Monthly Archives: September 2010

Maple Leaves

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It’s the Fall!

Quite honestly, it’s a dreadful season for me (and my beyond crappy allergies).

But there are always some good points about Fall to make.

There’s the fashion. I heart girly, ruffled flannel- so much so, you’d swear my fall wardrobe was from the closet of a fashionista lumberjack. I swear, I’m ok.


Shopping in general is just more pleasant in the Fall. I’ve already started shopping for Christmas, as this is just the best time to find deals without being bombarded or thrown around in line for the newest robotic animal.

But mainly, the Fall works for me because the majority of my music seems to be appropriate for this time of year. It’s not quite the doldrums of winter, and it certainly isn’t the peppy summer. My electro-pop phase has leveled out to straight up folk and acoustic. Really, I just listen to a ton of Jens Lekman on repeat:

It’s something about the drum pop combined with the heavy strings that remind me about my favorite things- sweaters, apple cider, and blanket season.

On the other hand, the Fall is terribly disheartening for me. It’s the bleak realization that Summer is over and Winter is around the corner. It’s now dark when Glee is on. And it’s coat weather when I catch the bus.

The Fall is designated school time, when kids are ripped from their daytime TLC addictions (just me!?!) and but through the rigors of the next grade level.

And it means that I’m not teaching.

Dont get me wrong, I love my job. And even the Fall was significant for me, as I now have to leave 2 minutes earlier so I dont have to stand next to 20 poorly dressed freshman girls on the shuttle bus. Oh, and the students make the office much more lively and interesting.

But I’d rather be teaching.

I miss the energy of a classroom and the rush of a good lesson. I want to go back to being in front, educating and hopefully inspiring. I hate sitting for 7.5 hours, imagining what my old students are doing today. Even private lessons, I miss.

My life just doesn’t feel as complete or compelling as it did this time last year when I was knee deep in grading papers and planning dance routines.

And the Fall is just a constant, cruel reminder that, even with the ability to wear flannel to work, I’m still not doing what I want to do.

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Letters To My Younger Self: 22

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Finally! I am finished with my series of letters to myself. I’ve gone through all major life stages of childhood, pre-teen, teen, and now budding adult. It’s been difficult. Every time I think in advance about what I want to write, I end up blanking. But then I sit down, take a deep breath, and place myself at that age. It’s been great getting to re-know the person I was in connection with who I am.

It’s like the Magnetic Fields say: “If you think you can leave the past behind, you must be out of your mind.”

Today, I bring you my final letter. This one is written to myself just last year, at 22. Enjoy.

To Michelle at 22,

Are you done washing last night out of your hair? It was a long one, I’m sure. While you’re at it, clean off all of summer. Every freakish tan line, every ounce of drunken regret, and every bad 80s disco song… just scrub it clean. Can you exfoliate hangovers?

You knew it was coming- the inevitable end of a summer fling ushered in by the start of the school year. But this year, you’re in front of the class. For a full year, you’re teaching the subject you adore. You’re planning and writing a musical, while quizzing students on jazz rhythms. Your first graders are writing full on, comprehensible melodies. And you’re second graders, well, they’re driving you insane as only 2nd graders can.

It will be a great year. An absolute dream of a first year experience. But you know it cant last long. Financially, everything will come at you once, and you’re too proud to ask for help. When it comes time to make that decision, do it quickly. Dont let it linger.

There will be opportunities out there for you, even in this economy. And even though it scares the living crap out of you, you can do it. Teaching music is just one path that you will take. Maybe you’ll make a u-turn. Maybe you’ll linger where you are. If you’ve learned anything this year, it’s to take risks.

You’ll certainly do it in the boy department. In late September, someone will charm himself in to your life. At first, you’ll be cautiously optimistic. You’ll remember the summer of Bob and figure that this is just a fall affair. But the winter will come, and you will once again find yourself singing “I found love” in a car with your old roommate.

Who knows where it will lead. You’re still there. (and still singing)

And just like I said before, you’re learning that every bit of your past has molded you in to the person you are at 22 and 23.

Love,
Yourself, 1 year later

Letter To My Younger Self: 18

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This is my fourth letter in a series of five. Written to myself at a certain age, these letters are used as a way to reflect, regret and appreciate the person I was and am today. You can read the letter of 6, 13, and 16 at those links.

Today, I bring you 18. Big cheers for legality!

Dear Michelle at 18,

Wow. 18… 18. You have waited for this day, dreamed about it, pinned over it, and possibly drooled on the calendar waiting for the moment when you could declare: INDEPENDENT.

… Now that it’s here, you’d rather go back.

Dont get me wrong- Europe was fabulous. Memories you made in Munich, Mt. Titilis, and Paris will forever stay with you. For almost three incredible weeks, you were a girl of the world- well traveled, versed in humanity, and inspired by all things European. You were finally the gal that got to say (with all that Mary Tyler Moore gumption), “Paris in the early summer is just darling.”

Independence obviously means the ability to not care about your garments.

Then you came home and started college.

13 years of planning your college experience couldn’t have done you less of a service. This was no place to become a totally new person. It was not the place to try to pretend that you were more than what you were raised to be. Even with Europe and a new found confidence, you still reverted to the same, shy Michelle everyone knew after the car accident. It was hard for you to make any meaningful relationship. And that will sadly haunt you for the next three years of college.

On the other hand, you will fall in love. You will fall so hard, so fast that no one will see it coming. Your roommate will sing 3am versions of “I Found Love” and you will make very public dedications over the radio airwaves. All it took was one glance at his sideburns to know that something special was blossoming on that winter night.

Your first impressions and initial feelings were right on. This is something real, and for the first time, you were able to say that you loved someone passionately, without restrictions. Looking back at all the moments you had and shared over that 3 year span, I still get a spark of excitement and naive wonderment.

However, this isn’t it. As much as you want it to be as simple as that. You’ll break his heart and regret it for a long time until you realize that, at 18, you were too young to understand the kind of love you were capable of. You were too immature to think that you could be one of those nagging, harsh, bitter girlfriends. You blew it because you were ill-equipped and blind to your flaws.

I wish you didn’t have to go through that. I wish you didn’t have to spend 3 years afraid to lose something so important to you. And I very much wish you didn’t have to deal with the scars almost two years later.

You cant say that this isn’t what you wanted though. Part of being the “girl of the world” is that you have to deal with heartache and sorrow. It comes with the independence territory. And you will soon learn how to be your own island to visit.

Welcome to the world, new Michelle.

Love,
Yourself, 5 years later.

Letter To My Younger Self: 16

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You should know the drill by now. For five days straight (this being day three), I am writing a letter to my younger self as a way to reflect, regret, and admire the person I was and am now. You can read my 6 year old self and pre-teen self at those links.

Today I bring you 16 and all of its awkward and downright depressing moments:

Dear Michelle at 16,

Congrats! You’ve learned how to drive. Dont get used to this glory. About three weeks after getting your license, you will bump into a car while making a left out of a Subway. A year after that, an asshole you went to grade school with will t-bone his truck (equipped with extremely faulty breaks) in to your poor, little Sunfire’s driver’s side. It will total the car beyond belief.

Pretty close to this picture.

Of course, dad will fix it.

But all the green paint, new wheels, and entire back seat and trunk replacement will not be able to repair the memory of that morning. Even to this day, you will shake when you think about your sister screaming upon impact. You will clam up when someone else is being even just a bit reckless while driving you. And blind left turns, well, you will avoid them at all costs from now on. Even driving in the sun will provoke flashbacks to your car spinning on the dirt road.

At 16, you have no idea what repercussions your actions will have on your current/future self. You wouldn’t believe that the “hate list” you began to write with SA would lose you countless of friends and paralyze your ability to walk the halls without judging yourself. You will begin dismissing your warranted anger…

Anger that is typically directed at the boys in your life. Just like at 6, they are as flighty as they come. From the boys you have crushes on, to the ones you actually get to date (oh, you get to date)… they will treat you as if your emotions are invalid or worthless. Remember how everyone says they are after only one thing? No, seriously, remember that. It will come in handy.

Only one will boy will prove his merit and be in your life for more than a year. In fact, he will be in your life for 8. He will be a best friend to you, and he will inspire you to make your boldest leap yet. After a year of knowing him, I’m sure you can figure out who I am talking about as you already sense his importance. Take good care of him. He will need you more than he needs you.

What doesn’t need to be fixed is your initiative and ambition. At this point, you could take over the world with that head-strong gumption. You WILL get in to college. You WILL be one of the top students in school. You WILL go to sectionals in oratory and eventually qualify for SCOTTIE. And you WILL go to Europe. Screw the idea of a community college, taking 2nd at Reed Custer behind white pants-mcgee, or staying at home to work for another summer. You are 16 now, and damnit, you are going to get what you always wanted.

You did get it- and more. Your dreams of living independently in the city, a girl with a degree and a plan for her future, couldn’t be more true. And it’s all because you are determined, excited, and motivated now. Even with a year of pain and disappointment, you will create the building blocks to near perfection.

But one word of advice, when the Christian boy you are madly in love with invites you to Bible study, it’s because they need new members, not because he wants to sing sexually suggestive songs about Jesus dying to you. Sorry to blow that.


Love,
Yourself, 6 years later

A Letter To My Younger Self: Pre-Teens

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Continuing in my quest to get my blogging mojo back, I am writing a series of letters to my younger self, start at 6 and going to 22. Today, I bring you my awkward pre-teens

Dear Pre-Teen Michelle (10-13),

Honey, put down that Backstreet Boy pillow, throw away your NSYNC beanie babies, and stop tapping every Disney Channel concert of BBMak. I’m going to warn you now that this seemingly normal obsession with boy bands will only lead to an excessive amount of clutter and many lengthy explanations on why you actually have an entire scrapbook devoted to 98Degrees in your top drawer. I’ll even make it easier on you: Lance Bass is gay. Nick Carter is a drug user (editor’s note: I stand corrected that he currently is not a drug user and is doing well for himself). The only one who will be around 10 years later will be Justin Timberlake, and he certainly isn’t crooning 12 year olds anymore.

How did you not know?!?

Moving on…

How’s therapy going? The doctor is giving you a crap load of crazy assignments to complete at school and home, but none are really hitting you like writing in your diaries. While I would never suggest censoring what you say, I do have to warn you that when you permanently move out of the house, mom will read every last one of those. Putting a big warning label on them wont do much but make it more intriguing.

My advice is to stop writing elusively about who you hate. Hate is such a strange word, and you seem to be throwing it around a ton these days. You dont hate half the girl scout troop because they sell more cookies than you. You certainly dont hate your aunts who continually help you out with homework every night. And even Angela doesn’t deserved to be hated for her certainly abnormal obsession with Grease.

It may be hard, but give people a chance. They are not always out to get you or to judge you for what you say or look like. Most of those people you call enemies will turn out to be great friends. Friends who will help you through the dark stages of high school (and yes, high school is dark and so not full of muscular, musical bad boys to sweep you off your feet).

LIES!

Those same people may be better than you at so many things, even at playing clarinet (your second obsession), but you have a great, open heart. Already at 10, you see that the environment you grow up in is full of intense bigotry, and racism. You dont understand why someone in your school wont talk to your different raced friend. You incessantly worry about children in Africa not having a school to go to. And you frequently pray that you will grow up to work in charities or as an activist.

For all those reasons, and more, you are much bigger than you think you are. Keep cultivating your introspective personality while working on having a more decisive, less fearful, voice. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a room of BSB posters with the world on your shoulders, so get out there and spread the word as best as you can.

Love,
Yourself, 13 years later

A Letter To My Younger Self:

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Ok. I’m going to be honest. I haven’t had much to write about lately. My life is pretty steady. I go to work, come home, attend a class (Monday, some Tuesdays, and Wednesdays), and sleep. Weekends are spent with B (mainly lounging).

There’s just not anything interesting to tell you about.

However, a week or so ago, my favorite site posted an article with a letter to the author’s younger self. I wrote a brief one in the comments, but I decided to expand upon that with more detailed ones for you all to read, since I am terribly void of intelligent, passable thoughts. I’m going to try to write one a day for five days, so that maybe, I’ll get my writing mojo back:

Dear Michelle at 6,

Wow. Lots has changed since you’ve started school. You’re six now, in the first grade, yet most days you could pass as a 10 year old. You’re beyond awkward and tall, and you hate that on picture day, you have to be the last to line up since it’s shortest to tallest. Adding insult to injury, you have that wavy pixie cut going that will only make you look even more like the boys you have to stand next to.

For the next four years, you will grow ever so slightly. It will be a dream- everyone rising up above you as you make your slow ascent to the front of the short line. And that pixie cut, well, you’ll rock that until you turn 22. Sorry. Mom’s inability to comb your hair now will only create a crippling inability to deal with long hair tangles and up-dos. Proof:


But give mom a break. She’s doing her best. It’s hard to be a single mom raising three kids. When she’s working till 10pm, way past your bedtime, it’s because she loves you and wants to get you those shiny, white bunk beds for the bedroom in your new house (which will be built, even though you think it’s taking longer than Noah’s Arc).

Let me put it this way, it’s like when Angela, the kids next door, and you had that arts and crafts sale in Nana’s front yard. You wanted to quit so you could play house and take care of Teddy, but you wanted money to fill your piggy bank. Filling that blue plastic pig will take a ton of effort and lots of glitter on that paper plate. But in the end, that’s the only way you can afford to buy play food for your favorite bear.

Speaking of arts and crafts, stop crying when you get glue on your hands. You look like a fool.

You especially look like a goof to the three boys you are madly in love with. This will last until you turn 16 and get your first boyfriend (and you’ll realize that they are as stupid as they were at 6). When NF plays cops and robbers with you, it’s not because he wants to hold your hand. When AA calls you smart, it’s because he needs the answers to the math test. And just ignore that “i luv youe” note from DE… he wont mean it ten years later.

At six, you should enjoy your awesome birthday parties, ignore your sister when she sits on you to get the couch, and ask your aunts for all the help they can give on your math homework. You’ll need it later on. Dont worry about boys, makeup, your parent’s arguments, or the fact that the mean girl keeps telling you that you still have your “baby hair.”

Just be a six year old, even if you still look like you’re going on 12.

Love,
Yourself, 13 years later.

Dont Rain On My Parade

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It’s been a long Labor Day weekend. It was the first time since most likely my early childhood since I’ve missed a Labor Day in my hometown.

Labor Day is a huge holiday in my little, rural town. They celebrate with 100s of tractors, marching bands, local high school teams, and reunion floats. After the parade, everyone goes to the high school for a big chicken dinner prepared by a local church and the firefighters. There’s also the obligatory talent show, beer tent, carnival games, and bingo tent.

It’s great fun when you are in high school or have a small child to chase down parade candy for you. I lost interest last year when I realized I was officially one of only two or three friends that was still attending the festivities without a husband or child.

B made it up to me with a parade of my own… made out of various toys I have around my apartment.

I did get to spend part of my extended weekend at the Chicago Fire game with The Ginger. It was a disappointing tie game, but the place was sold out and the stadium was dancing. The next day, I had my required goodbye-to-the-beach. It was lovely just to sit on the shore while reading a book. I’m going to miss the summer, I really am.

And now, I’m bundled up in a big cardigan, sitting in the office, hoping to think of something witty or mildly funny to write. I’ve got nothing, dear friends. I’m blank. And I’m out.