Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dear Hilary, Love, Hilary: You Carry It With You

This week I'm linking up with the wonderful Joy over at Joy in this Journey. We write life, unmasked to share the raw and real about our lives. We write to tell the stories of the mess and the beauty. Won't you come share your stories, too?

Dear Hilary,

Do you ever feel like things just... happen to you? Like you're standing still, in the middle of a crosswalk in downtown Chicago and the cars are whizzing by? I graduate in four weeks. I walk across a stage and out of a life I've had, and it feels like what I do here, as I inch nearer and nearer to that stupid stage, I'm just watching things happen to me with no idea how or why, or what they mean. And I'm scared out of my mind that none of this life I've had here will mean anything.


Dear Graduate,

The woman who single-handedly changed my belief about life and writing, and getting on the floor and doing it anyway, is (as you all know), Dear Sugar. Her other name is Cheryl Strayed, and she writes beautiful books, that you should probably read. I reread some of the things that she wrote when I was trying to think about what to say to you today. So many of us, not just when we graduated college, wonder about whether any of "this" life will come with us when we leave. If I leave Dallas, TX for Paris, France, will any of Dallas come with me? If I leave childhood behind, if I go to a private school, if I break up with my boyfriend or girlfriend or fiancé, if I become a lawyer or a pediatric nurse or a potter, will any of who I was before I was {blank} come with me?

Sugar says this:

The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.

She's right, Graduate. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. It really does. If it's painful conversations about honesty and truth, if it's afternoons learning how to skip rocks on a pond down the street from your house. If it's terrible. If makes you ache. If it's beautiful. If it makes you sing. Whatever these four years of this school have held? You will always carry that with you. 

So too with the people who now whizz by you as you stand on the downton crosswalk. Some of them, you'll need to open your hands and let them leave in a bigger way, let the relationship change in bold brush strokes. Some of these people you'll continue to walk alongside, across continents and time zones and the aching and the singing. Some of these people will surprise you how they enter your story, and allow you to enter theirs. In all of it, it didn't just "happen to you." It is the one life you have. You carry it. 

I'm tempted to tell you that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a letter to you (even though he didn't, exactly). But he wrote to someone who was thinking and worrying just like you are. It's Letter Eight. Go read it. Let his comforting words about the world that is not against us, about trusting what is difficult and loving what seems impossible carry you, too.

These next four weeks fly, with terrible and beautiful and interesting things that will happen to you and to the ones you love. You will become more of what you are meant to be. In these next four weeks, in the four after that, in the two hundred weeks after that. Do not be afraid of losing its meaning, because the meaning will go with you.

You walk across a stage and into your life. The precious, difficult life you had before. The meaningful life. Let Sugar and Rilke and me remind you: you carry it with you. You always will.



  1. This spring marks ten years (TEN YEARS???) since I graduated college but these questions take me right back there. Just before the acceptance letters for grad school arrived, when I was overwhelmed by possibilities and wondering what impact college had on my character. I look back now with a dreamy nostalgia. I screwed up a lot in those early years of college but I made some of the best friends I've ever had and, more importantly, figured out who I was and what I believed in. It's a little terrifying to move beyond the routine of college: classes, late nights, parties, friends everywhere. But those first few steps, no matter how tentative, take us in exciting, new directions. You don't lose who you were in college- you move toward who you will be in this next season of your life and that is a beautiful, mysterious thing.

  2.  A beautiful, mysterious thing. Yes, I think that's just how to describe it, Leigh. Thank you for stopping by!

  3. This post is particularly striking to me, as someone who made the reverse journey: moving from my beloved Paris to rural America. At times, my eighteen years spent in France seem like a deja vu, a memory that feels real but never actually happened. There's a sudden rupture, a shift.  But then God blesses us with haunting sensory experiences to remind us that we are whole beings, and that we won't ever fully break: the French song that plays during that annoying Target commercial, the taste of Nutella on white bread, the familiar muscle memory in my wrist as I flip a crepe. You are right about carrying people and experiences with us, they get stamped right onto our hearts. 

  4. yes, Katherine. I think it is just like that. I'm so glad that we have memories hidden in our muscles and bones, that can call us back to the places and people we loved. Thank you for stopping by and visiting.


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