Tag Archives: change

Things have changed since you cracked my spine and settled into your beanbag chair.

This life is a book I can’t put down.

But half my readers would rather skip the part that says, “God is good,” and head straight for “The Downfall.”

In fact, they’d probably shake my by my shoulders and say there simply isn’t enough controversy in these pages to warrant any sales. To warrant a life worth living.

And I would spin them around, nudge them toward Self Help & Addiction and Jodi Picoult’s moral dilemmas and tell them they’ve come to the wrong spot in the bookstore, baby.

Because we itch our stocking and the backs of our necks when someone starts throwing words like Newness and Next Chapter around like they are good. Like progress is a problem.

The only problem is I can’t please you all.

My life isn’t a bookstore. It’s just one book in the Coming of Age section.

I am just a girl learning how to sign up for a health care plan and stock her own pantry and live in an apartment alone for the first time since you cracked my spine and settled into your beanbag chair.

And must I remind you that was twenty-two years ago? That the books we loved then are not the same as now?

It’s true that we get giddy about new chapters, but we all have different expectations for them.

She wants me to stay rooted in the Somewhere Safe she knows well, would rather I stretch to a 600-pager. I am ready to wrap this chapter up and Epilogue that sucker.

Start a new book that begins, “And then she learned how to live alone…”

Because I will. And it will not be your story. Or your mother’s. Or your best friend’s. Or your hairdressers. It will be mine. Just for me.

Maybe that sounds selfish. Us writers, we scribble stories stuck inside our heads. We are gray-seers and world-dwellers. We are so ready to scramble into the back of someone else’s car and land out butts in Charleston, South Carolina because something told us we should Begin Again.

I’m not asking you to pick me up in the middle of Chapter 22 and fall in love.

I’m just asking that someone, somewhere, have faith that I know what I’m writing today and tomorrow but in ten years? No, no no. That is for ten years from now to worry about.

We envision endings and Life Happens and a couple people read on to find out if that picture stays the same, if we learn how to not burn our grilled cheese or overflow the toilet. If we stock clogging the vacuum and if we always look like a mess when it rains all day.

But we cannot please the world. And if we could, what kind of life would that be? 

You define your rock bottom. (And other words of encouragement for my 16-year-old self.)

My sister’s best friend told me about this exercise. Write a letter to yourself 5 years ago, she said. At first, I thought she meant in 5 years but how could I possibly know what to tell my 26-year-old self? I can’t. If I knew that, my life would be boring.

Dear 16-year-old Kaleigh,

A lot will happen in five years. Plenty more than you will ever anticipate.

You’ll want to forget to be strong and beautiful. Don’t. You’ll want to take the phrase “spiraling out of control” and tuck it in your back pocket for easy access. Throw that phrase away. It’s too severe for your life. You’re better than it.

Don’t let the calluses you worked hard to build be erased under fresh patches of red-pink skin ready for the world to burn them.

You’ll fret over almost dates. Let me tell you: they weren’t real.

Just because a boy likes you doesn’t mean you have to like him. Figure out if it’s him or the idea of him and be honest. He deserves that.

Don’t dread first kisses. And don’t share them either. Let them happen in the moment. But if you must be direct, you better have a freaking amazing reason. He better be shipping off somewhere.

Learn something from every friendship. Any of your relationships, really. Take a small lesson from the way your best friend falls in love with a boy, giving over her whole heart, and don’t think she’s weak.

If you hate the whole traditional dating scene so much, find an alternative.

Don’t hate meeting people because some of them never become good friends. That’s how all relationships are: hard work. Figure out what you expect from a friend and find it. Don’t settle. Ever.

Don’t let anyone push you around or claim you’re less than capable. Listen with one ear and prove them wrong so you can hear their jaws drop with the other ear.

Stop being a martyr. You are a teenager, for God’s sake. If someone upsets you, tell them. You’re too afraid of being honest. It’s not a disease. You can’t always be the nice one anyway.

If you’re going to be in love, be in love. Don’t half-ass it.

That said, if you care about someone, they better know. You’re an excellent time waster.

Going to college 300 miles away is not an excuse for losing touch with people in your life. Even if there’s not yet an app for that.

Hold onto the friends who leave you voicemails that make you laugh on the way to the parking garage after a long day on campus.

Suck every second out of those long days. Going to bed at 9pm is for the sick and the elderly. You are neither.

Your life is not a Sorry! game board. Change doesn’t mean going back to start. It means potential. Try new things. You will have 14 beginnings in 5 years. Embrace them and throw yourself into each one. You didn’t do enough of that.

You define your rock bottom. Remember that always. Don’t fall into the Grand Canyon. Remember the parachute is strapped to your back. I know you tend to lose things. Car keys, shoes, yourself.

And above all, never lose sight of who you are. Who you always were. Today. Tomorrow. In ten years.

Love that girl forever.

21-year-old Kaleigh

I'll let you dissect the meaning between my paragraphs and the reason I've ended the sentence here. Instead of here.

I thought I wanted to be a peace-keeper. Say the right thing at the right time and always, always, tell the other person they were right.

I went through the last 21 years believing this. Believing in giving up pieces of myself because it was easier to nod and agree than to fight.

Maybe, in another life, I was a hippie with all that love. But then I read this tweet by Blair and I got thrown off kilter. Big time.

“What sucks is when you’ve written a post with the best of intentions & you know that no matter what, someone’s going to get butt-hurt.”

God yes, I thought.

That is right. So right.

Where has that little piece of insight been all my life? All this time while I’ve been sitting inside the lines of the coloring book, afraid to step outside the page. All this time while I’ve held my breath and waited for the storm in the next room to pass over. Where I’ve stopped myself from putting a fist in the wall because it’s easier to hurt inside than to tell someone else how I feel and risk hurting them.

Before I continue, let me say one thing: I am not advocating complete and utter selfishness.

I am advocating learning the difference between keeping your mouth shut and entertaining the possibilities.

Because change, ladies and gentlemen, cannot come about without the conflict of opinions I’m so afraid of. And the first step in the march toward forward progress is telling someone else what you’re thinking and waiting for a reaction.

Maybe it’s because I’m non-confrontational and maybe it’s because my dad lends me his Easy Pass to commute to New Jersey every week. But I’m more inclined to keep my lips sealed.

And a lot of times, that’s great. Smart. Reasonable.

Other times, it’s not.

Other times, I’m willing to break my hand. Make it swell into a black, blue, purple mess. See if the cast wrapped around my arm is any inclination that I’m not happy with the way things are going.

That’s unnecessary. We write about the tough stuff because it happens and it cannot be ignored. We discuss heartbreak and depression and bullying and family problems and try to debate the best way to handle a difficult parenting situation because there is no best way.

Because there is no right answer.

But the fact that I can offer my suggestions and you can offer yours is a beautiful freedom. A freedom that sparks conversation and facilitates progress and makes us stop and think about how we live our lives in the world where dropping a single bomb solves a multitude of problems.

So I’ll write. I’ll write my heart out on this screen for you and let you critique it and tell me what I’ve said that’s wrong. I’ll let you dissect the meaning between my paragraphs and the reason I’ve ended the sentence here. Instead of here.

I’ll let you interpret the unspoken thoughts running through my head because you cannot know exactly what I’m thinking but not knowing, not being sure, will lead you to ten thousand different conclusions. And all of them will bring about a more educated future.

All of them are worth entertaining on some level.

Change is not a subtraction problem.

From a young age, we’re told not to change people. If someone smokes or drinks, lies or cheats, we can’t bring our own agenda into a relationship and expect to change them. A smoker is going to smoke, unless you’re really awesome at inspiring them to quit AND they wanted to quit beforehand but just maybe didn’t feel like the resources were there. You can’t go into that relationship hoping to make them one less potential cancer victim. Life just doesn’t worth that way.

We say change is bad. Change takes away all that we are, morphing us into someone unrecognizable, right?

We forget that change doesn’t mean ditching something and replacing it with something else. Change can mean amassing and growing and continually adding.

Think of the first snowfall of the year, how you run into the yard overcome with pure childlike bliss. It’s just a dusting, but still you flop onto your back, spreading your legs and arms. With just one snow angel, the entire front lawn’s green again. But if we take that snowball mentality, we can roll it around until it grows and becomes into something bigger and better. Start small, grow big.

As a kid, that’s sort of what our lives are like. We don’t have much to change, and when we do, we don’t have much to show for it. It’s really easy to flop back and forth between Before and After without much consequence.

But sometimes change is necessary. Sometimes, when we take who we are and we add who we could be, we create something new and great.

I spent the last year saying to my friends, “Why can’t I get back to that seventeen year old girl? She had nothing and yet she had everything. Why can’t I find her?

The answer is simple, and though I know it now, I keep secretly waiting for it to change. I keep thinking I’ll wake up and say, “You can go back. You can be her.”

You can’t. Because change is not backwards. It’s forward motion, always. Unless you’re a character in a Harry Potter novel or Michael J. Fox and you have a Delorean, you cannot transport yourself back in time. You have to pedal up the hill.

I wish I could find every person on this campus who has lost hope and give them some. Like a package to wrap up and hand to them. I wish I could find my nineteen-year-old self, grab her firmly by the shoulders, look her in the eyes, and tell her that she can be happy. That one guy cannot erase that seventeen-year-old girl locked up inside of her.


What I know now is that you cannot forever lose yourself. You can misplace a small part of you, but you only have to look deeper to unearth it. And once you do, you build on that person you were to become a better version of yourself. Smooth over the rough edges, the scraped knees and the paper cuts, to prepare yourself for the next demand. The next big change.