Dear Lily June,
Every mother is a broken record. Here’s the track my needle is currently skipping across: I’ve put out a call to anyone (seriously! anyone!) who stumbles upon this blog to write you a letter for your upcoming first birthday on May 13. Below is the eighth of these I received, with my introduction to the fellow blogger who sent it.
Both her and her blog’s name, El Tries New Stuff, reminded me of another famous El-, LJ: Eleanor Roosevelt. It was that vivacious first lady who challenged the world to
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Of course, while El claims she won’t “jump out of a plane or attempt eating porcupines every week,” what she is doing is far more terrifying: She’s taking the world head on despite episodes of anxiety and depression, pushing herself out of her comfort zone and attempting to do something new week by week.
And each challenge she takes on, in being good for the body, is good for the mind. She’s mastered a climbing wall, run the distance, crafted bao buns, travelled, gone vegan, attended a debate, done yoga, lead Cub Scouts into the wilderness, attempted a juice diet, bounced through a trampoline park, and more. Just reading that list exhausts me but in an inspiring kind of way. And then, I learn that she’s only 21, and her list either depresses me or lights a fire under me. The jury’s still out on that one.
But I hope her passion for novelty, Lily, rubs off on you. I hope you’ll see each day as an opportunity to be seized, rather than a span of time to be survived. In taking on our family’s bucket list challenge, I’ve tried, too, to make each Saturday new for you. I hope someday you’ll have the strength of soul, courage of heart, and fitness of body to sink your teeth into life and suck its magic down to the marrow.
That’s what El is doing across the pond in Sheffield, United Kingdom. That’s what anyone anywhere can do, Lily June, if they put their minds to it. One new thing El, despite never having met you, was write to you. I hope you, too, someday will reach out to every “El” you meet and thank them for being Electric, Elating, and Elevating.
It’s people like El that remind us that living is about feeling alive. Enjoy her letter, Lily, and all that it has to teach you.
Dear Lily June,
Hello and Happy 1st Birthday!
How surreal to be addressing the little girl I’ve never met but feel that I know so much about. Your mum, also not a physical acquaintance of mine but possibly one of my favourite ones of the cyber kind, has asked for the best present for you that anyone of any age can receive; knowledge. And I intend to oblige that request to the best of my ability, Lily June, don’t you worry.
So at this current time of writing this (11:36am on the 11th April 2016), in this current place (Sheffield, United Kingdom), I am 21 years old. A whole two decades older than your lovely self. All I can do is pass on a lesson that these two extra decades of life on this little planet have provided me with and hope with all my heart that it helps you along your way. Perhaps it won’t make your journey difficulty free, as I’ve found that it’s often the trials and hardships that have made me this person today, but I hope to at least guide you and remove a little confusion.
(The confusing parts will hit you hard in your teens, I’ll break that news to you now. It definitely won’t be pretty but you’ll flourish at the end of it into what is seemingly classed by people as an “adult”. Still coming to grips with being one myself. So far, it’s alright.).
What I want to pass onto you, Lily, is the entire reason I started my own blog and came across your mother’s letters to you. This year I set the intention of trying a new thing every week in order to challenge myself and break free of those heavy chains of anxiety. It’s taught me that no matter how big or small a challenge is, you can tackle it. If you remember that and you believe it wholeheartedly, life will never be dull, and you will find those charming hidden paths that unexpectedly lead to right where you’re supposed to be.
Sometimes you’ll fail, and the Chinese dumplings you attempt to make will be gross and horrendously inedible. Sometimes you will prevail and you’ll discover something about yourself that you never thought possible. In my case that was running but I doubt you could ever be cursed with my level of ineptitude in that area so perhaps you will find a love for tap dancing, or you’ll find that putting together a computer actually made sense, or you’ll grab a telescope and come across whole new planets.
Both the failing and achieving are equally as important and equally as noteworthy. JK Rowling (if your mum hasn’t started reading you Harry Potter yet, chew her until she does. CHEW HER, LILY.) was rejected reportedly 12 times by publishers before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone graced children’s’ bookshelves. If she’d given up my generation wouldn’t have been frantically searching the skies for owls carrying letters on their twelfth birthdays and I, aged 21, wouldn’t still have the tiniest flicker of belief left that magic is still out there (YouTube “slow motion popcorn” and tell me that’s not magic. For reals.). Also, Ms Rowling wouldn’t be a multi-trajillionaire so that’s something to consider.
The point is, until you probe into those endless possibilities you’ll never know just what you’re capable of. Ignore your own doubts, ignore other people, and ignore what your own body tells you occasionally (again, the running. Muscles can be wrong, Lily, they’ll lie to achieve their own lazy goals). But never ever ignore the opportunity that surrounds you every single day.
It’s a wonderful world that you’ve found yourself in, Lily. There may be times when you think otherwise but it certainly is. So explore it to your heart’s content. Try the strange looking, new food on the end of that long thing Mummy puts near your face. Find novel ways to gurgle and squeal really loudly (trust me, your parents will totally love it). And keep learning, keep soaking up every scrap and morsel of knowledge anyone sends your way. Accept life’s opportunities as the gift they are.
Happy Birthday, Lily June. May it be a wonderful one.
“El” from El Tries New Stuff