Category Archives: love letters to young girls

Why Being Alone Makes You Ready For Something More

Nine months ago, when my parents shut my apartment door behind them, quietly extricating themselves, my biggest fear was something altogether unexpected.

It wasn’t starting my first job out of college, flying solo in a brand new place, learning the names and faces of strangers. It wasn’t mastering my Saturday morning route to Target or analyzing the best times to grocery shop.

I was scared because, for the first time, I was alone with myself.

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In high school, I had clung to lack of a relationship status the way one might a shrunken recreational league soccer t-shirt from their youth: with the comfort it brought, the fear of being somebody’s Somebody much too much to stomach.

Then, mid-way between high school and college, I jumped feet first into a real relationship. It felt a bit like landing in one of those sidewalk chalk sketches in Mary Poppins: like this world was always beneath my feet, but I’d been too busy fearing the fall to see it.

For eighteen months, I became half of someone else’s whole. I let that relationship consume me.

My habits, my opinions, my unsure tendencies? They wrecked me.

For almost three years, I alternated between being defined by others and closing them out for fear they might not like the person they’d pinpointed.

People pushed me into corners, telling me I was never as good as them. I let myself become best at one thing: not handing my whole self over.

And so while I wholly adore the life not tethered to another breathing soul, it’s probably for all the wrong reasons: that I’ll be judged, in the worst possible way, as someone who cannot possibly be understood over a plate of pasta or a cup of coffee; that I’ll be too quiet, too thoughtful, too introverted, too passionate about all the wrong things; that I will be the sort of person who makes you cock your head and think, “Huh, well if that’s what makes you happy…”

And that’s wrong. Let’s just call it what it is.

We weren’t meant to tout singledom like an exemplary indication that we are somehow better for not putting our heart into someone else’s hands and closing their fingers over it, whispering a brief “please be careful” before kissing their cheek.

We are not better. We are not worse. We are just in this place where right now, aloneness is the scariest, most rewarding thing we need to hold. Not hands or hearts or silver diamond bracelets, but our truest selves.

That’s what this living alone, this owning up to myself, has been. It’s what being single should allow: a moment, however brief, to know who you are when you don’t have to be somebody, when you don’t have to impress somebody under some false pretense to make them stay.

Someday, you’ll be able to jump into a relationship and know you really, really dislike folding the laundry, or wearing your hair up, or driving fifteen miles over the speed limit.

You’ll feel content with that, won’t have to messy it with self-effacing thoughts.

You’ll feel right when your hand finds another on a snowy Saturday afternoon.

You’ll know, maybe for the first time, that you don’t have to apologize for you. And you’ll be OK to dive into something more.

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One Question, 10 Answers: What’s The MOST Important Lesson You Learned In 2012?

I’m a big believer in life-long learning and, at times, a bit anxious about that statement. The truth is, these years we’re in right now are some pretty wild and tough ones. But we’re experiencing them on this vast spectrum and none of us can capture all the lessons ourselves. We’ve GOT to learn from others, too.

So I sent an email to people all over the country and in different places in their lives, some in school, some ready to find a job, some firmly rooted in a career and others feeling timid about how miserable they feel.

I asked them one question: What’s the MOST important lesson you learned in 2012? Here’s what they had to say.

1. Convention is overrated.

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“I will have a TABLE of people at my some-day wedding that I met through Twitter, Facebook or email chains. I have met so many people who I consider to be important pieces of my life that I NEVER would have met if I were too skeptical to look outside of the ‘box’.

Also, that hard work will always, ALWAYS pay off. Always.” – @dmdgiants, senior at Marist College, intern with the New Jersey Devils

2. I am enough.

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“On a particularly self-loathing day in 2012, I decided to do some research on positive mantras when I came across this one. For much of my life, my perfectionist self had struggled to be “the best” (whatever that means) and often compared my successes, and shortcomings, to others.

I work a nine-to-five at a software company only to come home after a yoga class, maybe a run and an hour commute to write away for whichever assignment I was lucky enough to receive. These days are trying; these days are long. I go to bed exhausted and hope to awake with renewed energy and strength.

I spent much of 2012 hoping for a better future – a better job (full of writing), a better outlook on life, a better me.

Then one day it hit me. I’m missing the best of today looking for a better tomorrow. I am missing the beautiful imperfections of the now in hopes for an impossibly flawless future.

I need nothing more than to be the ‘me’ I am today.

I am enough. And so are you.” – @taylornunez, Software specialist, freelance journalist for Worcester Magazine and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, yoga enthusiast

3. Make yourself happy.

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“I learned last year that you have to make yourself happy, no one else will do that for you. Take time to do the small things that make you enjoy life, like reading a book or baking your favorite cookies. Take care of yourself because you can’t be the good in the world if you feel like crap.” – @cerogers0, graduate student at James Madison University, student teacher

4. Go four for four.

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“1. You can and will make the same mistakes twice if you’re not careful. But you can also rebuild your life a thousand times over. Thankfully, there’s no limit on that.

2. Every single person has his or her own idea of what happiness, success and failure would look like in his/her life. Define yours and don’t compare yours to anyone else’s version.

3. Leave when you need to leave.

4. Twitter is a really excellent place to meet wonderful people.” – @clairembiggs, freelance writer for MTV Act

5. Find a hobby.

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“Don’t be ashamed to live your college life on the couch, not going to class, eating bonbons and watching the Kardashians because that couch is the perfect training grounds for the soul-deadening desk job — in which you will spend 35 out of 40 hours of your working week alternately staring off into space and compulsively checking every manner of social media site and/or food blog — that awaits us all. But perhaps it’s important to find a hobby just to enliven your soul or alleviate boredom or some shit; mine is moonlighting as an ESL teacher.” – @samanthascotti, proofreader, ESL teacher

5. The Internet is a web.

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“I’ve learned not to underestimate the power of a single connection to a person or organization because it can lead to even more connections and more opportunities for development.  The three online communities that I write for (HUGstronger, So Worth Loving, and The Write Teacher) are all things I found through The World Needs More Love Letters, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of them.

Related to that, I’ve also learned that making connections over the Internet is okay.  I think a lot of people are worried about the internet somehow making us less social or ruining our lives, but there’s a wealth of information, opportunity, and cool people out there on the World Wide Web.  It’s not a black hole of distraction if you use it right.” – @erind90, senior at Clarke University, blogger

6. Let love in.

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“2012 taught me that it’s okay to let people love you. It’s okay to trust that you are lovable and intriguing and close to perfection for someone else. Don’t be scared to smile at a stranger- they could have a story you need to hear. Take the risk and email the girl whose blog you read – she could surprise you and reply (Thanks, Kaleigh for replying to my own email!). Let a boy ask you about the scars on your heart and tell him the truth- he could teach you what it’s like to feel a little bit closer to whole. And most of all, it’s okay to love yourself. Look in the mirror, smile and realize you are beautifully made. Love makes life, life.” – @lab54, photographer

7. Trust yourself.

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“I think we have this tendency to second guess ourselves. Because of our age or where we are in life or because we’re just unsure of what will happen next. Trust that initial gut feeling though; it happens for a reason. Know that being young does not mean sacrificing confidence. Be bold, be curious, and be open to learning. Just trust yourself along the way as well – you’re capable of doing great things.

My P.S. lesson is that you should always invest time, love, and energy in people.” – @fiestaga, Outreach Coordinator for Reading Partners – Baltimore

8. You’ll survive the sting.

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“One day, you’re going to have to leave behind all the magnificant-things-happening-at-this-moment-in-time for something even more wondrous. It’ll sting for a bit, but without moving forward, how will you bloom?” – @lovemesomebags, student at James Madison University, Chief Designer at Gardy Loo

9. Honesty is terrifyingly necessary.

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“Honesty is an essential part of bravery. Be honest firstly with yourself. Don’t be afraid of who you are, what you want, and how you are feeling. After you can learn to be honest with yourself, you can be honest with those around you. Honesty can lead to some of the most terrifying moments for your soul, but they are moments that grow your soul and your relationships. Do not fear honesty. It is your companion and your victor.” – @livfierce, student and photographer

10. Love yourself first.

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“I think that the most important lesson that people not only our age but every age can learn to is to love themselves. Our world can be cruel and cold (I know this too well) and too often do people let that affect the way they think about themselves, judging too harshly and beating themselves up. We spend so much time trying to be like other people we forget to be who we are but once you embrace who you are fully, it is beautiful and liberating and fearless. And yes everyone has insecurities, I will always think I have man shoulders, I don’t wear many hats because I think my head is too big, I think I am a little too messy and I wish I didn’t procrastinate so much. But when it comes down to it, none of that stuff matters because the truth is, I had to sit and think for 10 minutes to come up with those four things because instead I kept thinking that I like, no, LOVE that my eyes change different hues of blue and my hair is kind of out of control curly sometimes, that I speak my mind too often. I LOVE that I laugh too loud, and smile too big and I eat too much sugar. All things that could be listed as flaws but I just can’t see them that way.

So here’s the secret to being happy, to loving others and to success. Except it’s not so secret. Everyone from Maya Angelou to Albert Einstein to Lady Gaga can be quoted saying how important it is to love yourself. Because once you start those positive thoughts will consume you and radiate out of you. So you will be willing to risk, and change and take chances (which is my second most important piece of advice) because once you know how wonderful you are, others can’t help but see it too.” – Emily, student at Temple University, aspiring actress

This hole you’re in? It’s not so mighty.

Please Note: As today’s featured blogger for More Love Letters, I wrote this for Madeline, a high school student who started homeschooling herself last winter after falling behind in her studies because of her depression and anxiety. Winter is particularly tough for her and she’s really in need of some inspiration that things will get better. More Love Letters is running the 2nd Annual 12 Days of Love Letter Writing through tomorrow (Dec. 14). Join me?

Dear Madeline,

I’m going to tell you a story in the hopes that, despite the fact that I have only half a decade or so on ya, it sparks some hope inside you.

Three years ago, I came close to dropping out of college. Not forever and not for lack of motivation—I had spent most of that semester cramming my small self into a study corral for five six seven hours at a time.

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I was depressed. Deep down inside my bones. In the hole in my gut. In my tired fingers as I read and reread the same statistics problems. While every other twenty-year-old was out on the Quad throwing Frisbees in the April sun. I was sinking into myself and focusing on my grades rather than admit that I couldn’t eat anything without straight up feeling bad about it.

So I know what that feels like, when your health comes trampling all over your ache to just be fine just fine. Just be happy. Just be calm.

Anxiety has held me hostage for my entire life and depression almost lost me a semester. I don’t want that for you. I don’t want you to lose your spark and your spunk and your hope that this hole you’re in? It’s not so big. It’s not so mighty. It’s not doing anything but keeping you from ever seeing the sun.

We worriers and anxious ones like to pick ourselves apart like character traits in dating ads. We think that there is black and there is white and there isn’t any room for grays. We can’t be happy if we’re sad. We can’t be strong if we’ve broken. We can’t be proud if we’ve had to yank ourselves out of school and put our health first.

But that’s what you did, lady. You said, “I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to stick around. I’ve got to start demanding some sunlight when I throw open my curtains every morning.”

And I would hate for you to focus on the rain. I’d hate for you to worry about the snow.

I’m going to say this because I know it well: when we worry, when we’re anxious, when we’re depressed, it’s like we’d rather sit up and see the darkness than wish for light. It’s like we’re afraid to want something better because if we don’t get it, if better doesn’t shine so brightly, we’ll feel worse.

But life is all risk and reward. It’s leaping into the light expecting your shadow not to cover it. It’s thinking about how much lay ahead, how much you have yet to just relish for a couple decades. How many memories you’ve yet to dwell on.

I hope you find the good. I hope you remember the bad and let it make you stronger and I hope you never ever let anyone make you feel bad for putting your health first.

Stay tough. Stay caring. High school is just the beginning. There will be great and mighty big days ahead. And you will smile again. Oh, how you’ll smile.

With Hope & Love,
Kaleigh

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A Letter To The Girl In The Mirror

It’s two years ago that I began this journey. Two years ago that I turned away from Blogger in favor of something more serious, something that would rouse me out of bed in the morning, something that would pin my favorite moments of my little sister to a page much larger than mine.

Back then, I thought I would lose her. And then, I thought I already had. But now, she lives here. Even as her Honda Civic heads southwest tomorrow, not stopping until she reaches the small Virginia town I used to call home.

This is a letter to the girl in the mirror, but it’s also a letter to her.

The her I hope to never lose. The her I hope sits in my inbox every once in a while, who buzzes me awake at 2 am. The her I hope to see before November almost hands autumn over to December.

This is for her. Written for me. A year ago.

“I’m thrilled but terrified. Excited but nervous. I look in the mirror and try to place the girl staring back: short hair, small curves, a shy smile.

I try to figure out where she came from, if she was always buried deep inside. I hope she still laughs at her own jokes and lights up when she gets a compliment. I hope she still reaches far but doesn’t expect too much. I hope her dreams grow into waking moments and that when she reaches them, she doesn’t look back and wonder why she ever wanted them.

I hope she grows up but not old and I hope she falls in love for real this time. With a boy who wants to love her back and doesn’t want to change a hair on her body.

I hope she doesn’t twiddle her thumbs through this next year and I hope she wakes up ready to conquer the world and she stops doubting herself because she has unconventional ideas.

I hope she isn’t trying to be someone she isn’t because she’s perfect just the way she is.”

If you could write a letter to the girl in the mirror, what would it say?

My Promise To You: On Bullies, Breathing & Being Fifteen

I used to have almost a thousand hormonal and emotional preteen girls following my missteps. And I did nothing about it.

I regret that—not because it would’ve made me pretend to feel less messy emotions or be more self-aware, but because I never tried to reach out to those hundreds of girls. I never bothered to learn their names or memorize the way they parted their hair or the bangles that always clanked when they ran their fingers through it in mock exasperation.

And isn’t that the way we learn? By asking the questions we have and hoping someone else throws back an answer that’s easier to swallow? Isn’t that the reason we read a stranger’s words and call them understanding?

I was fifteen. I had a quote Xanga.

Quotes From The Heart, it was called. And it’s still floating around the ether, if ever you need to know what my fifteen year old self had to say about feeling out of place and less than loveable.

I wrote about heartbreaks that weren’t yet real, boys who thought I was invisible, girls whose favorite pastime was passing notes in American Government with words like queer hitched to my name.

And wouldn’t it be nice to punch her in the face and pretend it wasn’t me?

I sat for hours trying to decipher that one. And six years later, I can tell you it’s a funny thing to say. It’s a funny thing to think you can deck someone in the nose and they won’t know it was you. It just doesn’t work.

I think I would’ve asked those eight hundred or so girls what they thought about bullying. And boys. And beginning to dread gym class because you weren’t so good at the mile run or the shuttle run or anything that required putting one step in front of the other.

I would have asked them what they clung to in my own missteps or what they hoped when they logged on and saw that I had updated since last they checked. I would have learned their worlds, one at a time, and tried to answer the questions they had the courage to ask.

I hope you know you can do that with me. You can send me an email or a text message or a tweet. You can expect an answer that doesn’t put a label on what you’re feeling or try to tell you it’s nothing, really, to be fifteen and terrified of the girl sitting next to you, stewing with anger because you exist.

Because you dared to breathe next to her. I hope you’re not holding your breath. I hope you’re feeling the burden lift. If not, begin today.

I’ve been in the business of laying strips of my heart onto html-coded web pages for far too long to stop now. If you are just finding me, I am here. Here. Ready for you.