Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Letter to my 20 year old self...

So, I blatantly stole this from Kelly...but I thought it was a worthwhile exercise, especially in the midst of a time of major growth in my life and heart. If I would have been told at twenty that 16 years in the future I would be a single mom struggling through a divorce and nursing school...raising my kids and scraping by with the lowest paying job I have had since college...well, I would have laughed in the face of whatever fool was doing the telling. But life is quirky like that and reality is sometimes stranger than fiction. So, what follows is a note to a not-quite grown up Katie...theatre major at Centenary, top of the world, nothing-will-stop-her-girl. But you know what? Even if I could, I probably would not mail it. It's a fun exercise in theory, but would it really have changed anything I regret?

Dear Katie (version 2.0):

Hey, brat. Yeah, you. You with the big ego and creepy hippie clothes.

I've got some things to say to you, things you likely will neither completely believe or understand, but I'm going to give it a shot.

First of all, good for you for being brave. Your bravery will be a trait that you will rely on in tough times ahead. You will also curse it from time to time, as it sometimes masks a certain arrogance and pig-headed-ness that will get you into trouble. Best thing to do now is to learn the difference between the two. Brave is good. Arrogant and blind is not. Temper the bravery with reality. Please.

Speaking of reality, it's a good time in life to really get real. You are spending lots of time building a life around things that are, by necessity and definition, fake. Smoke and mirrors. Velvet drapes and blue gels. Blackout. Costume change. Strike the set and move on to the next character. It's exhilarating. It's fun. You are very good at it. It's also a really good way to avoid being real and knowing the person behind the character. If every day you play a character, where is the skill and talent of doing it on stage? You must have a reality to suspend to create art that is worthwhile. Spend some time and energy finding your authentic self. (and no, Dear. You have not already done that. Believe me.) As you do that, the characters you create will deepen. Don't hide behind them. Put them to bed after the curtain falls and go home with the truth. It will take a bit of that bravery I mentioned before.

Next, you need to learn to love. I DO NOT mean all those boys that smell of sawdust and steel grease, and Ben-Nye makeup. I mean yourself. You need to look in the mirror and love the girl with the flaming red hair, pale skin and green eyes. You need to go easy on her. She is the only friend you will have for the rest of your life. She will be your company when you are lonely; the one lying in bed with you each night. Almost twenty years from now, those same green eyes will stare back at you from the mirror, looking for acceptance. (The fire engine red hair will be, blessedly, a thing of the past.) Take care of her. Life will be challenging enough without scrutiny and criticism from within. Work hard but don't set the bar so high for things that don't matter. Be tough on yourself for not standing up for what you believe in...for being untrue to yourself...for falling short in kindness, tolerance, and patience...not for your pants size, your "B" in British Literature, or for not landing the lead in every single show this season. Come to think of it, that Brit Lit class will actually transfer as Fine Arts in nursing school, so spend a few more hours in the lobby of Hardin studying for that final...but, do go easy on the other stuff.

Katie, now is the time to get to know your family. For real. Not for what you think they are, or what you wish they were, but for the people they truly are. You are a big girl now. You can handle the truth. Don't wait five more years to learn who they are. Start learning it now, because the knowledge will help you through some dark days. This is another place in your life that calls for shedding the rose colored glasses of girlhood and giving in to the truth. It can be painful, but the truth is liberating. It will set you free. And while some relationships may change in ways you don't expect, others will be strong enough to flourish and bloom in full sun.

Seek direction with purpose. Your inclination is to impulsively head North, and when it begins to feel a bit chilly up there, turn around and set a course due South. But, truth be told, it's pretty hot down there. What you might be needing is a bit of Easterly winds...or Western sky. If you are headed in the wrong direction, it does not mean the right direction is the opposite direction.

People. People come and people go in life. There is an ever-evolving cast of characters that move fluidly in and out of the scenes you play. They all teach you something...eventually. Unfortunately, some lessons they have to teach will leave scars because they took so long to learn. Embrace people. Learn from them, but don't be hesitant to learn what they have to share early on. When someone shows you who they are...believe them. Right away. There is no substitute for kindness. There is no passion that is worth peace. Gentleness and goodness will nurture you and fill you up. Settle for no less in those you let get close to you. Kindness, peacefulness, gentleness and goodness. That is the bar for which you must reach. These are the qualities you should seek, in yourself and others.

So, as I draw this to a close, there is obviously a common theme. Truth. Honesty. Faithfulness to self. These are the things that you will struggle with developing when it's almost too late. Get a jump start on the lessons now. Listen to that little voice that whispers in the wings while the louder voices shout from the front row. Block out the loudmouths from time to time. Listen to and take direction. Don't be afraid to change the blocking in the middle of the scene. Improvise. Be brave. Be real. Love yourself.


Katie (version 3.6)


  1. I particularly liked this line:

    "There is no passion that is worth peace."

    Man, I wish I'd learned that one. Nice post. I apologize that I don't know more of your background, but I take it you were in theatre and have since changed to nursing?

  2. Hi tomncristy:
    Yes...I was a premed major in undergrad, twenty years ago. I gave it up for the theatre, even though I never particularly wanted a career in theatre. I know, I know, right? But I don't necessarily regret that choice. I might have never developed that side of me had I not veered off that course. I spent a decade in non-profit development/management as a suit...and decided last year to go back to school and become a nurse, as the fascination with the human body and social justice via healthcare never really left me. I'm 36 and just figured out what I want to be when I grow up...but I can't tell you how good it feels to finally know. It's like a light switch has been turned on. Thanks for reading...

  3. This is great and sound advice Katie. Especially this bit, "People. People come and people go in life. There is an ever-evolving cast of characters that move fluidly in and out of the scenes you play. They all teach you something...eventually. Unfortunately, some lessons they have to teach will leave scars because they took so long to learn. Embrace people. Learn from them, but don't be hesitant to learn what they have to share early on."

    I need to listen to that right now.

  4. What a great letter, Katie. Thanks for sharing it! (((HUGS)))

  5. First of all, bravo. Your best piece of writing on this blog to date. Absolutely beautiful, just like the woman who wrote it.

    Second, I am so blessed to have you as my best friend. If only I'd had you when I was 20! I probably wouldn't have listened to this kind of wisdom, so I'm sure the road would've been just as rocky, but it sure would've been a hell of a fun ride with you beside me!