Well, Christmas is almost over here. Not completely over because I can't seem to take down my Christmas tree or the lights outside on my porch. There are still two other houses with lights out on our street, so I don't feel too shamed yet.
The reason I want to write tonight is to tell about one of my Christmas presents. This year Gina returned some memories to me in the form of a shadow-box filled with the letters that I had written her in college. The box of course came with the stipulation that I am to copy the letters and return the originals. The letters were all written between 1997-1999 while I was in my 11-12 grades of school and Gina spent her first two years at Milligan. Reading the letters brought back so many memories as we read them aloud and laughed in our little group on Christmas Eve Eve. They told stories about friends, how I was feeling, who was doing what, who asked who out, what was going on in my family. Sara laughed and said, "It's almost like you were writing your boyfriend or something." I responded by telling Gina, "Hey, you may not have love letters from your college days, but you had me!"
I love the 16 and 17 year old me. I loved her honesty, her innocence, her pure love for her friends. I love how important the little things were. I love that she just poured herself out on pages to show love to others. The letters, which were written on my personalized stationary, flute notepad, and Hallmark cards, are filled with feelings of friendship, loss, love, humor, rejection, and faith expressed through stories about everyday going-ons, funny little antidotes, drawings, quotes, and song lyrics. These were the days when long-distance calls were expensive, so they were rare, before cell phones and e-mail made it easy to communicate. These were the days when it took effort to show someone you cared, and we took that effort. Sometimes the 16 year old me reveals that she is writing in study-hall or chemistry class because she just can't stop thinking about something and has to get it off her chest. Life was in Technicolor. It moved fast. It couldn't wait.
Maybe this is why I have chosen my profession. I love that age. I really care about my students as real people. They may be small people, but they are real people, maybe more real because they haven't learned to hide who they are like we grownups have. All their little problems are so relevant and real to them that my heart just can't help but empathize, because somewhere, deep inside, that 16 year old Carly is still there. While the letters were funny, and I mostly laughed, I sometimes felt sad as I remember the realness of some of the hurts mentioned in the letters. It just helps me to remember again, vividly, how hard it is to be young, and how easily those fragile hearts are injured.
What a treasure has been given to me. To see this snapshot of our lives taken over 10 years ago helps me really value the fact that I still have this important friendship. Although the business of life and some laziness has kept me from really loving my friends like I used to, I remember that it is possible and I also remember how good it feels to love.