Emily shared this earlier in the week, and it finally struck the chord I needed to figure out how to close out my year. You can read last year's letter here.
Dear 30-almost-31-year-old-Katie -
Girl, seriously, you need to chill. The fuck. Out. You've got a lot of years in front of you and spending all day every day worrying is just not going to get it done. Don't worry, I remember that year. There was a lot to worry about. Let me help you out a bit.
Your first day of being 30 was a whopper. It took you a while to come around but trust me, getting married again was a good call. The first time around you were scared and small and it avalanched over you and tried to break you, but this time - I promise you - the poet is the real deal. You might think that he was crazy and trust me, he still is, but his instincts are good and he helps you un-clamp a bit. It would do you some good to be more spontaneous, actually. But being married, that year, was pretty great. You're still figuring out who empties the dishwasher and who washes the sheets but for the most part you are making a lot of time and space for each other and you can breathe. Don't lose those moments. You're 10 months in and you've got 50 years to go.
You worry about money, a lot, and I wish I could tell you how much it all just doesn't matter. You're being smart about it, with your budgets and your color-coded spreadsheets and your 82 different retirement accounts, but sometimes you just need to go out to dinner already. Blow $100 on shoes that have heels so high you'll only wear them once. Buy the shirt and for the love of God, don't return it. You are starting to breathe a bit at work, and you have finally realized that you really do love the work you do, and that's helping. But you're also learning that it's okay if you don't love it because work should not be the center of your life, and that's a lesson some people will never learn.
This was the year you finally finished your 5-year-trek through post-graduate degrees. As it turns out, the piece of paper with the letters really wasn't worth all the time and effort and definitely not the money, but the friends that you met made up for a lot of it. You still have some of those friends, and you'll always be happy that your history runs through Bloomington. You did a lot of dumb things on that campus, you made a lot of stupid mistakes as you grew up, but it's one of the few places where you feel like you have deep roots, like you are connected with a history and tradition that is a lot older than you are.
This was the year you finally ended your on-and-off relationship with running. The on-and-off part ended, anyway. When you turned 30 you thought that you were on the fast track towards healing after having surgery. Just as quickly, you ended up back in the orthopedist's office crying 10 days before yet another half marathon. Isn't it funny how insignificant that race seems, after all this time? The race isn't important. What's important is that you figured out how to build the foundation so this can be a part of your life that is big and real. As you're about to turn 31, it's not completely fixed, but it's getting there. And you've discovered a whole new world in triathlon. Pace yourself there, will you? You've got at least 60 years of racing in front of you, no need to cram it all down your throat in a year. But more important than racing, running will always be where you go when you need an escape, when you need to smooth over the rough edges of your life, when you feel like the anger is going to lash out of you. I know that some days you feel like giving it all up, like it isn't worth all the effort and grief, but don't. It's where part of your soul lives and you'll never be right without it.
This was the year Molly came home and oooooh was that one hell of a mess. But she grew up and stopped chewing on the baseboards and snuggled her way into a tiny warm spot right under your heart. I know that right now you firmly believe that you'll never love anything on this planet like you love your puppies, like you love your Graham when he lays his head in your lap and sighs. I won't ruin any surprises but I will tell you that there are lots of different kinds of love. Keep your mind open. There are all kinds of families, and the hardest part about them is that they won't always be around. Try to stop being mad about who yelled at who in 1997 and reach out.
This was the year when you saw just how much your friends meant to you. All I'll say is, these are the friends that will be next to you in the nursing home some day. Your girlfriends are going to be there through the really amazing days and the really horrible ones, and you're going to have a lot of both. Make sure they know how much you love them, even when you disagree or lose touch for a while. There are more important things than who was right, or who was supposed to call who, or who forgot who's birthday. What's important is your have these friends, spread out all over the country, real true friends who you can text pictures of your foot or call sobbing because you dropped your burrito or spend all day emailing about penis size and calorie count or just put your arms around them and dance.
But more than anything, this was the year when you figured out that you matter. This was the year when you finally allowed yourself to be happy, when you burst up and out and into the light. Stood up for what you were, not what you always thought you should be. Stood out for being loud and different and discovered that sometimes it is okay to get what you want, it's okay to jump up and down and yell, "That's right, motherfuckers!". You may not be the best or the strongest or the fastest at anything but you fought like hell for this life, for the kind of joy that explodes out of you and rings in the air. It took you a lot of years to figure out what's important, and you're still working on it. But where you are, this moment in time: this is what life is like when it's really, really good. Your heart beats strong and fiercely and carries you forward. Don't forget, don't let it go, and don't stop.
I love you. Happy Birthday.