Dear Inner Child, ...

How touchy-feely woo-woo does this title sound?

And yet.

I'm taking a class called Writing for Children, and my professor asked us to write a short letter to a child (real or imagined), or to simply write a letter to our inner child. In it, we were supposed to focus on three truths we would tell a child about life and the world. And I so wish I could go back to my six-year-old self and speak them to myself every single day.

Dear Inner Child,

            You’re learning a lot these days; a bright, exciting world full of colors and ideas and stories surrounds you, and there’s a lot to take in. And even though we’re both young, relatively speaking, we both still have much to learn in life. I’m watching you develop and blossom, slowly but surely, and though I do see you making great strides, I just want to remind you of a couple of important truths.

            First, avoid the game of comparisons. I see you on Instagram, eyeing creatives and artists, equal parts awe and jealousy. I’ve watched you in classes, reading someone else’s story and deeply yearning to communicate the way that another woman does. But you know what? You are uniquely you. You have a story to tell, words to say, and beauty to create that is absolutely and uniquely yours. No one else can tell a story or draw a picture quite the way you can. You may not be communicating an altogether unique message—because who is, really?—but the way you say it might be a new way for the world to hear it. It's all been said before, but never by you.

            Next, figure out what you love and embrace it. I know you think sometimes that because you studied education for four and a half years that you should be a teacher. Stop with the shoulds. In your own experience, that sucked more life out of you than it breathed in. Writing and creating seem to be life giving to you, so why not pursue those things? You can love people and impact lives through writing and creating beautiful things, too. Don’t let any guilt get in the way. Teaching opportunities will always be there if and when you want to return. 

            I will conclude by reminding you that this world is big; go out and learn from others and always work to expand your perspective. Leave comparison and jealousy at the door, and let yourself learn from everyone you meet. The more you know others, the more you can see from their point of view, and the better you can love the world. And the more truth you can humbly glean from those who have walked before you, the wiser you will be.

Sincerely yours,

Heather 

10 Years Later

I recently saw someone tweet about how she saw several moms and their college-bound sons in the sheet aisle in Target, sons seemingly nonchalant about their nearing independence, and moms getting teary-eyed. My first thought was one of longing: "Oh, Target!" And the second, after I did a little math, was, "Hey...I was starting college ten years ago!"

I tried to find some appropriate photos for a post on going off to college a decade ago, and thankfully for us all, they're on my external hard drive...in the U.S. Instead of a reminder of that transitional and strangely awkward time in life (it was for me, anyway, especially as a freshman), here's one of Chattanooga, right down the mountain from where I studied at Covenant College.

A photo with no hint of awkwardness whatsoever.

A photo with no hint of awkwardness whatsoever.

About this time ten years ago, classes had already started and Labor Day weekend was in sight. I was a History major, secondary education minor settling into life on Lookout Mountain, and adjusting to my newfound freedom. (Ironically, this freedom meant being on a mountain without a car. And this was before Lookout Mountain got a Starbucks, people.)

But let's back up to early July of 2005. We were packing up our 1,000 square foot home in Glenside, Pennsylvania, and I was so ready to move. I was (supposedly) ready for a change of scenery, and ready for all things new. I'd chosen to attend Covenant College, not as far away from home as Ole Miss, but farther--and ever-so-slightly less isolated--than Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina (where peoples' bumper stickers appropriately say, Due West of What?). Mid-July we found ourselves in Greenville, SC, moving into a rental home, temporary until my parents knew where they wanted to live in town. And mid-August, I was packing up and on the road to 14049 Scenic Highway, Lookout Mountain, GA.

Saturday night was my first night in the dorm, and though my parents were still in town, I thought it would be good to be at school that night and meet up with my parents in the morning for church. Most kids on their first night of being away from home probably go to Waffle House and drink coffee till midnight and then watch a movie with all their new roomies and friends. I, however, was bawling my eyes out on my bed and my roommate, who I'd just met earlier that day, was sweetly scratching my back and talking me through my near panic-attack-inducing fears. (She probably was wondering what she'd gotten herself into having me as a roommate...) Saying goodbye to my parents the next day after church meant a repeat of crying myself a river alone in my room. 

I was a mess.

But I settled in. I studied too much and and tried to figure out how to balance life, an only-child-introvert suddenly living on a hall with 22 girls. I changed my major a few times, made friends, went polar bearing with my roommate (meaning that we went swimming in a lake while it was snowing...perhaps not the brightest idea), and skinny dipping with my hall mates (true story...I don't think I have to define that one). And I did go to Waffle House and drink coffee till midnight and then watch movies with friends.

Fast forward ten years. Never in my life could I have imagined being where I am right now. A high school teacher told my senior AP English lit class that as she got older, "every stage of life just keeps getting better." I didn't believe her at the time, thinking that she was just old ("old" = early thirties...yikes) and trying to convince herself that life was still exciting. But now, I know what she's talking about. It does just keep getting better. Being eighteen was fun, but being twenty-eight? Even better. 

Not that better means more exciting and it certainly doesn't mean easier. But better does mean more fulfilling, richer. I've learned a lot along the way these first ten years since going to college, and I wouldn't trade it for all of the energy I had when I could stay up at Waffle House and drink coffee until the wee hours of the morning. I know myself better: my limits, my gifts, and my desires.

I haven't "arrived", but I have a better, slightly-less-muddled view of where I'm going. I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, but I'm learning more about what I don't want to be.

What will the next ten years hold?

Isn't this beautiful? Our friend Ashley gave it to us at our wedding shower. I love it and can't wait to frame it when we move back.

Isn't this beautiful? Our friend Ashley gave it to us at our wedding shower. I love it and can't wait to frame it when we move back.

Where were YOU ten years ago? How has life changed? What have you learned about yourself?