Tonight I stumbled on Joseph Galliano’s delightful collection, Dear Me: A Letter to my Sixteen-Year-Old Self while browsing What Tami Said, Tamara Winfrey-Harris’ enlightening and provoking blog. Galliano curated 75 reflective letters from notable figures, including Erykah Badu, Stephen King and hunkster Hugh Jackman. Most of their missives were charming and full of that wisdom that materializes with age and life experiences; this might be the reason Galliano expanded his collection to an extensive online project, which allows readers to share their letters as well.
It’s amazing to reflect and see all of the wisdom that could or should be shared with our younger selves, especially at 16. That age is the first milestone that is outwardly celebrated for most of us and is thus a transformative age. Though I still have dozens of moments that will transpire and transform, there are tidbits of knowledge that I would tell 16-year-old Evette.
Hello beautiful! It’s me. You. Us. We’re 23. You’re surprised that we’ve made it this far without slitting a wrist or overdosing? Don’t question that emotion. For a long time, I was astounded as well.
I’m penning this letter because I’ve spent too much time avoiding you. It’s time.
Let me begin with this: You are beautiful. You are worth life. It’s December 23, so if my estimations are accurate, you’ve been a prisoner of injudicious thoughts for a little more than two months. As soon as those street lights began illuminating earlier and the sun disappeared behind the clouds before 5 p.m., those panic attacks crept in, right? Behind the smile and the cheekbones and the dimples are the fears. Your assignments piled up. You shut down.
You might not believe me when I write this, but ingest it: You will escape. You will survive. This is one of the worst bouts, but you are a warrior and there will be a rainbow on the other side of this storm. The fear will pass. The skies will open, full of promise, optimism and hope. In fact, Agoraphobia will be a blessing. Believe me. Oh, and don’t take the medication, no matter how much that horrid doctor attempts to coerce you. It’s not worth it.
How do I know all of this? I wrote about it in our college essay.
Yes, we traipse off to college … in another state! Girl, that miracle still drops me to my knees sometimes. Here’s the truth: High school sucks. You’re going to drop out, score high on the GED and the SAT and earn acceptances to three historical black colleges on the East Coast. You know that word potential? Yeah, the one you dread hearing. You’ll embrace it. Step into it. Learn to love intelligence.
You’re going to end up selecting the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, though Virginia Union will be the top choice. The disappointment won’t last. You’ll be too preoccupied convincing mom, dad, Grandma (she’s going to move closer) and others that this is a beneficial decision. Don’t fight with them too much. You’re going to win that battle, so it’s not worth the arguments. Just pack a few bags, pay that housing deposit and rip up that credit card application.
About that, please rip it up! We’re going to max it out … twice and having to sacrifice $200 a week for almost two months isn’t worth those wedges. I know those gorgeous bags are alluring, but don’t use that credit card! Oh wait, I’m writing from the future. Too late.
Digression. You’ll meet some amazing folks at UMES and find solace in radio. It won’t be enough. On a blistering afternoon, you’re going to stumble on Soledad O’brien’s “Black in America,” fall in love with Dr. Julianne Malveaux and transfer to Bennett College. You’re going to blossom there. You’ll lead a magazine, find a passion, shift priorities, graduate summa cum laude with an unblemished academic record and discover that storytelling is your strength. You’ll lose a lot of sleep, but gain a lot of genuine friendships. It will be the most amazing time in your life so far. You’ll figure out that you love the media, which I know you’ll think is strange and you’ll fall in love with researching theories and find the teaching bug again. All before 23.
Oh, the man we love? He’s not in this future. You break up with him at 19, but meet other men who are fulfilling and complementing and make love worth the sacrifices.
Meika sticks around though. You fight and travel and shop and graduate from college within a week of each other. Lose that look. Yes, we travel. You’re worried about fitting into the plane seats? We conquer that weight issue at 18 and fluctuate from there. It won’t matter though. You’ll adopt a fat activist manifesto, so those stretch marks won’t be as bothersome in the future. Your going to hate those boobs for a while though. Sorry. They’re not getting smaller.
We live in Illinois alone. No, not Chicago, but we’re moving to a larger city soon. We have a car. We write for a living and we’re in graduate school. I don’t want to spoil too much of the future, so I’ll stop here. Wait, I lied. One more thing: When mom purchases Their Eyes Were Watching God, read it again and again and again. Watch A League of their Own again and again and again. Read Like Water for Chocolate again and again and again. Reading is your solace. It will pull you out of depression and into bliss.
And Evette, please remember that we are survivors. I know it’s difficult to grasp the blessing in the midst of the hurt and the confusion, but understand how essential those tears are for the future. You are being groomed for greatness. Those hours spent bawling will be fueled into a vessel designed to uplift and empower. It won’t all make sense because Agoraphobia never does, but the episodes will stop. You’ll forget a lot of what’s happened between 13 and 16, but 17 through now is amazing.
As Christmas approaches on this 16 year, know that conquering this is fate. Your blood is lined with the greatness of kings and queens who were warriors for our people. Channel their spirits, ask God for help and fight through these last Agoraphobic episodes. It’s worth it. After all, I’m waiting for you on the other side of the storm.
I love you,