December 16
I'm sure details will emerge as I write, but how does one encapsulate one's life in words? I consider myself a Michigan native, now misplaced in the southern MidWest. Friends and family have called me a story teller, which is possible. To anyone who reads my work, though, I offer this caution from Isabel Allende, as she describes herself: “If you ask me to tell you my life, I will try; but it will probably be a bag of lies, because I am inventing myself all the time. And at the same time, I am inventing fiction, and through this fiction, I am revealing myself.” Cast of Characters: The Raven = My Wife. To be clear, I'm also her wife. The Giant = Our Son. I haven't legally adopted him (though I would have), but after so many years, he knows I am his parent, AKA Tia.


Owl_Says_Who's Links

FEBRUARY 28, 2010 1:09PM

Dear Owl at Seventeen (Open Call: Letter to Me)

Rate: 66 Flag

Dear Owl,


I trust you to be open-minded enough to take this letter for what it’s worth, a bit of foreknowledge from your future self.  It’s one of the things I like about you, frankly – your willingness to listen and learn.  For what it’s worth, I don’t think you lose that in the future, which is to say, I don’t think I’ve lost that – you in your early 40s still listen and learn . . . a lot, every day.


Okay, for the purpose of this letter , “you” are me at 17; “I” am you in the future.  I’ve been thinking of what I could say to you that would prove that it’s really me – something we’ve never told anyone.  Here’s your clue:  It’s Not That Easy, Being Green.”  That clue in itself holds a lot of significance to you now, I know . . . it will continue to hold significance.


First, let me tell you a few things about you that you may not know.  You’re busy playing ball, writing papers, doing the band thing, and being a leader in the youth group - you may not have the perspective that I have.  Besides, if you end up getting a handle on this stuff, my life might be better, and by extension, your life . . . whatever, you know what I’m trying to say.


You are strong – you know that.  You have moments, many moments, of wishing you weren’t so strong, wishing you could break down the way other people do.  I want to tell you that it’s okay to let people in, and that you don’t have to be strong all the time.  The very people who appreciate your strength often wonder what’s going on with you, but are too polite to say so.  They understand more than you think they do.  It’s okay to let them in.


You are beautiful/handsome.  I know you don’t know that, but you are.  Some selected others recognize it, and there will be more as you get older.  Also, for the record:  YOU ARE NOT FAT!  Athletic, yes.  Muscular, yes.  Clothing sizes and pounds are not good indicators for your body type.


You have battled depression.  It helps to call it what it is, but do not let it become your label, and do not allow it to define you.  Be aware of it, understand it.  Don’t let it scare you.  Whenever possible, let it teach you, but do not be seduced by it.  There are more weapons in the arsenal than you think – don’t be afraid to find the weapons that work for you.  You will battle it again, and you will get better at it.


DO NOT START SMOKING CIGARRETTES!!!  I know you think you never will, but I did, and I regret it.  I’m not even going to try to explain why I started smoking.  Do us all a favor, and don’t start.


Also, avoid storage units.  All I’m saying is that they’re great for keeping a lot of extra stuff in, until you get behind on payments, at which point the stuff becomes forfeit.  Trust me:  either don’t have that much extra stuff in the first place, or don’t store it somewhere you’ve got to rent the space for above and beyond whatever you’re paying in rent for living space.   I know you think you’ll never have that much stuff . . . you are wrong.


No matter what you think, your family – meaning the people who raised you – will not abandon you.  You may sometimes wish that they would - life would be simpler - but there they'll be.  There are things about your life that will conflict heavily with what they fervently believe, and what you more or less believe right now.  They may not change their beliefs, but they will always love you.  You are not specifically responsible for their happiness, or unhappiness.  Do what you can to stay connected to them, because time flies, and rifts suck.  But try not to worry about losing them, as you go about living your life.


Oh, and another important thing:  it’s early 2010, and as far as I can tell, the rapture hasn’t happened yet.  People are still worrying about the end times, but I suppose these are no more the end times than they’ve ever been.  This may take a load off in the future.  Also, almost nothing happened when the year changed from 1999 to 2000 – so all the hysteria will not be worth bugging about.


I know that you are a serious Christian, thankfully more gentle than you were in elementary school, but still . . .  Here’s the thing that’s cool about you, whether you realize it or not:  I think if you and I went out for coffee, you wouldn’t hate me.  I think you’d agree with me that my life is pretty full, and good, even if it’s not what you expected.  Then, of course, you’d pray and fast for the good of my soul.  Please don’t stress over it.  It’s going to be okay, and God is much bigger than the Church would have you believe


(By the way - that youth pastor that you have mixed feelings about?  YOU ARE CORRECT to think there's something off about him.  He likes the boys a little too young . . . that's all I'm saying.  I don't know exactly what you can do about that, but maybe keep your eyes open for evidence . . . the sooner he's stopped, the better.)


I’m deliberately leaving out some information that I think would just turn your world on its head right now.  You already semi-consciously carry the world on your shoulders, and there’s no need to add to that.  Be of good faith, though – so far as I can see, you will always have the strength you need to keep walking, keep learning, keep growing.


Thanks, by the way, for keeping such good mental notes.  Your perspective and recall have been really helpful as I've been shuffling through memories, and writing little bits here and there.  It would seem that what we lack in factualism we make up for in, um, storytelling.


I'm not a music producer, or a song writer, or a missionary, or a novelist, or a short-story author.  A lot of your dreams haven't come true . . . yet . . . and a few of the dreams have come true, just in a different form than expected.  But on the whole, we're doing good and we're doing well. 


Yeah, so . . . I guess that's it for now.  I treasure you - you are always with me.  You're okay.  And you're gonna do fine, even when you don't think so - trust me.











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This was amazing...particularly interesting to me as it related to "being strong" and to the issue of religious tolerance. Well, and I loved the news flash that the rapture hasn't yet occurred. Best of all - you clearly like yourself at both ends of the communique.
Very interesting, pithy and pretty damned funny...thanks
Very becoming for Owl - "Owl at 17 was actually cooler than Owl at 42, but not as seasoned." That is the secret life holds for us all. Great post!
Ann - Thanks . . . It was a surprise to me that I like myself then, and now. Age and perspective?

Nikki - Glad you enjoyed. It was fun to write.
FusunA - The secret is always in the seasoning!
This is wonderful. *Smiles*

I added it to the index. Your post is either number 85 or 86.
Whooooo. You are a wise owl. I like how you did not tell your seventeen year old self everything. Some of it just has to unfold. He apparently did not listen to your sage advice about taking up smoking, and other information would have fallen on those same ears.
No cigs-check; storage sheds--good way to lose stuff-check; relax about the Rapture-check. Know that your family will still be around which will be both a blessing and a curse-check. Yep, the Owl always knows. Enjoyed this one Owl--think the youngster would have listened? I was hoping you would do one.
MrsR - Thanks - I'm so glad you did this open call - I had a good time writing it, and figured out a few things along the way.

greenheron - My 17 year old self would have just freaked the hell out, and gone deeper into denial.

Dr.Spud - The youngster probably would have "taken it into consideration" for the future, but made decisions as they came up. Same as now. I didn't completely trust authority (or myself) then, either.
You blew this out of the water...just spectacular...wow. So glad you are who you are. Much love to you.
Wonderful, Owler! We're doing good, we're doing well....love it, dear one. xox
Owl, I LOVE this - you are so kind, wise, and gentle to your younger self - many of us were a little hard-headed as 17 year olds and older folks such as ourselves have to know how to speak so that they may hear - you spoke to her very, very well - I think she is able to hear you.

I think alot of our 17 year olds are able to hear your words. I know mine is - I invited her to join me when this Open Call came out Friday evening, she joined me, and now the little imp won't LEAVE! Is anyone else having this happen?? Anyway, if my 17 year old self says she can hear your message loud and clear perhaps OTHER 17 year old selves can as well? Because as I said, my 17 year old self is just a LITTLE hard-hea ("Am NOT!" "Yes, you ARE, Honey." "I AM NOT HARD HEADED!" "But, Honey, you are just a LITTLE har..." "No, I am NOT!") - See what I mean?

"Honey, please, don't play COUNTRY ROADS anymore - let's just put the guitar aside for awhile, shall we?"

Excellent post, Owl - thank you so much! ~r for style, wisdom, compassion!
If I were you dear Owl I would clip this to my mirror and keep it in view for a while since it is so stunning.
You did a marvelous job here.
I tip my hap to you here.
Lovely indeed.
Jill - I'm happy to say that I'm mostly glad I am who I am. It's been an interesting discovery made through writing, actually.

Robin - (((Robin))) Hell yes!

Kit - My 17 year old self is still tagging along, too. Wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote this, and helped edit. The idea of our young selves being able to hear us occurred to me, as well - in my world, it seems plausible!
Mission - I may do just that. It's not a bad idea, now that I think about it . . . thanks, my friend!
Insightful, thoughtful and interesting ... but I'd expect that from one of OS's most perceptive people (who doesn't write often enough for my liking).
Owl, you nailed this one. And somehow I think that you might've been the one 17 year old topay attention to these letters!

re: the "I'm deliberately leaving out" para--maybe you should tell her to listen to "Hey, Jude" once a day.
Dear Owl,
Although I know you through your words only it's been obvious you have an astute sensibility. I'm so glad you mentioned the strength of the 'listening' part. It is a rare quality in the culture we live where most relish in the sound of their own voice. Your ability to listen, to hear and to read between the lines is evident in the comments you leave. I really enjoyed this conversation between both of you.

It has been interesting to see this Open Call unfold. It seems therapeutic for everyone. The storage part was interesting to me.
I can relate ...
Clearly the best aspects of the person you have become were present in your 17-yr-old self, and I like how gentle you were with the younger you while demonstrating what you've brought with you to be where you are. If you can follow that. I really like this.
Boanerges1 - Thanks, B. I don't write often enough for my liking, either. ::sigh:: Never enough time . . .

Pilgrim - I wish I'd thought of "Hey Jude" - not a bad idea!

Scarlett - Aww, thanks. My biggest strength, perhaps, is that I know how much I don't know . . . I'm just as big an idiot as the next person. A lot of what I write here is part of working through my thoughts and emotions, filling in a part of myself I left blank for awhile, and rediscovering my voice. This Open Call has been fascinating to follow . . . how do we approach ourselves? The storage units would be a whole 'nother post . . .
Re: the storage unit - Amen. I really like your approach to your younger self. You have a tone that a 17-year old might actually pay attention to. Your love and respect shines through.
mginmn - I follow you . . . I've been realizing that beating myself up hasn't been very productive, because I don't listen very well - probably just a human thing - when someone's yelling, we're a little resistent to their ideas. So this was an effort to exercise that idea - being gentle with oneself.

WalkAwayHappy - Shucks, Lady - you know I love you too.

Stim - LOL. Nice to know I'm not the only one with the storage unit thing! The love and respect is hard-won over years, but it's one of the most important things I've been learning, I think.
"Oh, and another important thing: it’s early 2010, and as far as I can tell, the rapture hasn’t happened yet. People are still worrying about the end times, but I suppose these are no more the end times than they’ve ever been. This may take a load off in the future. Also, almost nothing happened when the year changed from 1999 to 2000 – so all the hysteria will not be worth bugging about."

^^ made me burst into from the bottom of the bowels belly full type of laughter.

thank you for sharing all of it.

You are aptly name, Owl. This is neat. I see you more clearly now, and I think if the four of us went out for coffee now, we'd get along well. I especially like "there are more weapons in the arsenal than you think." There are, indeed. (r)
Renatta - LOL - I'm so glad. We all need a deep laugh now and then! Respect indeed. Namaste.

ClarkK - I bet the four of us would have a lot to talk about. Thank goodness for the damn arsenal!
I really liked this part: "Thanks, by the way, for keeping such good mental notes. Your perspective and recall have been really helpful as I've been shuffling through memories, and writing little bits here and there..." As if the younger Owl knew, somehow, you might need those notes.
Tons of good advice here (I don't believe in storage units either) and I love that you thanked yourself for the mental notes.
The 17 year old version of you is very lucky to have the new and improved version that you became. That's all I'm saying.
Bellweather - LOL - for as long as I can remember, I've had a narrator running in my head, like the "Secret Life of Walter Mitty" for a writer. It's distracting sometimes, when I'm listening to someone pour out her heart, and the narrator says something like "her tears cascaded . . . no, drizzled . . . no, that's not right either . . . " Mostly, though, we cohabitate in my brain fairly peacefully.

sophieh - Storage units are on my black list. It's a short list, but still.

cartouche - Writing this helped me see that she and I continue to help each other periodically. I wouldn't be me without her - and it's cool to see who she's still becoming. I do wish she'd listen on the smoking, though.
Here's a thought about these 17 year olds running around with us - In fact, they are much older than we are. My 54 year old self is only a few months old, my CURRENT 54 year old self is a mere few SECONDS old - but my 17 year old self has been a part of me for 37 years! That's 37 years of bringing forth experience and hopefully wisdom. If you think about this too much, though it will start turning your brain into little lime colored jello-like globs. I don't know why it's lime colored.

The point is that perhaps we would do well to pay attention to what our old selves have to say to us - they sacrificed who they were to bring us to who we are!

"No, Honey, SERIOUSLY! Please play something besides Country Roads!"

Owl, I wish I could rate you again!
"God is much bigger than the Church would have you believe."

God-damn right!

That is what Owl would write. Intriguing, wise and funny, and best of all, I learned much.
Owl, practical advice and wisdom and clues and maybe I should have gotten you to write the 17 year old me.
lovely bits of advice to your younger self. so wise. and very funny--to the storage unit advice, i would add, 'don't store food in your storage unit.' a friend did, and found a colony of mice who had been living off the pounds of food she had left in there. of course, they had colonized all the furniture, too.
beautiful writing. thanks for posting this.
Well I sure hope something was done about that youth pastor...sooner the better indeed.
This is great. I love how you reassured yourself that everything in the future would be okay, without revealing too much. Brilliant and fascinating!
This is great. I think I might have known your 17 year old self. At least, I knew a lot of kids very much like you. Some are still close friends, most not. And I wonder how many have had their world view change as much as your appears to have changed. Fascinating stuff!
I love this for such great understanding that you might, or will, really like grown up you. I think I would have been a good mentor to 17 year old Alison who certainly needed a few. Cool ones, that is.
Also, a fascinating glimpse into the young owl's state of being - sensitive, searching, seeking...love it and you.
Kit - I like your time/space relativity thinking . . . back when I had more imagination, I often played with such things through fiction because it was fascinating. Still is, really.

Thoth - You just named three adjectives that please me very much! Thanks, Thoth, as always.

Mrs.M - I would be honored, but alas, I haven't met her. However, I'd be as honored to meet her as I have been to meet you. Perhaps someday the four of us will raise a glass together. Bailey's?

FLW - Excellent addition to the advice on storage units! I wouldn't have thought of it, but that's very, very sensible!

Torman - It was, but it's never soon enough. Last I heard, the guy was in jail.
Lisa - Well, so much of life is in the learning. If something had happened dramatically differently, I don't know where the current me would have ended up. Besides, the 17-year-old me was only open to so much info.

Procopius - My brother and I were talking recently about the kids we grew up with - he'd gone to a class reunion. Some are exactly where I would have expected, but all have experienced some serious stuff over the years. Most have not had as large a change in world view.

aim - I think you would be a good mentor to any 17-year-old. Ya' know, if they'd have the good sense to take you up on it, anyway. The mutual liking of young me and current me came as a surprise to me. It's not that I walk around hating myself, but it's easy to kick the crap our of ourselves needlessly - young us and current us. If that makes any sense at all.
I love this.. Beautifully and nicely done.. Simply wonderful..
Great advice..
Really nice, Owl. An acknowledgement of your younger self's strengths as well as reassuring her the worst hasn't happened..yet. =o)
I love this, Owl, especially: "Do what you can to stay connected to them, because time flies, and rifts suck. " Yup. So much wisdom, but then again, you're Owl. Stay as wise as you are in all your incarnations.
fireeyes - Thanks, Lady.

Shiral - I find I'm still telling myself some of those things. Part of the gig, growing up, I guess.

Deborah - I keep trying to get wiser . . . long term pursuit, right?
This was such a fun and thought-provoking exercise for us. I love seeing how so many different personalities tackle the assingment.

Great advice to your 17 year old self!
Very different and some good advice on storage units. Yes, you are a very good listener/friend/reader - people in your world are lucky!
Nice! You have a voice that anyone would want to listen to... I know I did!
"You are not specifically responsible for their happiness, or unhappiness."

ain't it the truth... your 17 yr old self won't believe you though, but I've just learned that in the last 5 years myself. This was precious. I love how gentle you are with yourself, one of the most wonderful characteristics about you. Most people fall into one of two groups of varying degrees: gentle with others and secretly hard on oneself or never giving others the benefit of the doubt coupled with the "victim" status.

You seems to have learned the wisdom that compassion for both are required.

thanks for this...
I loved it all. I think Owl suits you so well as you are so wise and I love how you warn but don't and the way you talk to yourself is incredible. Well done!!!
I really loved this. I especially love the paragraph about depression.
"Don't let it define you." All of it so wise. _r
Cathy - It's been cool to read these, hasn't it?

Leonde - I have some strengths. I try to use them. I fail at least as much as anyone. But I keep going.

Julie - That's a very kind compliment - thank you. Depends on the subject - people who know me on OS have the advantage of small doses.

Y Heron - I'm working on that balance. Within my own mind, I can be brutal to myself. Within the last year or so, I've become more aware of the damage it does - rather than driving me forward, it wears me out. I can only keep learning, but I suppose if I knew everything, I'd be bored anyway.
A smart piece...I was believing it...I guess I DO believe it!
Great advice, especially about the storage lockers. They are one of the biggest rip-offs ever. Unless you need them just temporally, they suck. Great Post Owl~
Well said. There are a lot of messages here that are valid at any age. Listening to one's gut feeling about people is a valuable thing that lots of folks never learn. All that and humor, too.....rated.
Lunchlady - Aww, thanks Lunchlady. You're pretty awesome yourself. Like I said to Heron, it's a process.

Joan H. - I worked that paragraph over a few times. In doing so, I realized that it hadn't . . . I've succeeded in that, so far. I also recognize that any one person has to find the weapons that work for them . . . there's no one-size-fits-all, in my opinion.

Gary - LOL. I think I believe it, too.

scanner - No doubt. Someday, when I'm beyond my anger/grief at the storage locker debacle, I may write about it. Then again, it's a long story wherein I didn't learn my lesson, and look pretty much like an idiot.
bikepsychobabble - I ended up cracking myself up over how much of this I still need to tell myself!
I like the read and the good humor. I know you a little better from this perspective.
scupper - Thanks for coming by to read. Always good to see you!
Owl, this was wonderful. I like that you kept some things from the ears of your 17-year old self. Just encourage her along and put your arm gently around her shoulders.
Loved this. LOVED it! I think I'll just send your letter to me, at 17.
So happy that I get to know the 42 year old Owl - so thankful to the 17 year old Owl for helping her to become who she is today.
Kris - Well, I didn't want to disrupt the time continuum TOO much . . . and it occurred to me that sometimes, if we know what's going to happen, we spend too much time dreading it.

AnniThyme - Chica, if it helps, it's all yours. On the other hand, you know your 17-year-old self better than anyone, right?

mamoore - Me too. Definitely me too.
Good job, Owl! Rated!
You. Now. Then.

I read this last night. I wanted to and I didn't want to. I was afraid. Foolish, I know. I love your understanding - of people, of the world, of yourself. You teach me a great deal about patience and peace with every post, but this is a shining star in your crown. No blame, no fault, just a life lived with love. I admire you so very much.
Wow! I am so impressed by your insight, humor and take on life. If we were only this smart at 17 we could have avoided some of the crap! Great post!
Rod - Thanks, man!

1_Impressive_Mother - Chica, I hope you realize that I admire you as well. I was initially puzzled about the fear, except that sometimes I am afraid when I write. I don't know what I might accidentally expose - and I don't know if it will be "too much" or "too little." The same thing happens with some of the the things I read, especially on OS. Sometimes the way someone expresses something just rips through me, and stays with me for days/weeks. Please understand, I'm learning as I go, too - I fall as often as the next person - but I'll keep getting up.

rainee174 - I know, right?
So wise, evenhanded, and all-around kind. You are amazing!
Sparking - You're one of my inspirations!
Ah, Owl! You are giving yourself such good advice . . . especially the parts about not smoking and avoiding storage units. And of course the message that you're gonna be okay.
I learned a lot about you, but also things that I should know about my own self from reading this. Very meaningful. rated.
This is sweetness itself.

And I laughed hard at the storage graf.
Hells Bells - If I'd listened to that advice, I'd be richer in so many ways. Time has made me a believer that it's gonna be ok - at least most of the time.

Caroline - I'm still learning a lot of that stuff, which is probably what made me think of telling my younger self.

Greg - Thanks, man. I think I could be happy living with just a backpack and a good dog . . . or a cat, if I was staying in one spot. But with a family, that's not very practical. Thus the too much stuff, storage unit, loss of stuff problem.
"I’m not even going to try to explain why I started smoking. Do us all a favor, and don’t start."
That time thing. Gotta admit that the things I wish I hadn't done have had value.
geezerchick - No doubt. I can't claim huge regrets about much . . . my "failures" have taught me more than most of my "successes."
The storage unit forfeit thing is a really expensive way to throw stuff out. I say something light because I'm not good at being emotional, and what you wrote was very, very nice. You are very sweet to young you, which must mean that whatever happened along the way, you turned out better than you could have imagined.
Great letter!!! Rated!!!
I like your seventeen-year-old self.

This letter could have been written to my seventeen-year-old self. Yep. We have that much in common.

I really liked this post. Thanks, Owl. You rock!
moisttowlette - No doubt - a bonfire would at least have been cheaper. And I'd have to say that I'm pleased with how things have gone regarding the things that matter.

Tink! I love you!

Gwen - Sometimes I think we were twins, separated at birth . . . apparently fraternal twins, but still! I'm honored.
I thought I read this the other day but I missed it. I love how you lay it down for her. My favorite thing, I think is in the very begining when you explain to her who you are. That was pretty clever and set the tone for your letter. I get that she would not be trusting at first and would be lie Huh? R.
Patty - Thanks! Yeah, my young self was pretty guarded . . . that hasn't entirely changed, but perhaps a better balance has been achieved.
Cindy - There's no such thing as "late" to a post. And thanks for reading . . . I do wonder what I would have thought of this message at 17 . . .
Umm, storytelling. How we choose to relay the story of our life is such an interesting process and journey. I like that your stories make me laugh with the recognition of myself in your mirrors.
Zing - That is so very true . . . as we mature, the angle of the story may change. The characters who were once evil may become heroes . . . because we better understand motivations and perspectives.
Kyle - I know, right? Thanks for coming by!
A reassuring letter so many of us could have used at 17... Yes, I feel quite sure that your "17" would like you very much indeed.
annette - Hard to say for sure . . . there would have been that little matter of faith.