Dawn broke on Nov. 28, I was finally 14. I rolled over in bed wiping last night’s jitters from my eyelids. Like curtains, they sprung. Immediately, I noticed a glossy, deep brown Ibanez acoustic guitar stood in the corner of my room. I snatched It by the neck and raced downstairs. The kitchen spewed a myriad of tempting smells. “Mmm,” the most tempting, bacon. My dad peeked over his shoulder and smiled, “Happy Birthday, Kiddo.”
With pick in hand, I spent the rest of the day engrossed in YouTube tutorials. By evening, I‘d successfully put on my first show, performing the introduction to the Beach Boy’s classic, “California Girls.” My No. 1 fan was clapping and whistling, as I not-so-humbly bowed to my audience of one.
That was my favorite birthday. It was also my last birthday with countless claps and a splattered bacon breakfast. My dad died from heart disease nine months later.
Ten years later, my fickle fingers still manage to strum that intro. Less confident in my skills, I finagle a way to feel proud.
It’s tough. For 14 years, my father was my groupie. No matter the activity, decision, or dream, he stood behind me cheering the loudest and holding the biggest, boldest banner.
I miss those days. Not only was my dad around, but I was also my purest, happiest self. He wasn’t the core of my identity that my happiness spun around. No, he was my reflection. Day after day, my dad reminded me of who I was. He accepted the wrong notes I played and the mistakes I made. He clapped when no one else did. He showed me that it was okay to fail, that it was best to be myself.
If I acted my life out on stage now, I’d garner some nice reviews. That’s because I’ve put on quite some shows and I’ve managed to gain a fan or two. Every morning, I wake up, and dress in the trendy, designer outfits I see on Instagram. I hurry to work. For lunch, I eat organic soup and crackers specified on my diet plan. In the evening, I sit in my bed, scrolling through my friends’ Facebook feeds, critiquing their lives, and pay no attention to mine. Who was I fooling?
I’m too consumed with people, with ideas, with thoughts. I delight in smiles, but I flee from battles I should have fought. I shrug my shoulders or I say short, soft words. I’m the jester. I’m the fool. Others are happy. I’m not. Performing is taxing, especially when I’m put on the spot.
Who am I? Oh yeah, I forgot.
And when I look to the crowd, I hear those cheers. Then I see the big, bold sign.
Two weeks ago, while cleaning with my husband, I found a yellow, watered stained paper. My fingers fumbled as I tried to open it. He opened it for me and we read together.
Dear Lauren, October 15, 2001
. . . I wish the best of life can give. Be strong, but most of all, be yourself. Age 8, 18, or 38, you’re still my little girl.
My eyes widened. My husband’s teared.
“I wish I had one. I wish I had a letter,” he said. His mother had died when he was 13, of multiple complications.
I sunk deeper into a spot on the floor, sitting, thinking, analyzing his letter and my life. I heard my dad’s cheers. I picked up my notebook and attempted to write about my life on stage.
I began, “One-star performances won’t get you anywhere darling, especially if you’re not performing for yourself.” I wasn’t performing for me, but for others.
I knew what I had to do and I ran from it. But why be a mere jester when I could play a hit? I held on tight to my pencil in my hand and emptied my heart empty on the paper. I made my own guidelines. I was going to change my stage.
I wrote a letter, to me, to my husband, to us and perhaps to you.
We all need a reminder sometimes, and we all need love, too.
Can you remember the person you were, before the world told you who you should be? In this world full of pixelated screens and harsh words, the easiest way out is to put your heart in places of temporary fulfillment. And soon all our dreams and decisions reside in hollow spaces. Our dreams crumble. Our hearts break. We compromise our true selves and identities to make others happy.
If you do this, there’s something you should know: You are so loved and you belong in this world. But most of all, you deserve to be your greatest, most unique self.
Listen to your heart. First and foremost: do what you love. If you don’t know what that is, find it. Sit and let your mind wander. Find what makes you smile. Remember it.
Play your song. Listen to what your heart calls you to do. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Are you refraining from doing something you love because you are afraid of what someone thinks? Don’t. You can do this. Throw your heart on the line because it matters to you. Do it, because you’ll lose yourself, your happiness if you don’t.
Look to your groupies. This is key. Find them. Find those people who are going to love you no matter how many tomatoes are thrown. Look to them when times get hard or you just need a push.
Your critique over everyone else’s. Dig in. This is the toughest. Truth is, people will always have opinions. It’s what you do with those opinions that matter. Learn to take the criticism with a whole lot of grace and a smile. Yes, it’s hard. But don’t change something you do to please the other person based on their beliefs or opinions. Let them leave their lovely opinions with their shoes at the front door. Your heart stays in your home. Your opinions of yourself matters at the core.
Don’t hold back loves. Keep going. Sing louder. Strum faster. And you will give yourself your own standing ovation.
I’m a girl who feeds off grace and strength. I write to empty the heart and exude love. Beginning my own writing journey at https://inyourshoesweb.wordpress.com/