Letter to My Six-Year-Old Self by Melissa A. Bartell

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Dear MissMeliss

Hi, this is your future self. I’m older than Mom is right now, so you might not believe me, especially since I have pink hair, and while you’re a fairly well-traveled little girl (you’re a seasoned pro at flying without an adult), I know for a fact you’ve never seen anyone with pink hair. Still, if you look closely, you can see the echoes of yourself in my face. Like the beauty mark on our cheek, or the way we both have really long eyelashes, or… well, look, just trust me on this one, okay?

So, if I’m timing this right you’re somewhere between six and seven years old. You have your windy wheat-colored hair cut into a Dorothy Hamill ‘short-n-sassy’ wedge, and you’re missing your two front teeth.

Remember that phrase – ‘short and sassy’ – the haircut will go out of style, but you will never be tall, and you will always be sassy. Or snarky. Although at some point you’re going to learn to think first and sass later.

No, really, you will.

You’ll also learn that making stuff up isn’t just something you do when you’re bored or lonely, it’s a skill you’ll turn into a livelihood someday.

But I’m not writing this to scare you with stuff from the future, because, let’s face it, you won’t listen anyway.

And who can blame you?

Instead, I have some advice for you about the now.

Your now, not my now.

Like, when you’re riding your red bike? The one you love to ride through the mud puddle in the vacant lot across the street from Mitzi’s store? Make sure you take really good care of that bike because it’s going to take you to some amazing places.

You’ve already gone beyond the mud puddles.

You ride out to Mrs. Godoy’s house some weekends with your friend Siobhan, and sometimes you spook yourself when you stay later than you’re supposed to and the shadows have descended through the trees on that one stretch of road right before the dirt transitions back to asphalt and you see the lion heads on the old hotel, and the awning of the ice cream store.

I know the shadows are scary, and we both know the Headless Horseman isn’t really following you, but it’s fun to be a little bit scared when you know it’s not real, so enjoy it.

And you and your friends made that trip out to the reservoir, even going on the highway for that one section… You had so much fun skipping stones out there, but then you realized how far you had to ride to get home, and you raced each other, making it a game so that you wouldn’t be afraid of getting caught.

You never got caught.

You take special delight in riding up and down the street outside the Maxwell House. I know you’re in love with the wrought iron trim that looks like the curlicues on a Hostess cupcake, but I also know that you can’t stop wondering if those ghost stories are true, and there’s a part of you that really wants to find out.

Face it kiddo, except when you want to feel that thrill, you’re pretty fearless.

I wish I could tell you to stay fearless, but the reality is that as we grow up and learn more about the world, fear creeps in. Not the kind of fear that involves Frankenstein’s monster hiding in your closet (I promise, Frankenstein’s monster will never be in your closet.) The kind of fear I mean, is the grown up kind about things like getting a good job and finding a nice house, and stuff like that.

Don’t worry, you’ve still got plenty of fearless years left.

Instead, I want to tell you to hold on to your sense of wonder.

Chase the fireflies when you visit Grandmom and Grandpop. Ride every wave you can, and pretend you’re flying while you do it. Watch the way the ripples freeze into the surface of the lake in the winter. When Benjamin comes to visit, climb up to the top of the hill behind the courthouse, and lie on the grass with him, and pretend you can actually feel the earth spinning.

Search for patterns in the clouds, whether they’re the kind in the sky, or the kind in the coffee Mom drinks.

As I write this, it’s pouring down rain outside my window, and I’m thinking about how much you love rain. In about three years, you’re going to spend an afternoon blissfully tap-dancing around an empty parking lot, and when the rainbow comes out after the storm, you’ll take the credit for its existence.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

And until then? Read like crazy. When that boy with the freckles asks you if you want to ‘go’ with him, say yes. He’s really sweet. And, don’t be too mad at Mom when she says you’re too young for that Shaun Cassidy album. What she’s really trying to say is that you’re her little girl, and she doesn’t want you to rush too fast into growing up. (Besides, they’ll play his stuff on the radio all the time.)

So, the good news? You will never know a time when you are not safe and loved. You will never have to worry about where you will live. You will always have enough to eat.

The bad news? There are a few things that won’t go your way, but when you get older and learn about improvisational theatre, you’ll understand that what other people call failure is often just the gift of a new direction.

Ultimately, you’re going to end up with an awesome life that is uniquely yours, and you will love living in the future.

Pink hair and all.

All my love,

Your future self.

Image Copyright: waldru / 123RF Stock Photo

 

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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