By RUTH WEISSMANN
To my mother: When I was little and I cried, you wouldn’t hold me. You said you’d talk to me when I was ready to be calm, when I could be logical. I don’t cry much anymore. I wonder if you taught me to use my head and not my heart. To my friend across the world: You don’t know how badly I want to get on a plane and see the Google image results in person. These days, I think I am living through a screen. To the person who fell during yoga class: It’s okay, balance is really hard. To my cousin: Thank you for reminding me that the first thing I do after graduation doesn’t have to be what I want to do forever. Sometimes I forget that life is a novel and not a haiku; it doesn’t have to be resolved in the first seventeen syllables.
To my father: You taught me to balance a checkbook. You taught me how to calculate interest and make a budget and save for the future. So I never had to rely on anyone else financially, you said. I’m afraid what I heard was, don’t let anyone else count. To my roommate: it’s October, and I still haven’t eaten any of your food while you were out. Do you know how much willpower that took? To my childhood neighbor: My mother said I should ask you how you’re doing at school. I told her I already know; I can see your posts online. You look really happy. But I wonder, when did it become a waste of time to ask?
To the man who sold me my car: You left eight dollars in quarters in the glove compartment. I parked on your dime (or quarter, I guess) for two months. To my professor: You asked us at the beginning of the semester to write down one hope and one fear. You passed out index cards, so we could write on both sides. I’m fairly certain you meant semester goals, but mine were not so temporary. On one side, I was afraid I would speak superficially to others, because the real conversations are only happening inside my head. On the other, I hoped I was being honest with myself. To the freshman who looked panicked: You told me you enrolled in 22 credits and you were drowning. Yes, the river of college rises fast. But sometimes a flood is the only way the soil lets anything new grow.
To the cafeteria employee who swiped my I.D. card: I went back through the line to buy another cookie, and I was worried that you would remember it was my second one. You help so many people every day; do we all blur together for you, like a mosaic that you can only see when you step back? To my first college friend: I thought you were dead boring, because you never left our dorm room. I thought you were hiding from adventure, when really, your adventure just looked different than mine. You taught me that boring is a relative term. To my landlord: When we first moved in, the bathroom mirror was cracked. I got so used to it that when it was finally replaced, I was still looking for a fault line that no longer existed.
To my brother: I will trade you my blueprints for the future if you give me your ability to float through life, living in the moment. To the waitress who forgot to charge me for my food: Thank you for reminding me how often I am lucky, and what else I have been given for free. To the girl with allergies in my English class: Your mouth breathing reminds me that I’ve been breathing too — that I am living, and I have barely noticed. To the only person I’ve ever walked away from: You used to tease me, because I mixed up my left from my right. Even on my driver’s test, I had to make giant L’s with my hands; it was the one thing I couldn’t remember. I want you to know, I finally got it. I left because it wasn’t right.
To you, dear reader: Look around. Everyone in your life is there because they fill up some little part of you that nobody else does. Whether they are romantic or platonic or familial or simply in the past, they give a small part of themselves to you. They are a lesson you can’t look up in a textbook. Some of them you can’t choose, but often, you dictate who you interact with. Ask yourself: Who are the people around you; what are they doing? What do they have you saying, thinking, becoming? You started as a million little Legos. Are they building you into somebody you want to be?
Ruth Weissmann is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A Word to the Weiss appears alternate Thursdays this semester.