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Friday, June 29, 2012

Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self

Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”  -Henry David Thoreau

I’d have to say that one of the greatest emotions I’ve struggled with as an adult is that of regret.  It is with conscious effort that I do not play “What if…” games in my head, so it was with trepidation that I undertook “Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self”, the latest writing prompt posed by a member of the Jacksonville Aspiring Writers' Group.
In the end I decided that even if such a thing were possible, there isn’t much I’d change about my life.  Every choice that I’ve made about college, marriage, children, and careers has led me to the place I find myself today.
There are days that the balance in my checking account makes me wish for an alternate reality.  In hindsight I know that finishing my degree before starting a family and not entering into the first mortgage (and a bad investment) that I did would have made all the difference in my financial situation today, but when I play out my life decisions since the age of 16 any other way I end up missing the most valuable components:  my kids.
In my letter below, I don’t warn myself about the pitfalls of hasty marriages or what it’s like to be a real life Little Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe.  I do try to cover a multitude of truly regrettable choices with a few words of caution, however, and attempt to do a little something about that bank balance.  I hope you get a good laugh from it.
What would you tell your sixteen-year-old self?

June 19, 2012
Dear Michelle,
                It’s me girl….er, I mean you…from the future!  Waaaaay in the future.
We’re 34 at this very moment.  Now, I know you think that’s pretty much Over the Hill, but rest assured I’m not writing you from a retirement home.  After you hear what I have to say, I can guarantee you that our best years are yet to come.  You see, I’ve got great news!
You spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about what the future holds in store for you, Shell Bell.  I hope to lay all that worry to rest.
It’s important that you understand all that I tell you here, and even more important that you follow my every instruction.
Let me start by saying that life for you is good in 2012.  You have a good job, great family, and interesting hobbies.  You’ve accomplished a lot for someone so young.  (Yes, I said it.  To be a thirty-something is not the end of the world, girl!)  You’ve made a difference in many young lives in one way or another.   There are things you’d still like to accomplish, heights you aspire to, and you’re fortunate to be supported, healthy, and entirely capable of accomplishing those goals.
The following tidbits are going to make that a sight easier, though—not to mention improve the prospects of all those little people you care so much about.
I’m enclosing the song lyrics to a half dozen songs that I need you to re-type on that clunky word processor you’re using for essays and such.  Get them copyrighted stat.  You watch ER, so I know you know what STAT means.  Get on with securing these copyrights like George Clooney’s very life depends on it!
There’s a lady from the future who’s gonna belt out these little ditties wearing nothing but a dress made entirely of meat and be paid a bazillion dollars for it.  Go ahead and get you one of those numbers, too.  Any lean cut, thinly sliced meat product will do.  You’re gonna be working on a budget until we settle out of court after bringing a copyright infringement suit against her.  Don’t worry about Meat Girl’s prospects.  She’s highly creative and will write other songs and possibly design a clothing line made entirely of vegetable leaves.  Everyone will walk away a millionaire!
On a similar note, I’m also including the outline of a kids’ book called the Hunger Games.  No, it’s nothing like how you and Stacey used to pass the time after arriving home from school to only a few sticks of carrots and a jar of mustard.  It’s a story about a group of kids who compete in a sort of Olympic Games of Death and people of the future are crazy about it.  Use the outline to write your own version, and we’ll clean up with another intellectual property suit!
This brings me to my third and final play for setting us up for life!  And I’m talking mansions around the world complete with gorgeous pool boys with rock hard abs and all the plastic surgery you and your female family members could ever desire.  The Mega Millions Lotto!
Last Spring’s Mega Millions jackpot was over $367 million dollars.  I have enclosed the winning numbers!
True, you’re gonna have to wait until almost half-way through your thirties to be absolutely filthy stinking rich, but that’s just enough time to get rid of the two pesky husbands you DO NOT want to share all this mullah with.
In closing, I’d like to offer you a few tips of advice that will see you through until we’ve happily set up house on easy street.
1.       Never do anything you’d be ashamed for Mamaw to know about.  Trust me on this.  You cannot go wrong here.  And remember that news of anything questionable you do engage in that Mammaw happens to find out about will spread like wildfire across five states before you can even correct her on what the charges really were.
2.       Find a physical activity that provides you with enough exercise to stay in shape.  Baby’s like fat.  Pool boys, even highly evolved futuristic ones, do not.
3.       Smile through the tough times.  Life isn’t going to be all roses and sunshine, but your trials and tribulations will serve to build your character and provide you with all the antidotal stories we’re gonna need when we cry on every couch from Barbara Walters’ to Oprahs’ while they interview the richest woman in the world.
Take care.  See you soon.