Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weigh-in Tuesday: Dear Twelve-Year-Old Heidi

Dear Twelve-year-old Heidi,

Hey, kiddo.  It's me.  It's you.  It's us.

Here I/you/we are at the spring music program in sixth grade.

I'm 32 now, and the other day I stumbled upon a thought I hadn't had in a long time.  I was thinking about you, and your music program in sixth grade, and how you were really having a hard time back then.  Because when you're just on the verge of a breakthrough, things can feel especially dreadful.

I remember that you felt isolated.

For one thing, you didn't feel like you were on the same page as the people in your class.  It was a small class, with tight cliques, and emotions running rampant as prepubescent hormones blossomed.  They grew up into some great people, but at the time, you were drifting apart from them.  Couples were pairing off, and it really stung as some your closest friends started holding hands with some of your crushes.  Ah, crushes.  So called for their ability to crush a little heart.  You felt completely unpretty.  You definitely felt fat - though you were at a healthy weight -  and you believed that the fat stood between you and all good things.  It's important that you hang in there, little me.  There are kindred spirits in your future.  There is great love to come.  There is upcoming comfort in your own skin, even when you're actually overweight.  (Even when you're morbidly obese.)  And there is courage to take care good of yourself, too.

For another thing, you were saddled with a teacher who discouraged you.  When you mention to a teacher that you're interested in writing, the last thing you should be told is that you'll never be a good writer.  Heck, even if you were a bad writer at the time (which you weren't) a teacher's job is to encourage and enrich the student, not put them down.  I hate to admit it, but that one statement will come back to haunt you, long after other teachers award you, bosses promote you, clients commend you for your writing.  You'll still secretly worry that your sixth-grade teacher was right, that you'll never be a writer.  But you ARE one.  Throughout your life, you'll work very hard on it, and you'll keep improving at it.  You'll even make a living doing it.

To top it all off, you were getting ready for the spring music program.  Two of the 'cool' girls were asked to do a dance together, and you were secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly) jealous of them.  I know it wasn't so much about the dancing (though you'd been studying ballet for six years)... it was about feeling lonely.  Girls with whom you wanted to fit in were spending extra time together, without you.

Chin up.  You have to realize - you weren't really excluded.  You were, in fact, invited to sing a solo.  But you didn't like the solo, because you wanted to dance with your friends.  And you didn't like the song. It though it was unpopular, like you thought you were unpopular.

But you sang that song anyway. Here you are, doing it.

Here's the thing.  That song?  It's actually one of the most beloved songs in the American music canon.  It became famous in a movie musical.  One that you will grow to love.

You'll watch it for the first time in a few years, at a cozy cabin while eating raspberry pie with your very first kindred-spirit friend.  You'll adore it.  You'll quote from it frequently.  You'll come back to it again and again.

Later in your life, you'll find yourself sitting in a lawn chair, in a cemetery, in the dark.  You'll be snuggled up in blankets, and in your husband's arms.  You'll be surrounded by several of your kindred-spirit friends, as you all stare up at a mausoleum wall, aglow with beautiful scenes from your favorite movie musical of all time.  A cool breeze will swirl around you, and you'll look up and notice that you can just barely make out the outline of the palm trees in the dark

You won't be thinking of how you sang that song in your sixth grade spring music program.  You won't be thinking of anything... except how you feel incredibly - completely - content.

 There's a little piece of advice a former (er, future?) boss gave me once.  When you're feeling jealous of someone because they... have a boyfriend... spend more time with someone else... have a moment in the spotlight... have an easier journey to good health... are more successful in their career...  or for any reason at all... you should:

...Keep your eye on your own plate.

It's a figure of speech.  It means that if you're worried about what you don't have, you should focus on what you do have.  Don't have a dance to perform like someone else?  Work hard on that solo, and really savor the fact that you get to have your own private moment in the spotlight.  Haven't sold your screenplays like someone else?  Work hard on them.  Working hard on your writing has always paid off in the past.  (See?  I'm taking the same advice.)

I think it's also good advice to take literally.  You're going to go through a long process of weight gain, little me.  It's going to be hard on you.  But in time, you'll find your balance, and then you're going to take good care of yourself - and try to do it in every way you can.  That's what I'm doing right now.  I'm down a pound this week, but I notice that I've gotten a little bit lax with the measuring, lazy about counting.  So I'm going to work on keeping my eye on my own plate.

You've got big things ahead, twelve-year-old me.  You've got places to go and people to love, who love you.  How's this for a deal?  You keep breathing, and keep trying, and keep being yourself.  And I will, too.  And in another 20 years, maybe we'll get some great insight from 52-year-old Heidi.  In the meanwhile... I am always with you, and you are most definitely always with me.



  1. Thank you for this, Heidi! I plan on taking a good look at 12 year old Rena and help apply love and wisdom to a 12 year old (turning 13 next week) B!

    Take care of you! xoxoxoxo

  2. This is so beautifully written Heidi! I often talk to my 12 year old self and keep a picture of her/me in my purse!!

  3. Love this. I admit to dwelling in my younger self perhaps too often. Music is a big trigger for me. It is strange to flip on the radio while driving my toddler to playgroup and hear a song I adored when I was 12. How can these remnants of another lifetime, many lifetimes ago, still exist?

  4. One of, if not THE Best.Post.Evar.

  5. Beautiful.

    I also had a teacher who laughed when I said I wanted to be a writer and then told me that imagination gets people nowhere. I'd love to visit her today and say "Nah, Nah, Boo Boo - imagination gets people everywhere - especially when they're working as a lead writer for a toy company".

    We rock :)

  6. Heidi - This post is so amazing, it scares me ... because I'm only one year older than you are and when I was 12 - I had the same haircut! :) You could have written this letter to "little Shelley" and every word would have resonated. And it did ... wow. Very cool, my friend. You are doing such a great job in your journey and you're going to keep one foot in front of the other. :) Take care you!