Letters To My Past Selves

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

Firstly, some housekeeping. I haven’t posted in like a month. I apologize, but I’ve also made an executive decision that following a posting schedule is BS unless I’m getting paid for it, and so I’m only going to post when I want to post and I will not be stressing myself out about it. Because that was what I was doing and it made me not want to post things. Now, on to the main event!

Dear pre-Earth-life, spirit Sarah: You made some decisions, kid. I don’t know what all of those decisions were, but I do know that you picked an excellent family, one that makes you feel needed and loved, and one that you need and love. So— you know, thank you. You’ve made some other decisions, and I hope that I don’t get older and look back on what I did with those decisions in mortality and go, “Wow, that was dumb.” For the record, though, I think you’ve done a great job.

Dear in-utero-Sarah: My propensity for inappropriate laughter is thanks to you. You were right-side-up, which for a fetus is upside-down, and they had to manually turn you and my mother was laughing uncontrollably the whole time. It’s one of those things that I am convinced is absorbed by osmosis because now I laugh when I shouldn’t. It is a coping mechanism for severe clinical depression, so I will allow it. And you came out okay, anyway. A little jaundiced, but quite healthy.

Dear infant Sarah: You learned to sleep well at a very young age, to the point where your mother was half convinced you were dead sometimes because you didn’t wake up at three in the morning to cry. Unfortunately for you, sleep is not something you can backlog, and in the future you will be very tired, very often. Mostly due to being sad and not producing enough neurotransmitters.

Dear one-year-old Sarah: I don’t remember anything about this time in my life, but I do know that you were full of joy. Hang on to that, kid. You’re going to need it.

Dear two-year-old Sarah: There’s not a lot of memories, still— but I’ve seen some pictures. You know, Two, you loved the heck out of your big brother. The two of you were best friends. It’s sort of adorable. He’s still one of your best friends. You fight occasionally, but it’s because you love each other so much that it hurts.

Dear three-year-old Sarah: You can read! Good job. You can also use the toilet, but that’s boring and not at all essential to your progress on the path to healthy adulthood. You already have a propensity for interesting names. Your Barbie dolls, Theresia and Evangelina and Susannah, thank you. Also, you believe that you are beautiful. Guard that belief, Three, because it’s unbelievably precious and you don’t get to keep it.

Dear four-year-old Sarah: You wear that princess costume frequently. You also have a windbreaker-sweatpants combo that make this interesting scratching noise when the fabric between your legs rubs together when you move. Yes, that is where that noise is coming from. It’s not a ghost or a tree or the wind. It’s your pants, Four. You can be so adorably stupid sometimes, but childhood is a learning process and I promise I am not judging you. (Just laughing at you. From the future.) Also, you know the big wall of mirrors in the house on Cherrywood Drive? Enjoy them now, because in the future you will hate mirrors.

Dear five-year-old Sarah: You’ve started school. I get it, I really do. School is confusing and loud and the other kids don’t understand your jokes, and on picture day you wore a really cute dress and the boy who sits next to you wore a suit and tie and everybody else said that you two were going to get married. You don’t need to cry about that, Five. Really, you don’t. He moves away after kindergarten and you never see him again. It will be okay. Also, just because you color outside of the lines on purpose sometimes doesn’t mean that you’re wrong. It just means you already have a healthy objection to categorizations like “colors belong in certain places.” The whole world is a big, beautiful rainbow and maybe the rest of them can’t see it, but you can. And you will keep seeing it for a very long time.

Dear six-year-old Sarah: You have the cutest haircut. Every adult you know tells you so. The kids your age don’t seem to agree; in fact, the one girl told you that you have “boy hair” and you cried about it— but Six, you cry about everything. Also, you wrote your first book. Remember the Young Authors program? Where you wrote a story and drew pictures and they bound it all up into a cute book for you? Yeah, you wrote a counting book.

Dear seven-year-old Sarah: This is the year you got glasses— and you promptly lost them three days later. This is a problem because you need glasses, Seven. You REALLY need glasses. It does not help that you have spent your nights reading by the extremely dim light shining through your open bedroom doorway. Stop doing that. You need your eyes. Also, you wrote another book. This one is an entirely fictional story about how your infant brother got lost in the supermarket. But you found him, because you believe in happy endings.

Cling to those happy endings, Seven. I’m begging you. I need them so badly.

Dear eight-year-old Sarah: So you moved to Red Lion this year, and everything is just— weird. You don’t have friends. At the end of the school year, that girl in your string lesson at school will be your friend. She’s a great friend. Everybody in your class thinks that you like the one boy because you played tag with him a couple of times at recess. There is nothing wrong with playing tag with a boy, and you do not have a problem. They’re the ones with the problem, Eight. They don’t know any better, so don’t judge them too harshly— but a boy and a girl can be just friends. It’s okay. At least you have Darcy the purple bear, who is your best friend and will be for a long time.

You were also baptized this year. That’s important, because it marks the beginning of your relationship with God. You knew He was real before this, but this time, it’s more important. My advice to you (not that you will take it) is to remember your baptism day as often as you can.

Dear nine-year-old Sarah: This is the year you learned that you hate math. This is unfortunate, because your father does math for a living but also because from here on out you are going to struggle with math, and therefore science, for the remainder of your education. I’m very, very sorry about it.

Also… puberty is on its way, and it’s not going to be fun. Hold on for a hot minute, Nine. You can make it and I believe in you.

Dear ten-year-old Sarah: I’m sorry.

Ten, I just— this is the year of capital-I Issues. Literally, because this is the year you get boobs and experience menarche, and on top of that you embark upon the lifelong, self-destructive train of Hating Your Own Body and you’re not going to get off that train for the next thirteen years. And even then you sometimes hang out near the tracks and ride from town to town like a hobo in the forties.

This is the year you did a report on the state of Wyoming. In the future, you will go to Wyoming and discover that it is not nearly as interesting as your report made it sound. I mean, you were on Interstate 80 the whole time, but it’s a six-hour drive from one border to the other and there’s one town along the entire highway. Also, it’s always raining.

The most important part about that report is that you stood up and gave that report in front of everyone, and it was the last time you were ever comfortable giving a report because afterward… well, afterward, one of your friends told you that two of the popular girls were laughing at you the whole time because you have hairy legs.

I’m crying for you, Ten. You didn’t know any better. You didn’t know that the cultural patriarchy had already taken an awful grasping hold on the minds of those girls and caused them to believe that body hair is the worst thing a woman can have. They didn’t know, either. But their mockery hurt you, and you asked your mother for a razor and she showed you how to use it.

Ten, you never needed to shave. Neither of those girls had to do it. One of them had light-red hair and her leg hair was invisible, and the other one had tanned skin so her leg hair didn’t show up. You had fair skin and dark body hair, and the only reason that they teased you is because it was visible.

There’s not a thing wrong with your body hair, but you don’t know that, and you’re going to spend the next ten or eleven years having a love-hate relationship with your razor before you and your therapist realize that this specific report on the state of Wyoming is the cause of half of your hang-ups about body hair.

Dear eleven-year-old Sarah: The Puberty Stagecoach took you to the Hating Your Own Body express, and that train has made a stop in Acne City. You have bumps on your face. Sometimes they have cyst-like fluid in them. Sometimes they’re just clogged pores that have become blackheads. Either way— you have acne, and it is the plague of your existence. Eleven, I am sorry to inform you that acne will remain the plague of your existence well into your twenties. It’s unfortunate. The residents of Acne City are also the drivers of the Hating Your Own Body train, and they feel the need to return home frequently. Sometimes you will hate your legs, or your arms, or your back, or your chest, or your stomach— but you will always hate your face because you can’t yet see the beauty in it under the acne and the scars.

Dear twelve-year-old Sarah: Junior high is hell, Twelve. I have no advice for you other than this: Survive.

Dear thirteen-year-old Sarah: This is the first and last time you will get a sports award for anything. You won the Presidential Fitness Award for the V-Sit, which is where you put your feet against a box and reach forward to rest your hands on a ruler on the top. This is supposedly a test of flexibility, but you have an advantage because you have short legs and a long torso and arms. This is the one time you actually enjoy something your body, Thirteen— savor the moment.

Also: that kid who was a jerk to you once in gym class, because you were afraid of getting hit by the volleyball? He’s not so bad, honestly. He’s going to date like half of your friends so you better get used to him.

Dear fourteen-year-old Sarah: So high school is okay. You see a lot of couples sucking face in the hallways, and part of you is grossed out and part of you is deeply, unreasonably jealous. Not because kissing looks all that fun, but because once these people are done making out they hold hands and walk to class together. You would like that, but you’re a hopeless romantic and you are also quiet and you believe you’re too ugly for anyone to look at you like that. It’s not going to happen.

Also, there’s this boy. I know it’s too late to give you advice now, but please don’t fall in love with him, Fourteen. It’s going to hurt you. Please.

Dear fifteen-year-old Sarah: Now that you’re busy and having fun with your friends all the time, you can sometimes forget about hating your own body. I mean, there are still moments— all of your friends are getting boyfriends and dating, and they hold hands and sometimes make out and you’re still unreasonably jealous but not that way, eww. They’re your friends. You don’t want to make out with them— you just want someone to make out with, someone who will fill this growing emptiness inside of you and tell you that you’re pretty.

Fifteen, you are never going to date in high school, and I know that sounds terrible but I promise you it is a blessing. It is protection. God is literally protecting you from getting screwed up by these emotions you don’t know how to handle. I know it’s bitter, and it’s hard to watch and not feel envious, and I know that it feels like the only reason boys don’t look at you that way is because you have thin, beautiful friends— but Fifteen. I swear you are better off. Please just trust me.

Dear sixteen-year-old Sarah: Your mother let you get contacts this year, and your hair is longer than it’s ever been. You not only feel pretty, but downright beautiful. I mean, you still get acne, but your school picture this year was the first one in five years that was not a complete travesty, and they retouch the acne away so you can pretend you are a normal, pretty, slightly overweight girl instead of the fat ugly mess you believe yourself to be.

Sixteen, I hate to burst your bubble— but you are going to cut your hair a lot in the next few years, and you are also going to go back to wearing glasses full-time. Once you get the right frames, they will make your face much thinner than contacts.

Dear seventeen-year-old Sarah: You’re nervous about getting that BYU acceptance letter. Don’t worry, you’ll get it— it just won’t come until March because BYU is really picky and your GPA was on the edge of Nope for them. Fortunately, the abundance of extracurriculars and the whole perfect seminary attendance and lettering thing did it for them. And you know, you did score a 31 on the ACT. Nice going, Seventeen. You might believe you’re ugly, but nobody’s ever said you were stupid and trust me, being smart has done more for you than being pretty.

Dear eighteen-year-old Sarah: So— college. You have a lovely roommate and four other lovely apartment-mates. You are doing your own laundry and cooking; you are going to class; you have your first job selling doughnuts and brownies at the football games. You have made some really good friends who like the same books and TV shows and movies as you. You are doing good. And you are on a huge campus with thirty-six thousand people (including the Independent Study people, so maybe it’s more like thirty thousand) and you feel invisible. It’s the best feeling in the entire world. Nobody is looking at you. Nobody cares. Yes, they’re all prettier than you and there are tall, thin women who wear six-inch-heels to class every day but nobody bats an eye at your sweatpants. Nobody cares and boy, do you feel free.

Eighteen, a small part of me now wishes I could tell you to dress up cute every day and learn to put on makeup, but the rest of me is glad that we didn’t do that. It wasn’t necessary, and if you felt like you had to do that in the future, and… well, let’s say it would have contributed to a whole host of factors playing into your depression and anxiety.

Dear nineteen-year-old Sarah: Remember how I told you not to fall in love with that boy? Well gosh dang it, if you didn’t go and fall in love with that boy. He is going to break your heart, little by little. And— here’s the thing you won’t understand right away— he isn’t even going to do it on purpose. Some of it is definitely his fault but some of it is you over-romanticizing the whole situation (which he did not know about), and the rest has to do with the Hating Your Own Body train, next stop Acne City, next stop Fatty Station. For once, a boy is making you feel pretty, and not because he says so— but because he likes spending time with you and talking to you. It is flattering and lovely, and infatuation is such a powerful drug that you can’t wait for your next hit.

Nineteen, it’s still a drug. And once you came off that high, once you realized that the relationship was toxic and bad and wrong— you crashed.

Nineteen, I told One to hang on to her joy, and I told Seven to hold her happy endings close, and I told Ten that puberty was going to be awful, and I told Twelve that junior high school was hell, and I told Fifteen that she was better off without a boyfriend. I told them those things because they were true, but I also told them those things because joy and happy endings are something you can’t see anymore. I told them that puberty and junior high were awful because those things are survivable. I told Fifteen that she was better off without a boyfriend because being single and alive is better than slowly wasting away because your heart is broken.

And Nineteen, it’s not just your heart. There’s something wrong with your head, too. You’re going to be okay, Nineteen. You’re going to be fine. Please— don’t think those things. Don’t think so loudly. Put that bottle of ibuprofen, that full bottle, back into your medicine drawer and call your mother. It’s three in the morning, but call your mother because waking her up is better than… the alternative. You’re not actually going to down that entire bottle of pills, but stop thinking about it. I know that’s not entirely in your control.

Nineteen, I’m talking you off the ledge. Listen to me.

Dear twenty-year-old Sarah: Your new medication is helping. And some other things, too. You moved apartments, and you’ve got a good job at the campus bookstore. You’re quieter now than ever, though you’ve always been quiet. Boys scare you, in a way they never did before. You guard your heart so carefully, Twenty. That’s smart, but it’s also lonely.

Remember Five? Remember how she’s always seen rainbows? The rainbows left and you didn’t even notice, until they came back. Now that you’re on medicine, the whole world looks brighter and warmer. Even rainy days just remind you of home.

Twenty, you spend a lot of time on the Internet. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, I’m glad you did. If you didn’t spend a lot of time there, you would never have learned about the body positivity movement and feminism. Those things have helped you realize that the thoughts you have about your body are— well, you’re not sure what they are, but you know they aren’t quite right.

On the other hand, you have suddenly gotten a lot jumpier. Go to the doctor for that. Anxiety medication will make you sleepy, but it will also help you if you’re about to have a panic attack. By the way: panic attacks are not fun. Also: you’ve been having those since fifth grade, but you had convinced yourself that you were just a crybaby. Don’t do that anymore, Twenty.

Dear twenty-one-year-old Sarah: I’m sorry, again. I’m sorry you couldn’t finish college. You had less than a month left in your last semester, but it was too much and you self-sabotaged because of anxiety. It’s going to be okay, Twenty-one. We’re getting you therapy, we’re getting you new medicine because Lexapro stopped working and Zoloft— well, it was quit college or talk yourself down from the ledge again. And you’ve gained thirty pounds in the last five months of college. That was Zoloft, too.

I’m sorry.

Dear twenty-two-year-old Sarah: Therapy is really amazing, isn’t it? You’ve been going for about a month and it’s already made such a difference. You haven’t talked to your therapist about your body yet— but once you both realize what’s going on, you’re going to fix this. The Hating Your Own Body train will be leaving the station— but you, Twenty-two, are going to get off the train and stay in this new place. It doesn’t have a name yet, but I suggest you call it Confidence.

Dear twenty-three-year-old Sarah: Here we are. We’ve come a long way, kid. Heartbreak, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation— it’s not been pleasant. But you are finally starting to look back and see little spots of joy. Remember Four? She believes we’re going to be a princess. Maybe we haven’t always felt like one, Twenty-three, but Four is right. You’re a princess.

You’re still uncomfortable with your body, but you don’t hate it. You’re down to high school weight, or a little over. You still have acne, but you’ve also talked to the therapist about the whole picking-at-your-face-and-nails thing and learned that it’s a symptom of anxiety. The comedone extraction kit has been helpful, and once you get hold of a cube or a spinner, that will be even better. And you know, you graduated from college. Not a big deal, or anything. (Yes, it is. Good job on finishing college without dying.)

You’re still lonely, but you’re also beginning to understand that friendships are in some ways more important than relationships. You’ve also learned to serve people. You’ve learned that God loves you, and that even when you don’t believe you are beautiful, He knows you are. You’ve found faith in your healing, and healing in your faith. You can look at a mirror and see your bright hazel eyes and your cute little nose instead of acne scars and fat. You can look at a mirror and see acne scars and fat, and the thoughts are not “ugly and worthless” but “a set of genetic dispositions that have no actual bearing on my aesthetic appeal.”

Dear future Sarah: In June, you will be twenty-four. Sometime after that, you will be twenty-five, and twenty-six, and twenty-seven, and so on. Eventually, you will land a cool job that lets you buy a computer on which you can finally run Minecraft, and maybe someday you will meet a nice boy that thinks your acne scars and fat are just as cute as your hazel eyes and tiny nose, and maybe you’ll marry him and have babies like you’ve always wanted. And you’ll have a little house or an apartment or something, and you’ll grow old and happy.

Of course, maybe none of these things will happen. Maybe you’ll land a job that makes you want to tear your hair out but pays your bills, and maybe you rent an apartment that won’t let you have pets, and you never meet a nice boy in your whole life.

But Future Sarah… you’re still going to be happy. You can write, and you can talk to people you love. Your sister is one of your best friends, and you need her as much as she needs you. Your older brother needs you more than you think he does, but not as much as you need him. Your little brothers are growing up and they are going to be such cool adults. Your parents have always been cool, even when you were a bratty teenager, and they will continue to be cool. And you will always have extended family, and friends, and medication, and Darcy the purple bear, and the love of God.

No matter what happens, you will have such a joyful, happy life. It will be hard. There will be days where you don’t want to get out of bed, and there will be days when you don’t get out of bed, and there might even be days where you think about suicide as a viable option for getting some rest because depression always makes you tired and sleep just isn’t doing it for you. There will be weeks and months and years where you will continue to wonder if any of it is worth it.

In a moment of rare wisdom, Future Sarah— let me tell you that it is worth it. It is worth it now, it was worth it when you’ve struggled before, and it will still be worth it. It will always be worth it.

With love, fondness, exasperation, and more than a few tears,

Sarah

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.

Miracles

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

It’s been eleven days since I last blogged, but I actually have two good reasons: this last Sunday was Easter and I spent the holiday in Virginia with my family, my extended family, and a Considerable Lack of Internet. This is a good thing, believe it or not; sometimes it’s just best to get away from it all.

And last week, Thursday April 13th, I was in a car accident and once I got home I simply did not feel like blogging. I would say I’m sorry about it, but I’m really not.

The accident happened, ironically, on my way home from therapy. At this particular therapy appointment, I admitted to my lovely therapist, “You know, driving isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was.” She smiled and agreed and we talked about fears, risk-taking, and the psychological payoffs for risk-taking that often outweigh the fears that prevent us from taking those risks in the first place.

The universe saw fit to punish me for such a blasphemy, of course, and as I tried to get on the highway I chickened out and failed, looped back around underneath to try again, and made a left turn into an intersection. A series of events then happened, and I’m not sure I can accurately describe them because I don’t know if I’m remembering accurately. I’ll do my best, though.

What I think happened is that the light turned green and I went into the intersection, turning left (on a green arrow, it was totes legal) and somehow failed to see the police officer’s truck that had come to a stop in the middle of the intersection. By the time I saw the truck and comprehended the need for action, I was probably somewhere between six inches and a foot away from the back of the officer’s truck. I believe I turned my wheel a little bit, but only after a lot of crunching sounds and some slight movement on the part of the truck did I remember that I had brakes, and promptly used them.

I was more surprised than anything. The first thing I thought was, and I hope he forgives me for thinking this, “Oh my God, Dad is going to be so angry.” (Forgiveness being hoped for because 1) I was thinking the Lord’s name in vain and 2) I assumed that my dad was going to be angry.)

Then I realized that the front of Gerald, my beloved little old-man car, was the thing that had been making crunching sounds.

At this point, the police officer I had hit got out of her truck and walked back to look at me. She was a bit older, and she looked a little bit annoyed but I remember looking at her and fumbling to open my door, and the first thing I said was, “I am so sorry, I’m so sorry, sorry, sorry—”

And then her face changed. She’d been squinting against the sunlight and it made her look a little bit angry— maybe she was angry. But her face seemed to soften and she just said, “Are you all right?”

I said, “Yes, I’m just fine.”

Because I was. I’d been doing something between thirty and thirty-five probably, and I hit the back of a truck with the front of my car and the front of my car crumpled like tissue paper, but the airbags didn’t go off. The only thing that happened inside of my car was that the check engine light went on.

The officer nodded and said, “Okay, that’s good,” and she went back to her car. I’m pretty sure she radioed for the aid of another officer, because about twenty seconds later there was another police car right behind us. This officer was a tall man with a mustache. He also asked me, “Are you all right?” I said, again, “Yes, I’m fine.” At this point the shock and anxiety set in and I started crying. (Until I say otherwise, you can assume that I am crying during the rest of this story.)

The female officer pulled her truck away a little bit. Gerald shuddered, but nothing happened. The mustachioed police officer directed me to try and drive Gerald over to the right-most lane, under the highway bridge. I was able to drive Gerald over and park him along the curb. The truck parked behind me. I put my hazard lights on and stared out the window and took off my sunglasses and proceeded to call my mother.

My mother answered the phone. I said, as clearly as I could manage, “Mom, I’ve been in an accident. A car accident. I’m fine, I’m not hurt at all. I need you to come and get me.”

Those were the important things to say, I think; I was able to get those things out clearly and loudly despite the fact that I was underneath a highway, surrounded by busy traffic. I told her vaguely where I was.

The mustachioed police officer told me that he was getting another officer to fill out the incident report, and that he was going to call a tow truck because my car didn’t look driveable. He asked me if I wanted to stay here under the bridge, or if I wanted to go with the tow truck driver. I elected to go with the tow truck driver, and I called my mother again to update her with this information. The tow truck driver hadn’t arrived and I didn’t know where he would be towing Gerald and I, but I told my mother I would let her know when I had an address.

Another police officer arrived to do the incident report. This guy was younger and I remember he had a really kind face. He came over to the passenger-side of my car and I opened the door to talk to him.

“So, can you tell me what happened?” he asked.

My response: “Um, yeah. I was trying to get on the highway and it didn’t really work because I was in the wrong lane to begin with and I kind of err on the side of caution when I change lanes because I hate doing it because I’m new at driving and so I looped under the first bridge back there, and instead of taking the other loop to get back onto the highway ramp I, like an idiot, went to the intersection instead and I didn’t realize she’d stopped but I’m pretty sure it’s completely my fault anyway because the driver behind is always at fault and I’m really sorry.”

Yes, this was probably all one sentence; yes, it was probably exactly as incoherent as I wrote it; and yes, I said I was sorry again; and yes, I told the police officer it was my fault. Because whether or not the female police officer had made a stupid decision by stopping in the middle of the intersection, my opinion didn’t matter, and anyway I was the driver behind. Legally, I was at fault.

Also, I’m pretty sure the babbling was due to what was more or less a full-blown panic attack, but I knew I couldn’t take my medicine yet because it would make me sleepy and I couldn’t go to sleep yet, as much as I would have liked to close my eyes and not wake up Until The Nightmare Was Over.

The kind-faced police officer was quiet for a couple of seconds, and then he said, “Okay. Thank you. Can I see your license, registration, and insurance information?”

I handed them over. “Yes, here they are.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll be back soon.” He left.

Meanwhile, I moved over to the passenger seat of my car, turned off the engine, and continued to cry.

I heard a noise and saw the female officer pull her truck out into traffic and drive away. I kind of stared at the back of her truck, but I couldn’t see any indication whatsoever that her vehicle had been damaged. Heck, I couldn’t even see a paint scratch.

The mustachioed officer left as well, and I was left with the kind-faced officer, who came back with my information and some papers. I opened the door to take my stuff.

He handed me a paper. “So, you were at fault.”

Me (quietly, taking the paper): “Yeah, I thought so.”

Cop: “We’re letting you off with a warning, and we’re not going to ticket you.”

Me (with renewed tears and sobbing): “Really? Thank you, thank you so much.”

Cop: “It’s failure to control your vehicle. You’re going to have to be sure you can do that in the future.”

Me (incoherently babbling): “Okay, I’ll do that, absolutely, thank you so much, thank you.”

Cop: (kind of half-laughing): “You’re welcome. The tow truck is on its way. I’ll stay here in my car until it arrives, and you said you were going with the tow truck, right?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m going with the tow truck.”

Cop: “All right. You just hang in there.”

Me: “Thank you so much.”

He left and I kept my door open because it was starting to get kind of warm outside. I sat there crying and praying and thinking, “Okay, maybe Dad isn’t going to be quite as angry.”

The tow truck driver arrived, and he was this short little dark-haired guy with a beard and glasses and he smiled at me and I felt instantly safe. I didn’t know why, because he was a complete stranger and I tend to err on the side of not trusting people. I gave him Gerald’s key, he gave me a business card, and I called my mom while watching him drive my tissue-paper car up his little ramp and fasten belts around the tires. I read the address of the garage off the business card and my mom plugged it into her GPS. Then I climbed up into the extremely tall cab of the tow truck and put my seatbelt on.

Tow Truck Driver: “Did you call your ride?”

Me: “Yeah, I just got off the phone with my mom. She’s coming to pick me up at the garage.”

TTD: “That’s good, you’ve got somebody to come and get you.”

Me (tearing up again, dang it): “Yeah.”

TTD (probably seeing me start to cry again and feeling kind of bad): “You know, I have to come tow people from under this bridge about once a week. You’re not the first person I’ve towed in a situation exactly like this. In fact, my wife did the same thing just the other week.”

I think it was then I really realized that this tow truck driver was an extraordinarily kind man, because he went out of his way to say something kind to me. And also I learned that he was married and that made me feel instantly more comfortable about getting in a truck with a male stranger.

I can’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but the driver continued to chat with me for about half of the trip to the garage and then stayed quiet for the latter half. I was grateful, because he had his air-conditioning up on full. It was quiet and cool and sunny and I could finally feel my body start to calm down a little bit, could at last feel my lungs getting the right amount of air.

We got to the garage, and I went inside and called my mom to tell her we’d gotten to the garage. I had to wait for a little while for her to arrive, but I was also able to go out to the impound yard to get some of the important things out of the car. I have no experience knowing how damaged a car is by looking at it, and it looked kind of bad, but the people in the garage were saying that they didn’t know if it was a total loss because the airbags hadn’t gone off.

I slipped out of the impound yard and saw my mom walking away from her van. I called out to her and walked over and you know, I really thought I was done crying. But I wasn’t.

There’s something about finding a person you love after you’ve been through something awful or lonely or both. No matter how long it’s been, no matter where in the world you are, it feels like coming home.

I’ll spare you the boring details about insurance and adjustors and evaluations and phone calls, but on Tuesday we got word back from our insurance that Gerald was definitely a total loss and we needed to empty him out of everything so that he could be taken to salvage. My dad took off work yesterday to go and empty Gerald out, and he came back with the most amazing news.

Here’s the thing: Gerald was a piece of crap. I called him a “little old man car” because he was a 2000 Honda Civic that needed full gas to go twenty-five up a hill. My sister actually named him Gerald because he smelled funny (like an old man, so she gave him an old man name). My parents bought Gerald because my brother needed a car when he was living at home, and they assumed that I could also learn to drive on Gerald and we could both use him for work. My brother moved out to Utah nearly a year ago now, and I became Gerald’s primary driver because I learned to drive on him. I got my license exactly three months ago today, and in the last three months I have done a lot of errand-running and a lot of chauffeuring my youngest brother around because he has Extra-Curricular Activities Of Vital Importance To Eighth Grade.

My parents paid about four thousand dollars for Gerald. The insurance took five hundred bucks for a deductible, but they gave us thirty-eight hundred as his worth before the accident— which means we got thirty-three hundred bucks.

I’m religious, if you haven’t noticed. I’m a Christian— a Latter-Day Saint, to be exact. (A Mormon, colloquially.) I was baptized around the age of eight, like most Mormon children— we consider that the age of accountability. I mostly did that because I was expected to, and also because I had a childlike faith in my parents. I don’t know if I really believed as a teenager, or if I was just going through the motions because it was expected of me. I do know that I tended to value my high school experiences much more than my church experiences, as a teenager.

I don’t think I really believed until I had nowhere else to turn. In late 2012 and early 2013 I was going through some of the most awful experiences of my life and struggling to realize that I needed help— specifically, medication and therapy.

Once I began to get the help I need, I was able to look at my experiences with the perspective of a survivor. I hadn’t actually made an attempt to kill myself, but I’d thought about it quite seriously (as a person does, when they have suicidal thoughts) and come to the conclusion that it would be more inconvenient for people to clean up after and mourn the mess of a life I would be leaving behind. So I kept struggling to live.

It hurt. I’m not going to lie. It hurt and it was like Swimming Through Molasses. It was slow and dark and uncomfortable and I couldn’t see ahead of me or behind me and I couldn’t breathe. But somehow, I found the strength to keep going. I know now that it was not my own strength. If I’d just tried to rely on myself, I would never have made it this far. It was only through God that I could keep going.

I have to come to see late 2012 through the end of 2014 as a miracle. I was at college, on the other side of the country as my family, and I wanted to die and my medications sometimes didn’t stop me from wanting to die and I was doing sixteen credits per semester and holding down a part-time job, twenty hours a week and I was walking up to the health center once a month to renew my medication prescription and I was trying to schedule therapy at BYU’s very, very overbooked Therapy and Counseling Center (or whatever it’s called, I can’t remember anymore) and somehow, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it, and I came home to begin the long, arduous, and oddly boring process of mental and emotional healing.

Late 2012 through 2014 was a big miracle, and 2015 through now was another big miracle, and in this incident, in this car crash, I count several small miracles that add up to a very large miracle:

1. I wasn’t injured in the car accident.
2. The female police officer wasn’t injured in the car accident.
3. My airbags didn’t go off.
4. The other car was probably barely even scratched.
5. The female police officer didn’t yell at me or get angry.
6. The mustachioed police officer also did not yell at me or get angry.
7. The kind-faced police officer did not give me a ticket.
8. The kind-faced police officer let me off with a warning.
9. All of the police officers were nice.
10. The tow truck driver was even nicer.
11. The other people at the garage were also very nice.
12. I was able to adult by myself until my mom arrived, and I did a pretty darn good job at it even though I was extremely traumatized and mid-panic attack.
13. The insurance people were also very nice.
14. Gerald cost $4000 and was a total, but we got $3300 from insurance.
15. My dad has not once been angry with me about any of this situation.
16. My dad kept the collision insurance on Gerald in anticipation of an event like this.
17. We are in a better place financially than we were when we originally got Gerald, so when we are able to look into getting another car, it may end up being a much better car. (Sorry in advance to my brother, who will undoubtedly resent me for this as Gerald was originally purchased for his use.)
18. Everybody I know has been extremely kind to me about it, and some wonderful people have even given me rides to and from places.
19. Driving my mother’s minivan has not been as completely terrible as I thought it would be, and I am slowly getting used to it.

Nineteen little miracles, all of which add up to another big miracle. As my dad put it: “This was the best possible outcome for a car accident.” It kind of sucks that it had to happen at all— but since it did happen, I could not have asked for a better outcome. It’s one of many things that proves to me that God is real, and that He loves me and wants to take care of me when I can’t do it myself.


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