge is coming to terms with the changes these crises have mandated. The task is to find a way to not only survive but to also enjoy life as we are living it today.
What would I say to that 16-year-old girl who had trouble sleeping on a late spring night in upstate New York?
You have a bright future along a bumpy road ahead of you. Be kind to yourself.
Your friends and family, (including the family you create for yourself) are your most valuable asset.
Material goods are replaceable. People — not so much.
Give more than you take.
Get outside often.
Be gentle with yourself and your spirit.
Learn from those who have lived longer and have more experience.
Don’t let fear of failure stop you from going after your dreams.
Learn from your mistakes. Don’t waste energy berating yourself for making them.
Trust your instincts.
Know you are enough, just the way you are.
Dark days will come but will always, always, give way to brighter seasons.
Spend time at the beach. Hike into the hills.
Say yes as often as possible.
And one last thing: buckle up, sister, 2020 is going to be a wild ride!
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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