Viewing entries in
That Girl

A Letter to my 10-Year-Old Self

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 12.07.35 AM Dear 10-year-old self,

Hi there. It’s me. You. I've been challenged to write a letter to my ten-year-old self, so here I am. And here you are. And this is what we do. And here is what I know:

You’re going to be an awkward kid. Bad bangs, weird last name, more sensitive than most. You’ll soon be plucked from a place you love, and thrust into the alien north where you’ll be the only one sporting cowgirl boots and a seriously heavy accent. While the other students spend half the year making fun of the way you pronounce “pen,” you’ll spend it trying to convince yourself they’re just really into school supplies as you seek refuge between the covers of cherished books.

You’re going to be tall your whole dang life. Pants are never going to fit you quite right, so you might as well start getting used to it now. Whatever you do, don’t shrink away from who you are or shrink away from opportunity. Promise you’ll always remember that any person who asks you to be less than you are is no one you want in your heart or your life. (And just so you know, on that fateful Halloween a year or so from now, when that old lady accuses you of being “too old to trick-or-treat” just because you’re the tallest of your friends, you’ve got my support. Go ahead and flip her the bird, because you’re really going to want to do it.)

The 90s will be chock full of life lessons. (And you’ll get to relive them all over again when the 90s become retro-cool sometime in the 2010s.) What it really comes down to is this: Lunchables are horrible. No matter how deprived you may feel at the moment, you’re really not missing out. Stock up on Clearly Canadian, though, because it’s set to go extinct. And Britney and Christina from the Mickey Mouse Club? You’ll be hearing from them again.

I’m not gonna lie. Things are going to get rocky in junior high. Puberty is going to be a train wreck. Growing boobs will traumatize you. Starting your period will traumatize you. Changing for gym class will traumatize you. Being asked to dance will traumatize you. (Believe it or not, you'll turn down an invitation at the seventh grade dance, and residual feelings of lingering guilt will bubble up any time Toni Braxton comes on the radio throughout the duration of your adult life.)

High school will be fun. You should try harder in your classes than you will, but you’re going to learn way too early that you can do just fine with minimal effort, which will free you up to focus on fun. (And that’s something you’ll never regret.) Everything – and I do mean everything – with your friends is going to feel like the center of and end of the world. Zero percent of it will matter in the long run. But those friends are still your friends today.

Little self, stand up. Stand up for yourself. Stand for something. Take a stand. You’ve got opinions and a voice – use them at your discretion and to your detriment.

Don’t ever miss a chance to take a midnight swim or splash in the ocean. The universe doesn’t care how you look in a swimsuit, and you shouldn’t miss a single opportunity to revel in creation and all His glory.

Say yes more than you say no. Accept the invitations that come your way as often as you can. A decade from now, you’ll look back and long for just one more country drive, one more night at the park, one more conversation, one more night at Burnham, one more Italian soda at Maxwell’s. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Wring every last drop you can from your marvelous existence.

You’ll be bad at being bad – and that’s never going to change. The things (and parents) you’re going to push against will keep you out of so much trouble. And you’ll be so grateful for that one day. Trust me.

Sometime around 1998 your friends are going to take a lunchtime vote. They’ll decide you’re going to be the first to marry because you’re that much of a romantic. They couldn't be more wrong. You’ll still be holding out at 33 – because you’re that much of a romantic. Stay hopeful. Stay patient.

Spend less time writing code names for boys in secret notebooks. Spend more time telling them how you really feel. Be vulnerable. Be brave. I know it's scary.

That DIY dye job the day before senior pictures? It's a bad idea that’s going to make a great story.

No matter what anyone tells you, a Manhattan isn’t a good starter drink. But that’s a lesson you’re going to have to learn the hard way.

Take sensory snapshots and file them away, because change is coming and it’s just a couple years away. Memorize the beauty of red dirt, the song of cicadas and the smell of mesquite trees on a hot Texas day. Soak up the sun from your little world of inner tubes, sunscreen and chlorine. You won’t want to go, but you’ll know you can’t say. And one day you’ll look back to realize your first love wasn’t a person – but a place.

Eventually you’re going to begin to realize you hit the family jackpot. The years and the miles will try to pull the ties that bind apart the seams. Don’t let them. Weddings and funerals will fling you back together from far corners from time to time over the years. And when you find yourself in same room once again, you’re going to quietly marvel that these are your people. And they are such wonderful people. Really.

You will make mistakes. You will have regrets. You will hurt people. You will hurt yourself. Challenge yourself to find a solution. To learn a lesson. To apologize and mean it. To forgive and let go.

Let the seed of faith grow. It really is the root of everything.

Pet all the dogs you meet. Be happy. Have fun. Go barefoot. Refuse to let the world tame you. Say a prayer of thanks every night as your head hits the pillow. Get up early enough to welcome each new day.

Never lose sight of who you are, little self. And I promise to do the same.

See you soon, 33-year-old You


Time Travelers

A few weeks ago, I found myself 2,500 miles from home, sitting under twinkle lights and across the table from an old friend. The stars had aligned, putting us both in the same place at the same time for the first time in over a decade. Try as I might, I couldn't recall the exact moment the lights went on in our friendship. One day I'd never heard his name, the next it was like he'd been there all along; tall and full of thoughts and bearing the weight of a certain kind of wisdom. It seems most of my memories of our roving gang and the way-back days have been swept out to sea by the clouds of time, lost in the nostalgic haze of an old fog machine. I recall lots of laughter, but can no longer place exact dates or timelines. Nonetheless, I remember the flash fondly; a flurry of fun and function, classes and caffeine. Weekends ran Thursday to Sunday with occasional periods of recovery in between. Our nights were filled with too much wine, too little sleep, too many jam thumbprints. We were living on borrowed time and borrowed couches, finding our footing and our way past Boardwalk and Park Place.

I earmarked that phase of life not by dates, but by seasons. Summer was fleeting. Autumn was promising. New Years Day found the winter house warmed by a huddled handful of dreamers and a weightless kind of wonder and love, possibility and blindness one only experiences during that final descent. Childhood took the lead for one last dance, covering our eyes with her gentle hands.

"Trust me," she said. And we did.

"Follow me," she said. And we did. With each night, each gathering, each step, we were leaving behind the world we'd known in order to meet the people we were meant to become.

Eventually, the record took its last spin. And when the music stopped, she scattered us to the wind.

Our lives are a great anthology in which we each play our own protagonist. Some chapters are long, some short. There are periods of peace, of war, of struggle and triumph. The characters are as charming as they are varied. Between the pages we find a spine. We learn to fight against the current to get to where we need to be. There we find the courage to open our eyes and our minds and our hearts. Amongst a sea of strangers, we begin to recognize people we've never met as friends.

The older I get, the more I understand that there is a certain peace one finds in the company of old friends. In those quiet, comfortable moments with the people who've known you for the long haul, you recognize your whole self in them.

Someday the clouds and fog will come to carry all your days away, but ten years from now you'll travel to find you've time traveled. And there, 2,500 miles from wherever you are, you'll rediscover the story of who you are, safe and sound, in a comfortable silence and a familiar face.


The 33-Year List

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 11.15.59 PM Dear Universe,

On this, the eve of my 33rd birthday, I wanted to wish us both a happy anniversary. We've been together a long time, and have come a long way since the days of baby bottles and the summer of '81. Our anniversary poses a challenge, however. What to get the galaxy that has everything? I briefly considered a box of chocolates, but realized you've already got Mars and the Milky Way. And diamonds were out since you've got plenty of stars. So, in the end, I opted for this: a list of life lessons derived from some of our greatest hits

Universe, I wouldn't be here without you. And that's saying a lot, because here is nothing short of incredible. Thanks for the memories. Here's to you, Universe. To me. To us. To infinity and beyond! (Or a least the next 33 years...)

Yours, Amy

33 Things I Learned in 33 Years as a Dot in the Universe

  1. Nobody knows anything at 18. You don’t have to have the entire world figured out before you can legally rent a car.
  2. There’s a great big world out there. Allow it to sweep you off your feet, whisk you away and drive you out of your mind. You'll be glad you did.
  3. All good things begin with some form of a "yes," Say yes more than you say no. Then hold on.
  4. Champagne, desserts and massages need not be reserved for special occasions. Treat yourself.
  5. Hang onto the precious few who force you out after a heartbreak, help you move in August and pick you up from the airport at midnight without complaint. They’re the real deal.
  6. Live alone at least once.
  7. Stop. Waiting. Around. There is no right moment. There is no more convenient time. There is only now. Take the risk. Take the trip. Make the call. Spin a globe, put your finger down and go.
  8. Life is never going to hand you what you want, but you may be surprised how many people are willing to help when you muster the courage to ask for it.
  9. Learn when to go with the flow and when to take a stand. There’s a time and a place for both. You will find that very little falls in the grey area in between.
  10. Look up. Everything you could ever want or need is right here, right now. Look up from the screen. Put down the phone. Refuse to live your life in a state of DVR.
  11. Single is much more fun than anyone ever admits, so go ahead and enjoy it. Eat cereal for dinner. Revel in pantlessness. Marathon Netflix. Someday you'll miss it just a little bit.
  12. Get to know your family. Ask them questions. Soak up the stories. Write down the recipes. No matter how many years you have together, you’ll wish you’d had more. When it comes to our people, there's no such thing as "enough." Make time you can while you can.
  13. You’re weird and wonderful. Accept it. All the best people are.
  14. Make mistakes. Learn from them. All the best people did.
  15. Creativity favors the shoeless, and genius will invariably strike while you're in the bathtub. Free your feet, free your mind and everything else will follow.
  16. Heartbreak happens. Sometimes it will be your fault. Sometimes it will not. Either way, it will shape you. Be kind. Be grateful.
  17. Worry is a lead balloon. 99.9999% of the worrying you do in your lifetime will be for naught. So just stop. Lighten your load. Release the balloon.
  18. Become a citizen of the world. Try on a new zip code. Go forth. It's the only way you'll ever fully appreciate the roads that lead home.
  19. By 30, you'll find yourself going out less and going to bed earlier. By 31, you'll find yourself liking it.
  20. Real mail, old books, squeezed lemonade. For some things, there's just no substitute.
  21. When you meet someone who finds you beautiful in fake pants and a messy bun…put a ring on it.
  22. Dancing is meant to happen with free spirits, reckless abandon and a few drinks in the system. Never -- ever -- miss a chance to throw your arms up to "Shout" at a wedding reception.
  23. God. Whatever you call Him, wherever you find Him...get to know Him.
  24. Karaoke is the best worst idea. When it doubt, walk 500 miles. (Then walk 500 more.)
  25. Say what you think. Love who you love. Drink what you like. Don't be a jerk.
  26. Scatter love, prayers and gratitude wherever you wander in this world.
  27. Whatever the plan, plan for nothing to go according to plan. That's the secret fun of it.
  28. Sprinkles and sparkles are seeds of joy and fertilizer for the happy soul.  No matter what anyone says, you’re never too old for either one.
  29. Make no apologies for the way you feel or the naps you take.
  30. "One-size-fits-all" only works for rain ponchos and "normal" is just a washing machine setting. Defy words. Defy labels. Commit to live up the spirit inside you. Become a person who makes the ghosts of your ancestors cheer.
  31. Get lost. (And enjoy my jacket, which you stole from me.)
  32. When you find yourself in a certain kind of rare and special moment (and you will) -- be still. Allow the tidal wave to overwhelm you and carry you out. Let it break your heart then make you whole again. Take a breath and close your eyes. There, in the golden joy of simply being alive and part of it all, you'll see more clearly than you ever have and all will be revealed. When you find yourself back on shore, you'll swear it can't possibly get any better than this. And it won’t. And it will.
  33. One day you'll see. Promise you'll tell me all about it.

Wanderdust: A Memoir to Myself on My 32nd Birthday

birthday The day I left South Carolina I cried. I cried my way through half of North Carolina. I cried on my way past the mountains. I cried past peach stands, boiled peanuts and the house my ancestors built over a century ago. I cried passing the Blue Ridge overpass, the exit to Biltmore and the turnoff to Asheville. I cried through handfuls of songs and multiple commercial breaks. And although I was bursting with anticipation and excitement about what I was driving toward, I refused to look in the rearview mirror until I hit the Kentucky line, for fear that if I caught a glimpse of what I was leaving behind, I'd turn the car around.

The older I get, the more I realize this is life. Each day we're writing stories with our time, our moments, our choices. Every minute of every day we're filling the pages of a story that will ultimately be filed on a shelf alongside the story of everyone else.

History is happening -- and it's happening fast. There are no do overs, no rewind buttons, no mulligans. There are only choices and onward marches.

This weekend I turned 32. It's a good, sturdy age, 32. Old enough to have gotten over most of the bullshit hangups of youth, young enough to have not given up. Young enough to feel there's still plenty of time, old enough to know that's not how it always works out.

32. The older I get, the more I feel myself getting taken down with life's insatiable undertow. I want to be everywhere. I worry I'm not reading enough. There are continents and shorelines my feet have yet to meet. I long for adventure and at the same time crave stability. I am simultaneously paralyzed and propelled onward and upward by all the dots on the map where I find infinite amounts of love available to me. My definition of "family" and "home" have expanded exponentially, while my perception of a great big world has shrunk a little bit with each stop along the way.

“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that we take with us for our entire lives, wherever we may go.

In life, a person will come and go from many homes. We may leave a house, a town, a room, but that does not mean those places leave us. Once entered, we never entirely depart the homes we make for ourselves in the world. They follow us, like shadows, until we come upon them again, waiting for us in the mist.”

Friday night I traveled back to one of my dots, and there -- under fairy lights -- I had an epiphany. The word wanderlust is more or less defined as the desire to travel to new and foreign lands. If there is truly a counterbalancing equivalent to everything in the universe, then I propose the notion of "wanderdust." If wanderlust is the curiosity-driven desire compelling us into the unknown, wanderdust is the gratitude-laden breadcrumb trail of memories and moments and conversations that will always lead us home.

"Promise me you'll shake things up, wherever you go," you once said, "People out there are desperate to dance and swirl around and lose their minds."

I've got two snow globes -- one in each hand.

This is life.

And 32.