In a letter-style introspective, author Carolyn Hector Hall gives her younger self some sage advice about life and love...
Dear Young Carolyn,
Right about now you’ve just finished watching Back to the Future II, and feeling sorry for yourself because of that huge pimple on your cheek that kept you home from school. Remember Marty McFly’s visit from his future self? Well, it’s happening to you right now. Instead of giving you the means to cheat your way in life, I’m going to give you some sage advice. Pick up that pen by your pint of ice cream and start writing in your notebook.
Don’t believe this is your future self? Would it help to know that I know, since you could read you’ve leaned toward every romance angle, whether it was with toys, books or movies. I know about the scripts you wrote for Barbie and GI Joe, and how you whole-heartedly believed Smurfette belonged with Hefty. You devoured the Sweet Valley High series during the last hurricane. You fell in love with the idea of Elizabeth Wakefield and Todd Wilkins and lived vicariously through Elizabeth’s twin sister, Jessica Wakefield and all her loves—and secretly rooted for Jessica and Bruce Patman to get together.
Convinced yet? You love all romance movies. John Hughes gave you hope in turmoil of family chaos with the birthday cake lit up with sixteen candles and shared on top of a table. The love-sick cutie standing outside your window holding a boom box above his head, in Say Anything. And don’t get me started about the hero traipsing through the battle grounds to rescue his old girlfriend in Streets of Fire —you’ll reference this movie from here on out.
You’re a romance addict, Carolyn. You’re in love with the grand gesture.
Have I freaked you out yet? For sure? Totally? Like you totally need to trust me. So why am I here? Because you have a paper due Monday about an author you admire and you’re thinking about blowing it off and going off with your friends once this blemish disappears. Don’t. Earlier this week you came across your teacher’s copy of Sandra Kitt’s Adam and Eva. You were intrigued. The moment you reached for the book you visualized yourself as Joan Wilder, creating romance stories with people who look like you on the cover.
Well guess what? It’s going to happen—but it ain’t gonna be easy. I want to help you avoid these agonizing hours of shame when your editor sends you your manuscript back with notes. So I’m telling you to stay in class and pay attention, especially in your Language Arts classes. Your editor will thank you for it. This writing gig can happen a lot earlier in life, but this means you’re going to have to prioritize things. We’ve talked about you living as the real life Joan Wilder. Who is going to be your Jesse…? Or should I say Jack T. Colton? Let’s talk about some of these toads you’ve been dating. Trust me, they’re not The One. Good looks, toned muscles, fast cars and unlimited bank accounts are great, but they also lead to spoiled boys who grow up to be spoiled men, and trust me, that isn’t pretty. The time is going to come when you have to think about the HEA.
The Happily-Ever-After gesture.
Look for the boy who comes to the door and meets your parents before taking you out on a date, rather than sitting in the car honking the horn. You need to find the guy who lets you pick the radio station in his car, whether it’s in a Mustang or a beat up Datsun, the love song playing remains the same. If you’re out on a date, watch how he treats your server.
Clearly from the movies you like, you adore the romance trope, opposites attract. Don’t be too dismissive about the quiet, hot guy you’re working with at the Cookie Company— I hear you gasping as you read this and yes, dad makes us get a job. Your life is going to change forever with him. Happily-Ever-After Gestures will include making dinner for the kids so you can write or edit when you’re on a deadline, letting you sleep in, foot rubs, buying you notebooks, pens, and laptops. Oh just you wait!
You might not find these things grand right now, but trust me, they’ll totally be worth it. I said I wouldn’t give you hints on things to help you cheat in life, but I will give you this bit of advice because you will waste so much time on what could have been.
Open your eyes and realize he’s the one. It will be the moment you reflect on when you’re mad as ever at him and calm down. It’s the effort it took him to take the first step toward getting you to see he is the one. The night you’re leaving town and you’re closing up shop on your own, open the door. That big grand gesture, for an introvert like himself—Le Sigh—will mean everything to you. It will carry you through the next few months of your life in the military— but that’s a letter for another time.
Carolyn Hector Hall is the author of Tempting the Beauty Queen. You can find her on her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter and Instagram.
What advice would you give your younger self about life, love and your future career? Post in the comments or tell us on social media using #DearMe