Dear 16 Year-Old Me…

If I’m remembering things correctly, you’re a junior in high school, are section leader of the pit percussion section of the marching band, the percussion section leader of the wind ensemble band, are first chair of the west TN orchestra, and have just made all-state vocal ladies ensemble. You’re also in Southern Exposure Choir, Honor Choir, and have been helping out at Temple Israel teaching kiddie choir with Cantor Kaplan. This summer, you’re going to TN governor’s school for the arts instead of Sewanee Summer Music Center, and you’ll be first chair percussionist there as well, for the 2 weeks you’ll be able to stay there before a family emergency.

You are at the height of your musical career, right now. ENJOY IT.

That’s not to say you won’t keep studying your art, but there will never in your life be so many performance opportunities that are scheduled for you – ever. Being an adult means you have to make your own performance opportunities and find your own bands to be in.

But that’s not what this letter’s supposed to be about.

You know how I hate spoilers, so this one is going to be a real shit. You have 10 years left to enjoy nearly perfect health, and though you waste 5 of them on a relationship that scars you emotionally and physically, you survive those years, come out stronger and end up meeting the love of your life: a man who treats you with immense respect, care, and gratitude, who shows you what marriage is supposed to be like.

Everything deeply and thoroughly inappropriate about which you tease, will bring you severe suffering.

“Gee, I wonder what his handicap is? Must be stupidity.” — Nope. Might be Multiple Sclerosis. Or Fibromyalgia. Or arthritis at an early age. Be prepared for people to leer at you and shout nasty things.

Those retard shaking motions you and Mandy make, with your hand on your chest, whenever someone’s being stupid? They happen to you frequently during seizures.

There will even come a day, when you say, “My age should not be my pants size.” and it’s not in your teenage years, babygirl.

You will learn the meaning of the word “humility.”

But you will also learn what a fighter you are.

You won’t allow yourself to stay in pants that are larger than a size 14 for very long. You will find medications so you’re not constantly shaking. And trust me when I say you love your rockstar parking.

Nothing I can tell you will stop you from being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 26. They don’t know what causes it. And it’s not your fault (or mine!).

So keep doing things the way you are: fill every minute of every day with as much activity as you can and keep dreaming of getting the fuck out of Memphis, because you do make it out. Twice. And you even see the beauty of the city by the second time.

And don’t think, “This’ll never happen to me.”

BTW — Watch out for that word “Never”every time you use it, it’s as though the Universe makes a promise.

You said you’d never go to law school, and now you’re a JD. You said you’d never stay longer than a day in Chicago again, and now you live here. You said you’d never smoke pot, and now it’s the only medicine that makes certain pain go away – you use it almost daily. If “never” means “DEFINITELY” – then you’re gonna end up back in Boston someday too. Just warning you.

I want to say just one more thing before I end this letter.

I am incredibly proud of your achievements to this point. As a child you have done admirably. As a sister, you protect the everloving crap out of your brother, and as a daughter, you work like crazy to make your parents proud. Don’t forget that you’re doing this work for yourself too. These grades, these accolades: they’re on Rachael’s resume… no one else’s.

Just look at what you can do when you put your mind to it.

2 thoughts on “Dear 16 Year-Old Me…

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