Last week was our anniversary and I searched for our wedding album. Didn’t find it, but I unearthed a small binder I used in high school and college for my music and writing. Exiting my closet I entered my childhood bedroom! My 15-year-old self sat on the floor strumming her guitar, engrossed in writing Variation on a Theme #11 “I loved you and you stomped on my heart.”
Not wanting to freak Young Annie, I wait a moment then softly clear my throat.
“Who are you?” she glares at me.
“Who do I look like?”
She focuses in. “Kinda like me, but way older,” she says. Then after a second, “Woah! You are me!”
As a teen I devoured alternative theories of existence. Reincarnation. Parallel universes. Time travel. So I’m not surprised she figures out who I am.
“I’m the you you will become some day. Cool, huh?”
“Super cool! Except I see I’m stuck with the same weird hair forever.”
We sigh in stereo.
“That’s the way it goes, kid. But on the bright side, the future’s filled with hair product. De-frizzers, sculpting foam, ultra-straighteners…”
“So how come you don’t use it?”
“Don’t always have time, but…”
“How’d you get here?”
“Why’d you come?”
Gotta love this kid. Always so direct.
“I came to help you, Annie. There’s stuff you need to make life easier.”
“How do you know what I need?”
“Cause I’ve lived through everything you’ve lived through up to this moment. And I’ve lived through everything you’re gonna live through for the next 46 years…”
“What happens after that?”
“How should I know? I’m from 2011. That’s as much as I’ve seen so far.”
That shuts her up long enough for me to plunge ahead.
“Don’t know how long I’ll be with you so I’ll get to the point. First thing, you worry too much about your looks. Let me set the record straight. You’re pretty enough.”
“Enough for what?”
“For everything that matters. Trust me on this. Everyone’s got their own way of being beautiful. Including you. So stop buying those magazines. They make you feel crappy about yourself.
“Another thing, what happens in school, at home, wherever… it isn’t always about you. You believe there’s a movie camera following you around focused on everything you do, but that’s not true. You’re not always the star of what’s going on. Sometimes you’ve got another role to play and you need to close your mouth and listen so you can learn how other people feel. Even if you only do that part of the time, you’ll learn how to help people. That’s going to be a good thing for them and for you. Understand?”
“I’m not sure. Sounds kind of abstract. Anyway, since you’re here, I’ve got a problem you can help me with. It’s…”
“… Mom. I know. Things have been bad between you two since Dad died. I know you’re sad and you miss him. A lot of the time you’re just pretending everything’s fine. Stop doing that. Find a way to get some of that hurt out of you. It’s unhealthy. Write about what you’re going through. Or sing about it. As for Mom, she’s in a lot of pain too. And she’s also pretending she’s OK. But nothing’s right in her world anymore and she takes it out on you. That doesn’t make it OK, but maybe you can cut her a little slack. That might help. It takes two people to have a fight. Next time she starts up, think about that.”
Young Annie gives me a look. Can’t tell what she’s thinking.
“Another thing, Annie, this part of your life isn’t forever. You’re going to leave and go to college. You’ll be happier and you’ll have freedom to make your own decisions.”
“Do I go to Cornell!?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Does that mean I don’t go to Cornell!?”
“I didn’t say that. I said don’t worry. And while you’re at it, quit worrying about finding The One. You’re 15 and it’s not time to hook up with your soul mate. So do yourself a favor and lighten up. It’ll happen when it happens.”
“Does it happen?” she asks. “Do I ever find The One?”
I had forgotten how needy and uncertain I was. How much I needed reassurance. I hug her. “Oh, yes,” I say.
She squeals and hugs back. “When do I meet him?!”
“I’m not telling. That’d spoil the surprise. But here’s a hint. If you ever get a chance to visit San Francisco… Go! Speaking of which, I need to head back. Gotta walk the dog.”
“I get a dog!?”
“Yep. Just like you always wanted. And one more thing…”
“Do I get a horse too?!!”
“No. No horse.”
“I just want to tell you to keep writing, Annie. It’s going to pay off.”
The next thing I know I’m typing this blog and I’m wondering: what would you say to your 15-year-old self?