“CBS This Morning” kicked off its new series “Note to Self” yesterday morning with the beautiful 83-year-old soul, Maya Angelou, whose words always enfold me in comfort and grace. It’s like liquid sunshine, that voice. I love CBS’s new project, and I love Maya Angelou, and I was inspired to write my own letter to my angst-ridden, insecure 15-year-old self.
Stop running, stop chasing, catch your breath. You are enough. You, with your freckled face and your short hair, stop trying to figure out who you are. You are you. You simply and beautifully are. You are not your sister, you are not your best friend, you are not your cousins. You are Katrina, and you are enough.
It doesn’t matter whether you start the game or whether you’re first off the bench. It doesn’t matter if you make the clutch 3-pointer or drop the home run ball in centerfield. Was your solo a bit pitchy? It’s okay. You’re okay. If you’re doing your best, it’s enough. This life has many lessons to teach you, and if you climb too quickly to the next summit, you might miss some of them.
Be kind to everyone. Each person you meet is fighting his or her own battle. Perhaps he’s not had breakfast in days. Perhaps his father beat him before bed last night. Perhaps her wealth is choking the life out her. Perhaps her Homecoming Queen smile is masking an empty shell of loneliness. Know that. Respect that. Offer your hand. Your hands are strong, they are capable. Reach out to others. Always reach out. Never close your fists in anger. If you’re clenching your hands tightly enough to leave tell-tale half-moon fingernail prints in your palms, you cannot receive the gifts that are coming your way. Open your hands to give, and in giving, you cannot help but receive.
You will have many friends along this journey. Some will be forever. Some will not. Love each of them with every ounce of being. Don’t try to make them who they are not. Love each one where she is. Right there. Right in the heart. Deep in the soul. Love her there.
You will kiss many boys. You will swoon. You will think you’re in love a million times over. You will give your heart to boys who will break it and give it back. Don’t be so eager to give yourself away. When the true blue one comes, you’ll know. He may not ride his shining steed with his varsity football jersey glowing in the moonlight. That is someone else’s knight. Don’t fall for him. Yours is there waiting in the wings. See him? He’s the one with the beautiful blue eyes and the heart that wants nothing more than to envelop you for all eternity. He’s the one who will hold your firstborn son and whisper in wonder and awe, “It’s Sam.” Do you see him? Look closely. He’s the forever kind.
Don’t sacrifice your dreams to live someone else’s. You’re an athlete, yes. You’re a singer, yes. You’re a scholar, yes. What else are you? What makes you giddy, keeps you up at night? What is yours and yours alone? What lights your fire? Is it your pen? Your paper? Don’t be afraid to use them. Don’t be scared of your words. Don’t worry what others will think.
Never, ever worry what others will think. Their thoughts are their business, not yours. What they think about you doesn’t matter. As long as you are good and kind and true, you are everything you need to be. If that is not enough for someone, it’s okay. Not everyone will love you. Some won’t even like you. It’s okay. Keep being you. Keep loving yourself. Keep loving others.
Don’t ever let money define you — either the lack or the abundance of it. And you will have both in this lifetime. Money buys you things; you can even argue that it buys you leisure. But it does not buy what you need and deserve most in this world — family, friends, peace, contentment. When you are in abundance, give freely to your family, your friends, the world. Give to those who don’t have as much. When your bank account is dwindling, give even more.
Realize that fear doesn’t serve you. The top of that mountain might be high, but if you don’t climb it, you’ll miss out on the view. And Girl, that view is breathtaking. Don’t live your life as a series of might have beens. Say “What’s next?” instead. It’s a choice. Choose wisely. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second, you get to choose. How infinitely cool is that?
Sometimes life will get hard. It can be fickle that way. But if we never rode that roller coaster, think of all the adventures we’d miss, all the lessons we’d never learn. When life knocks you to your knees, it’s okay to cry. You’re a good crier — always have been, always will be. Cry it all out, play some sappy love songs, let the snot run where it may. Then take a deep breath, stand up, square your shoulders, and march confidently into the next moment. Leave the past behind.
You’re going to acquire a lot of nicknames over the years. Trina, Trinks, Trine-Bones, Trinksy, Kit-Kat, Kat, Special K. Wear them all proudly. Each was given to you by someone important, someone who thought enough of you to call you by a pet name. To the giver, you were much bigger than just one name. You were too much Katrina to be contained in seven little letters.
Your life is perfect just as it is. You long for the white picket fence and the father who yells, “Honey, I’m home!” as he sets his briefcase inside the door. But that is someone else’s life. Your life is happening all around you. And it’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be. Live it. Embrace it. Learn it. Learn from it.
You might think that these high school years are destined to define you forever. But they’re not. They are just a blip on the radar. So whether you’re popular or not, it won’t really matter in ten years, in twenty, in thirty. Popularity is all about what someone else thinks. What matters is what you think. What matters is what’s inside. Make it good. Make it golden. Keep your thoughts and actions sacred and meaningful. They are yours and yours alone.
Someday, little faces will look to you for guidance — little faces that you were given the privilege of bringing to this earth. Four of them, to be exact. When those faces are freckled and broken out and hiding behind all their own insecurities, remember what it felt like to be fifteen. Remember that their lives are Big and Important to them. Remind them how much you love them — not because they’re Big and Important, but simply because they are. Because they exist. Because they are worthy as is. Because the air that has been provided for their lungs is the same air that’s provided to the wealthiest lungs on earth, to the poorest, to the sickest, to the happiest, to the loneliest. Don’t mold them into who you think you want them to be, marvel instead at who they are.
You have so many adventures yet to come, it’s daunting to wrap your brain around the possibilities. You think you have good friends now? Just you wait, Sister. In a few short years, a very special teacher will change the trajectory of your life with her heart and her music. Just you wait until someone comes into your life at age 40 and knocks your socks off. Just you wait until that girl who wore the coordinating Laura Ashley jumpsuit in her front yard stands beside you on your wedding day. You know — the one whose heart is as big as her Aqua Net hair? Just you wait. Make new friends, keep the old. You know the saying. And when it’s time to let go, that’s okay, too. Some things remain. Some don’t. When it’s time for them to move on, kiss them goodbye and wish them well. Hold them in your heart, and encourage them to spread their wings. But while they’re there? Laugh until you cry. Talk until your voice is hoarse. Settle into the comfort of your silences, where you are safe and warm and unconditionally loved. Hug. Then hug some more.
The best hands to hold belong to your lover, your friend, your child. Don’t miss a single opportunity.
Look up at the stars. Watch the sunrise. Stand beside the ocean and realize that as small as you might feel, you are an integral part of this human race. You matter. You make a difference. You are connected to every other person, every other entity in this universe. Connect. Always connect. What you offer up to this world comes back to you a thousand times. Offer smiles, offer joy, offer abundance, trust, and a soft place to land.
Love your mom, your stepdad, your sister. Cherish them. They are gifts of the greatest magnitude. You may not always agree with them — I hope you don’t always agree with them. But love them. Forgive them their faults. Get on your knees and pray that they’ll give you the same courtesy. Your mom will get older someday. Her hair, too soon, will begin feel like Grandma’s cotton candy locks. The translucent skin on her hands will startle you with its brazen march through time. Sit with her. Listen to her. Trace the wrinkles on her face with a gentle finger. Remember, always, that this gift of your life was hers to give. Know that your father didn’t choose to leave you. He just chose to leave. That semantic difference makes all the difference.
You are not perfect. You never will be. But you are enough. In fact, you’re more than enough. No more comparisons to others, Young One. Love those strong, athletic legs. Someday, they’ll be saggy, and baggy, and riddled with varicose veins. Your shorts will get longer and longer to hide the physical wear and tear of age. Those legs will keep you moving, but they’ll never be like they were when you could sprint a suicide with the best of ’em. Love them just as much as you did then. They’ve helped you walk through this beautiful life. Stretch them, be grateful for them. Your crazy, awkward, frizzy curls? Embrace them. They’re yours. All yours. And no amount of product can truly tame them. Don’t ever stop singing. Your voice will change. It will someday be as out of shape as your body, but sing anyway. Sing in the car, in the shower, on the corner of the street. Don’t be self-conscious. Just do it. I bet someone else joins in. Start the music, Baby. Be the source.
Take care of your body. Take care of your mind. Take care of your soul. Eat well, keep learning, embrace your spirituality in whatever form it manifests. This world is so much bigger than any of us can fathom. You are an integral part of it. What you do matters. What you say matters. The love you give matters.
Keep doing, keep saying, keep giving. Always keep giving.
I love you. Make sure you do, too. Here’s to the next 100 years, #22! Let’s make the most of every moment, you and me, together.