Tag Archives: nostalgia

We have become the best version of ourselves.

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“I want to be sixteen.”

I can see myself at 12, 13, 14, squeezing my eyes and waiting to turn into a princess overnight. A girl the world might love a little bit more.

Other kids threw pennies into fountains. I thought there was something magical in birthdays. I thought I would wake up at 16 and my whole life would be better overnight.

No more awkward preteen with chalk-covered legs and untamed curly hair. I thought I’d wake up in a few years and be beautiful.

I guess I didn’t learn my lesson, because at 16 I wished to turn 18.

“Yes,” I thought. “I’ll have it all together by 18.”

18 came and went. I wasn’t best dressed and my hair never stayed straight in the summer heat. My skin revolted against my decision to bake in the sun until I was a shade of deep brown and I conquered a mess of acne from all that torture.

I still didn’t have it together.

It took me 21 years to figure out that some things change but some things stay the same.

Like the feel of an old trampoline under my feet on a humid summer night in my best friend’s backyard. Or the roads leading to the house in the middle of nowhere. Or the ache in my ankle when it twists the wrong way.

21 years to decipher that small fact: you are who you are and all that is imperfect and all that you remember and all that you love will not disappear in the seconds it takes to cross another birthday finish line.

I don’t know if any of us ever change or if we all just evolve into a more real version of our true self, the one we’ve been haggling with since we were 12. The one who wanted to be 16.

I can see myself now at 30, lying on my back, head-to-head with my best friends on that trampoline. Waiting for the stars in the sky to turn into a sign from above that we have made it. We have become the best version of ourselves.

I know it probably won’t happen, that life doesn’t work like that. I know we’ll split across two cities in two states separated by a three-hour time difference and I pray for the only thing I can: that the time zones won’t kill us.

And maybe that we’ll sleep as little as we do now and love as hard as we always have and that being knocked down one too many times will only make standing up easier.

I wonder if the world will try to win us over with structure and stability. If at 35, I’ll be praying to wake up at 16 again. That little girl with the wavy mess of hair and the skinny legs and the dry hands from all that chalk.

If you could go back to one birthday—just one—which would you choose?

Maybe it's a collection of small moments. And an active decision to save certain ones.

letter 29 – someone you want to tell everything to, but too afraid

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Dear Mike,

Sometimes, I wonder what I ever saw in MySpace. It’s such a mess of a site.

Sometimes, I wonder what I ever saw in cross-country. It’s such a lonely sport. But then I wonder what would’ve happened if I never joined MySpace or ran cross-country. If our paths had never crossed.

I wrote ten different letters in my head before I settled on this one, but maybe that’s what this whole thing’s about. I knew that when I started this challenge, you deserved a letter. I just didn’t know what it would say.

This is a thank you for never judging me when you found out where I’d been. Who I’d been. For seeing me the same way you’ve seen me for the last five years. For reminding me why I like being friends with guys. For being in my life for these last six years, however sparse at times.

That’s my fault—not yours.

Thank you for arguing with me about who had a better boy’s varsity team well past midnight all those years ago on AIM when I should’ve been doing homework. Thank you for keeping me up until two a.m. and always telling me to have sweet dreams when I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.

You’re one of only a handful of consistencies in my life. And I don’t think I ever tell you that, but you deserve to know. You deserve the truth.

For some reason, whenever I listen to Hands Down by Dashboard Confessional, I think of you. And sometimes, I want to call you and tell you how many songs I imported into iTunes (just so you know, it’s 5526 songs).

Sometimes, I feel like I’m back in your red Jeep on the way to the King of Prussia mall and you’re making fun of me for playing 3 Doors Down because it’s the first artist I recognize when I scroll through your iPod.

It’s funny, knowing someone for five years and only having a handful of tangible, face-to-face memories. But each one is stuck in my memory. You’d be surprised by the details I remember. I’m surprised by the details I remember.

But maybe that’s life. Maybe it’s a collection of small moments and an active decision to save certain ones.

I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you for giving me memories worth remembering. Thank you for being the kind of friend that sticks around for five years, stringing together conversations from 300 miles away. Thank you for knowing me better than I probably know myself and for always driving me crazy with your incessant debating and god awful nine-minute instrumental metal songs.

That’s what’s real. Driving someone crazy until you’re stuck in her life.

Love,
K

If you run fast enough, you won't fall into the creek.

I think it’s safe to say that this has become the thirty days of thank you notes. And you’re next up on my list.

letter 17 – someone from your childhood

Dear Caity, John, and Anthony,

I’m seven-eight-nine years old, and I’m standing at the top of a tree house, trying to figure out how to get out of this predicament. I close my eyes, push my feet off the ledge, and hold onto the thin piece of plastic riding on a taut wire for several hundred feet. I open them just in time to pull my feet out in front of me, bending at the knees to stop myself from ramming into a hard plank of painted wood. And I hop down, wondering what I was scared of in the first place.

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I’m hunched over on all fours, squinting my eyes to peer down a small concrete tube to the other side, wondering where it ends. Someone says to climb through and I shake my head. No way. We run up over the hill, down the ditch to the other side, and call back through the tunnel.

We’re running around my living room in my underwear, squealing while our parents yell at us to lean over and come into the kitchen. They’re looking for tics, but we’re antsy and squirming. We’re proud to have conquered the wilderness of my backyard, climbing through a creek and forested area looking for God knows what. And we definitely don’t want to sit still.

Thank you for giving me these and hundreds of other small moments. Thank you for reminding me where I came from, who I am, and who I will always be. A dreamer. A player. A child at heart.

Thank you for unknowingly handing over to me an invaluable catalog full of memories to return to when I write stories for the rest of my life.

You’ve offered me a dictionary of childhood, a long list of fleeting moments. You’ve offered me a reminder that I’ll take with me when I’m 23 and 35, 47 and 68. A reminder that will serve its purpose when I go to reprimand my daughter or son from traipsing through the house in mud-caked rain boots and over-sized windbreakers and knotty hair filled with crinkled leaves.

Thank you for your energy, your confidence, your dares. Thank you for pushing me to the limit, for teaching me to speak loudly and take risks. For reminding me that I can run fast enough to jump across a four-foot wide creek in the middle of a wet April or May afternoon. That if I believe something hard enough, I only have to give myself the chance to make it happen.

I might’ve turned out a different person if I hadn’t realized that all.

So thank you. Over and over again, thank you.

Love,
K

Spreading love like cinnamon sugar on buttered toast.

I am not a quitter. It’s a word I struggled with one February night as I pulled apart my slice of cheese pizza in a dimly lit kitchen, taking my frustration and angst out on the soft crust, the saucy, cheesy mess. I punctuated each word with another tear, another rip of bread.

But sometimes, you have to acknowledge that holding off on one thing might make everything else better. When you’re being sucked down, you have to figure out what the anchor is and reel it in.

When I was thirteen and frustrated, that anchor was competitive gymnastics. A year or so ago, that anchor was the person I’d become. Right now, that anchor is the reverb challenge, taking away from all the other posts I could be writing. All the other words you want to skim through. This world, this blog, is not about me. It is about all of you, and all of the wonderful people I’ve encountered. I don’t want you to forget that.

Having said that, this is my letter to my ex-boyfriend, as coinciding with the letter challenge. This one is going to spread some love like butter and cinnamon sugar on a slice of toast on a Sunday morning.

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Dear Juan,

On any given month, I waver between whether or not I made the right choice. Not in ending our relationship, but in allowing you to start it. It’s the million-dollar question, the one that nobody ever wants to ask, but the one so many keep coming back to. Would it have been better, in the beginning, to just be friends? Hold onto that friendship and still be able to talk like nothing happened now, or to give it a shot?

I can honestly say, with certainty, that I made the right decision. If I had to go back to that night in your car, idling in my driveway at two a.m., I wouldn’t change my answer. Because I believe we’re completely different people because of it. I think we were two kids—me barely eighteen and you barely nineteen—who thought we owned the world. Fresh out of high school and not yet freshmen in college.

And we did own the world for a while, like all naïve high school kids do.

I believe that you forced me to grow up. If it weren’t for you, I probably never would have let myself love anyone. Not until I was at least thirty. I probably would have been just fine wasting away my money on fast food milkshakes and sundaes at the diner. I would have been just fine never going beyond that.

But after everything fell apart, I hit rock bottom. You hit rock bottom. We spread our love like cinnamon sugar on buttered toast. So sweet and never enough but rough and bitter after a while. We were all highs and lows with no middle. We sort of headed for it well before sophomore year, but didn’t really admit it. And plenty of other people would have stuck it out, but neither of us would’ve done what we wanted. We would have suffocated each other with our own agendas.

You wanted to be in LA in a tux on the set of a movie. And for a while, that seemed like a wonderful idea. But I love NYC. I love being quiet sometimes, writing by myself. You’re the boy with more friends than a girl can keep track of.

You’re a great friend, but a lousy boyfriend. I didn’t figure that out until a few months ago, but you always had this idea of me that didn’t measure up to the Actual Me. The Kaleigh standing in front of you.

I hope I didn’t break you. And if I did, I hope you heal back stronger. Because if you love some girl half as much as you thought you loved me, she’ll be lucky. Just don’t try to change her. This is your life. Accept it and take hold of it.

Love,
K