Thursday, February 2, 2012


For the girl with skin like the richest soil: I love to watch you grow.

Today I received a text message from a younger cousin, as I was leaving work.

It simply stated, “We broke up.”

She was referring to her year and a half, off-and-on-again, relationship. I called her on the way home. The snide teenager, always strapped with a smart remark, burst into tears. It’s amazing how heartbreak changes us.

The nonchalant suddenly care.
The fearless and brave become the scared.
The calm and collected spout anger.

On the phone call, a voice emerged from me that I did not recognize. It told her that his excuses were bullshit. It said that nothing could ever stop a man, who truly wants to be with you, from BEING WITH YOU. The voice relayed stories of men who were here today and gone tomorrow. It questioned her morale and told her that she was better off without him. That same voice told her to immerse herself in her progression and not to look back.

It occurred to me that this voice was that of a mature adult. It was the experience and knowledge weathered by years of disappointment. I was not the angry nineteen-year-old who pummeled her fist into the wall upon discovering her boyfriend’s betrayal. I was no longer the bitter twenty-year-old who slung her past across the page in the form of journal entries and F-you notes.

I am the twenty-four year old, who has wiped heartbreak from her face. The adult who is able to regurgitate the sodium of wet cheeks through blog posts and advice for a beautiful and naïve younger relative.

After our conversation, I drove down the FDR in silence. The question sat on my mind, “What would I tell my eighteen year old self, if I could warn her of all the things to come?”


Dear Erica,

You will discover that wearing Vans and skateboards, under your feet, will not hide the fact that your chase is relentless. You are boy crazy. Stop writing his name in Milky Way pens on your arm, remove his presence from your journal and stop giving him your words. You’ll write a poem for a smile and hello, but you’re worth so much more than that. You’re worth more than back staircases and lies, denied first kisses and a prom date that will ask you back for his tux money.

“It was an expensive rental. I did this for you, you know.”

Don’t rush to an ATM and give it to him, afraid that he’ll expose your desperateness for an evening companion. Don’t sneak into your mother’s bedroom, slide into her arms and lie to her about your evening. Keep the dreaming for better part.

Write for you and only for you. Don’t garnish your words atop stand-you-ups, meetings gone awry and emcees who don’t rhyme your name. Collect journals and write your future. Delve into the used bookstore reads you’ve been meaning to get to. Don’t wait until you’re in college for a realization.

Realize that you’re gorgeous. Trace your contour in a mirror and remind yourself that you are a roadmap to beauty.

Don’t let anyone silence you. God gave you a boom box vocal to deafen the nonbelievers. A stage is not the only place for your voice.

The older me must’ve been my conscious. That last notion is why I started this blog. I reconnect with the teenage me every once in a while. I find her on pieces of looseleaf flung in high school folders and storage room journals I'd forgotten about. She humbles me.

It's that same girl that fuels my sympathy every time I'm called on to give youthful advice.

What would you say to your teenage self?


(artwork by briana mccarthy)


Christa said...

That was great. I would tell myself all the same things. I would add... you are precious, but tough enough to handle what comes your way. You are no longer the scared girl who always seems to be looked at as a nerd because you pass test. One day you will be a butterfly that is a smart, beautiful, and strong woman who knows that she will be ok no matter what.

Anonymous said...

I would tell myself to stop praying to be "normal". Your unique point of view, expressive face, and vivid imagination are gifts from God. Gifts meant to be treasured and honed in preparation for a life full of wonderful experiences both good and bad. I would tell myself to stare into every reflection and know the face looking back deserves love for no other reason than the fact that I was born at all.

riva. said...

Oh Anonymous! I hear you. I've tried to suppress my talent to fit in most of my life. I regret that, so much.

@Christa That's a beautiful sentiment. Your eighteen year old self would've been so touched. :)

Christina said...

I would have told me teenage self to not hate herself for anything she does. Every action provides a lesson and helps shape the person you are today. Have confidence in who you are, right or wrong, because you will turn out to be a good person with a good heart anyway.

By the way, "Nothing could ever stop a man, who truly wants to be with you, from BEING WITH YOU." is one of the greatest things I have ever heard. I may have to quote that on Facebook.