Dear younger self,
You are not so much younger. You’re a fresh nineteen, scurrying back from studying in the student center on a February night. You’re wearing a dark green puffer coat that you regretted almost instantly after you bought it because you don’t think green is a flattering color and the other girls that winter had sleek black wool coats and chestnut brown Uggs and walked through the world with a poise to rival Grace Kelly (or so you tell yourself).
But you’re marching back to your room holding onto a hot chocolate and shouldering a bag full of political philosophies and Pascal. Just behind you, two boys are laughing in low voices as they carry a pizza box and hunch forward against the wind. You can hear their voices, and you’re wondering what you should do or say if you know them.
And then you’re staring at the stars.
You see, your boots flew out from under you on a patch of black ice and your hot chocolate flew up around you and when you realize what’s happening (that you’re wiping out in public on a Tuesday evening), it’s from the ground, looking up at the night sky.
The two guys pass you by. They laugh – you chuckle weakly, try to get to your feet… fall again. They pause to ask you if you “need help.”
You think, Let me think. I’ve fallen twice by myself, spilled hot chocolate onto this coat I wish I wasn’t wearing, and am sitting in a pile of books, in front of some first floor windows in FULL VIEW of anyone inside or outside, and would like to die. Right now.
You say, “I’m good. Thanks.”
And you creep inside mortified, face flushed like the tulips that mysteriously promise to bloom in spring. You sit on your bed and pull off your wet clothes and throw Pascal and politics onto your bed and barely muster the energy to laugh with your roommate who thinks you’re the funniest thing.
And as you lie in bed, you cry because today was the day I fell on my butt in that ugly coat in front of people who don’t know me but now know me as “that girl who fell on her butt and spilled hot chocolate on her head.”
Honey bun, three years later, you’re going to think of this story as you and your mom shovel the lower driveway free of two feet of snow. You will haul on boots and fleece pants that match hers and rain pants from 1980 and your dad’s Patriots hat with earflaps and walk into the white stillness. You will make silly faces into your iPhone camera and work out an elaborate but not wholly efficient system of moving snow. This will involve you standing in a hip-deep drift and scraping snow ONTO yourself so she can shovel a clearing for the cars to get out.
You will remember how we cannot always be so hard on ourselves. You will remember that it is our ridiculous moments – girl on fire, digging snow in rain pants from the 80s moments – that draw us further into the world. Because who does not long to be a little ridiculous sometimes? Who doesn’t want to make a silly face in the snow drifts?
Oh, sweet younger self, I’m so glad you and I grow up together. I’m so glad you fell on the way back to your room three years ago. I’m so glad you teach yourself to laugh at these moments, because I think someday the older Hilary, the one yet to come, she will be wiser because of you and me together. She will have a long letter of memories of snow falls and shoveling, moments of crying in her bed for her awkward duckling self and moments of that self, laughing like this:
And it will all be a part of the most beautiful growing up.