A Letter to Myself at 16: To Whom it May Concern

Philosophy: What’s coming will come and life goes on…even if it’s the hard way.

I know you’re a nose away from signing the papers, but you’re not going to do it. In a year, or so, you’ll thank your lucky stars your dad told you the Air Force won’t let you paint your nails. After all, that’s really what kept you away…in early 2001. Nail polish kept you from being deployed to the Iraq war.

You’re running your heart out now, but you won’t take the offer to run for Walsh College. You’ll think back when you’re 26 and wish you had, but you won’t lose sleep over it.

You will run in the Akron Marathon one day. You’ll see the coach, even in the thousands of people running, that told you you would never have it in you to finish road races. You’ll remember that conversation in 7th grade and you’ll dig deep to pass her.

When you do, that’s what will give you the last wind you need to cross the finish line. You’ll also lose two toenails because of it. A small price to pay.

A smooth-talking professor will pull you aside and tell you you have a gift for Philosophy. He won’t tell you how impractical it is. Neither will your mom. When you ask her why she didn’t force you into business school, she’ll tell you it was because you liked what you were doing. You won’t understand that until you have a daughter.

Your dad knows what it looks like when you jack knife a trailer into the side of his F150. You know that, but you’ll still tell him it was a shopping cart. Even when you’re 35, you’ll wonder why he ever let you drive that thing with a trailer on it.

You’re doing your best to convince yourself you’ll have no problem replacing your first love who just left you for Ashland College. You’ll feel better in the years ahead, but you never will replace him completely, nor should you.

You’ll spend some time hell-bent on proving everyone wrong and living like you know it all. You don’t. But time spent living that way will come in handy later when realize you didn’t know it all, but you were learning most of the things that will get you through the hard times.

Even though you missed the Air Force, you’ll take flying lessons from an arrogant French instructor. He’ll tell you you can’t fly in high heels, so you’ll do it just to prove him wrong.

You’ll pray to die when he teaches stalls and he’ll call you ricochet rabbit because of the way you land. You’ll never get your license, though. You’ll never solo and you’ll wish you had.

When you leave for Texas, turn back around as you drive away. What you see waving to you is what will bring you back home in a year and a half.

Speaking of Texas, you’ll make it through the homesickness. You’ll graduate up at the top, but you won’t stick around to walk across the stage. You won’t regret that either. Oh, and about homesickness, don’t bother crying to your dad about it. He was in Viet Nam.

You’ll fall in love again. When you do, say yes. Even though it falls apart and burns worse than a wrecked semi full of diesel, say yes. You’ll get two of the most precious gifts you’ve ever laid eyes on out of it.

When you lose your grandpas, you’ll find it in you to write again and you’ll find it in you to stand up and deliver the words you owe them. So when your mom and dad ask you to speak, don’t think twice.

When you’re out on your own, doing the work of two people alone, you’ll resent the people and reasons that put you there, for maybe all of five minutes. There isn’t time to dwell on it. You’ll be content for the first time knowing what’s coming is going to come and life goes on.

And do it again. Fall in love, that is. Even though you know you shouldn’t. That time, you won’t break. And, you’ll get to raise a son the hard way because…

despite everything you’ve learned in all the lessons the good Lord gave you in the past 18 years, you’ll still insist on doing things the hard way.

Mortuary Science School Drop-Out

Philosophy: Sometimes you have to try quitting before you quit trying.

You just gotta know when to fold ‘em. That is, of course, courtesy of Kenny Rogers, which, I’m not too proud to say I’ve heard a time or two thousand. My love for Kenny comes straight from my dad’s old vinyl records.

Speaking of my dad, he didn’t raise a quitter. He tells me this often. He always knows exactly when I need to hear that straight from him, too.

I knew during my freshman year at Kent State that I wanted to major in philosophy. I had huge plans of being a professor surrounded by books or graduating at the top of my law school class and opening an office (also surrounded by books). But…well…life.

Philosophy sustained and interested me, but what always fascinated me was death. Of course, death is part of philosophy, but I’m talking about funerals and science.

I happened to listen to Three Minutes That Will Change Your Life by Alan Watts when I was between the anchor of marriage and the freedom of divorce and it compelled me to think about what I would really love to do if money were no object.

If I could drop everything and be anything I wanted, what would it be? A funeral director. I had always wanted to own a funeral home. While it sounds creepy and weird, it fascinated me.

When I had my temporary lapse in sanity, just prior to my second marriage, I enrolled in the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science online. I loved it. I loved the classes, I loved the feeling of working toward something I never thought I would do. I loved arranging places to intern part-time on the weekends.

Then I woke up early one morning (literally) alone and pregnant. Not only did I realize I couldn’t financially afford to stay in school and care for three kids, I couldn’t afford the time it would take away from them to have to intern and be called out in the middle of the night.

I quit.

I quit three quarters of the way through a term. Didn’t even see it through until the grading period ended. I quit.

I thought I would be too embarrassed to admit that to everyone who started asking how school was, but the truth goes a long way. My money and time were going to be needed somewhere else and there was nothing wrong with that.

In that sense, I wasn’t quitting anything. I was just rerouting.

Yes, I’m still a mortuary science school drop-out. But if there’s anything that sounds cooler than mortuary science school, it’s adding drop-out to the end of it.

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