Letters To Melanie

I’ve been sorting through my life the last couple months and finally letting go of some of the boxes that line my parent’s garage from my college days (Backstreet Boys cds, naturally. It’s literally amazing that I was ever able to lose my virginity). The things I’ve most been looking forward to finding, my most all time treasured items, have been my notebooks, journals, scribblers, binders and diaries. It would have been really excellent if 18 year old Brittany had thought to pack this stuff in ONE box, but no, apparently I thought my 31 year old self would love a treasure hunt, out in an unheated, drafty garage in the middle of March, in -15 degree weather. So, out I go, a couple hours a week, sorting through boxes, avoiding mice, breathing in dust and pulling out the fragments of my old life.

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Rollerblades, an old VCR (what), broken lamps, (so.many.lamps.), old books, hockey cards upon hockey cards upon hockey cards…did I ever mention that I used to be an absolute sports nut and would save up all my allowance to purchase hockey cards? I always thought if I studied the stats and bought wisely, they could someday make me rich enough to get to London at the very least. Joke’s on me. Jason Spezza fans get at me. I’ve found post cards from places I dreamed of going, love letters to boys I barely knew (that clearly did not go far, seeing as I still have them) and some very old copies of The Paris Review with articles from Norman Mailer.

I’ve yet to find my pot of gold out in that garage, my box (es) of journals filled with all my thoughts and hopes and goals that I clung to so tightly, that gave me everything to look forward to in my future. I’ll let you know when I find them. In the meantime, I have found one lone notebook, stuck in a reusable grocery bag (that also held three thongs and a vacuum cleaner hose. Unrelated objects. Shut up).

To give you some insight into what my journal buying tastes were like 10+ years ago, the front is covered in brown and beige wine labels, with burgundy writing and a picture of a bunch of grapes. Clearly the south of France was calling my name even then. This must have been my take on that old saying, “If you build it, they will come”, except for me it was more like, “Buy the journal that looks like the life you want, and maybe someday you will get there.” Yes, my dreams have always been a source of exhaustion for me. Thanks for asking.

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I was so excited to crack this sucker open and see what baby Brittany used to write about before she blossomed awkwardly grew into, sort of  into the Brittany of today. I found pages of text messages between me and my then best friend, that for some reason I wrote down, I guess because our phones absolutely did not have the ability to screenshot back then. These messages went from being weird:

Oh wow! Husbands! I haven’t met any husbands lately. Last week I met a little bit though.

And then got a bit real life:

So you aren’t coming back then. Wow. It’s happening. All weird sad change stuff that only happens to the rest of the world…

Then, there was quote after quote from all the books I was reading at that time, and by all, I mean, all of the books in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series. I mean, really though:

“And while she was peeing, she got tired of herself. She got tired of not being able to say what she wanted or do what she wanted or even want what she wanted.”

True words, Ann Brashares. True words, indeed.

“I’m living in another world here…I mean, putting yourself out there in the way of overwhelming happiness and knowing you’re also putting yourself in the way of terrible harm. I’m scared to be this happy. I’m scared to be this extreme.”

Boy, is my ex-boyfriend going to read this and feel like I’ve taken the words right out of his brain. But nope. Ann Brashares again! She just gets angsty teens, you know?

imag1073-01If I keep flipping the pages of my journal, after the pages where I’ve written the days of the week in Russian and Japanese, and past the pages where I was clearly trying to teach myself how to pronounce things like Ð and Ø (for that future trip to Iceland), I come to, what to me, is the most interesting part: a letter written to a dear friend in the days before I left my hometown and moved to the big city for college. This friend was staying behind and I remember having 8 million several conversations leading up to my departure about what this would mean for our friendship and the rest of our lives. We were splitting up, following individual goals, moving on, knowing that the coming years would define us in ways we both were and were not yet ready for. I never gave this letter to my friend. I was shy about my writing back then, as I was with everything I was most passionate about. But I’m going to share these ‘life lessons’ here, and maybe she will someday stumble upon them.

***************

Smell, (my loving nickname for her)

  • Read. A lot. All the time. It makes you wise. Write down quotes you like. Even if you read the worst book ever, if you have at least one quote that makes you stop and think about life, then it was worth it.
  • Listen to ALL types of music. That also makes you wise. And it opens your mind.
  • Stick up for yourself. It’s worth it, even if it feels scary at the time.
  • Learn how to say ‘no’. Practice with small things.
  • Please don’t accept any offers. It really isn’t worth it. I promise. (‘Offers’, if I remember correctly, was our code word for when a guy wanted to make out with you and potentially go further, and you really didn’t want to, but felt like maybe you just should since you were from a small town and no one had any hopes for your life anyway.)
  • Keep yourself safe. Don’t let yourself get into situations that make you uncomfortable. (See previous point.)
  • Learn stuff all the time. Read dictionaries and almanacs if you have to. (This was very pre- having internet in every home. Omg.)
  • Be a part of things that really make you feel. Whatever those things may be.
  • Pray. God always has time to sit in your driveway and listen to you and He won’t put his footprints on your windshield either. (There is potentially a very long explanation for this.)
  • Take pleasure in the little things. In other words, be happy about everyday stuff. Like the sky that night in my driveway. Don’t just look at it and then go on with your life. Actually stop and take it all in.
  • Surround yourself with things that smell good. You’ll be happier. (A rule I follow to this day! I will provide my address below if you want to send me all things lavender for my birthday.)
  • Don’t set limits for yourself. If you get married the day after you turn 24, then that’s okay too. (If you need any proof that this was written years ago, there it is. We thought getting married after 24 made us old maids. FYI, neither her nor I are married yet.)
  • Always have dreams and ambitions. Never just live your life the way it is now.
  • Always play the questions game. Even with yourself. (In other words, stay curious.)
  • Learn about something you’ve always found interesting, like a research project just for yourself.
  • Stop saying, “I don’t wanna talk about it.” Sometimes you just need to talk about stuff. It’s not a bad thing.
  • Expand your vocabulary. Learn new words. Then learn them in different languages.
  • Celebrate good things that make you happy. Like autumn.
  • Get something done to your hair more often. It’s fun and I’m pretty sure it releases happy toxins.
  • You can do really, really awesome stuff in your life.
  • Be yourself. Really and truly.

And that’s it. No proper ending to my letter. Just every ounce of wisdom and hope I was able to muster at 18 years old to pass onto a friend and reading it back now, probably even to myself. Lessons I still believe in and try hard to live by, all these years later. My manifesto, of sorts.

And now I’m off to head back into that chilly garage to unpack my next box, looking for more of the words I wrote so long ago, painting a picture of who I was then, and most definitely, who I was hoping to become. (And I may definitely not even practice my Japanese while I’m at it.)

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