My Birthday Letter

Rain drizzles down the dirty windows. I lean against a pillow, a night of inadequate sleep nagging me. The drive home is a long one, filled with spreadsheets and emails.

It’s my birthday. It doesn’t feel very birthday-ish. Honestly, I just got married. Who cares about birthdays when you just got married? It pales in comparison. James is very excited about my birthday. He’s planning a belated birthday party in a couple days and is being very secretive (what’s funny is that he ends up completely improvising it and accidentally takes me to the exact same types of places–––new neighborhood, sushi, coffee, ice cream–––as he did on our first date. Such a romantic deja vu!)

I’m 24. That is a lot different than 23. Or 21. Or 18. 

Being 24 means I’m less than 365 days away from being 25. I’m trying hard not to freak out. 25 is halfway to 50. 25 is halfway through my 20s. I’m only 5 YEARS AWAY FROM BEING 30.

AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When we get home I get my first birthday present. I look out the window at Samwise’s strong boughs and see a gleam of red in my tiny potted garden nestled against the jungle vines (very happy for those jungle vines as they protect us from seeing the pizza place next door when we look out the window…). It’s my first tomato!

Yes. I purposefully camouflaged my garden against our daily visitors who like to walk through our yard.

I rush out there and look at them.

Three beautiful small tomatoes, bright red. I observe them, trying to get up the guts to pick them. You see, tomato plants are very leafy, and you can’t really see all the way around the tomato. I am always petrified that my fingers will reach around and feel a worm or a cockroach or something eating the tomato on the other side.

But it must be done. I pluck one tomato. Good. I pluck second tomato. A little worm hole, but not bad. I reach around the third tomato…

EW!!!! It’s eaten off on the other side. I see a huge slug latched onto it and promptly shriek and throw it into the jungle. Ahem.

I pluck off any superfluous basil that has grown and walk inside, where I lay the fruits of my potted garden on the cutting board. Then I remember that I have a letter to read. A very special letter that has been ripening for 10 years.

When I was 14 years old and going through an L.M. Montgomery phase (I went through lots of phases when I was little…Laura Ingalls Wilder, Amish civilization, World War II, Anne Frank…) I read her entire real journal and almost all of her books and therefore named the trees in my backyard and wrote myself something called a 10-year-letter. This was a letter you wrote to yourself 10 years later.

This is the year I get to open it. Honestly, I’m not that excited. I have a memory of my 14-year-old self as rather romantic and reclusive (I'd literally leave interesting family conversations so I wouldn’t have to bear the burden of documenting them in my journal) and I remember the letter as being a lot of ‘dearests’ and syrupy sentiments.

When we get home I dig the letter out of my hope chest, which is full of all the journals I have religiously kept since I was 8-years-old. I remember that back then the thought of '2015' was unimaginable to me…after the end of the world (and the Mayan calendar) on December 21, 2012! 

I open it. The stationery comes back to me like it was yesterday.

I read it. I laugh. 

It’s funny…my 14-year-old self is actually laughing at her own romantic old-fashioned jargon, pretending to be a kind of tongue-in-cheek Shakespeare. ‘Are you married, dearest Twenty-Four? And if so, to whom? What is your name? Mrs. _____ _________?”

Praise the Lord. Got that life goal completed before I had to open this letter! 

Then there’s all these references…how my favorite baby names were Candace and William. How my goal in life was reading all the Graeco-Roman classics and memorizing famous poems. 

“Wherever you live, do you have a library with an east or west window in it?”

I don’t think 14-year-old Camille knew about studio apartments and ‘starting out’.

Some of the sentiments or questions are very antiquated, projections of my future that only the Camille of 14 wanted and are now obsolete. Others, like writing books and gardening and naming trees (ha!), I’m more passionate about than ever.

“Do you still use exclamation marks too much?”

¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡YES!!!!!!!!!!!! 

(I always thought that the Spanish upside-down exclamation mark was a very handy tool.)

I smile as I see the handwriting cramp up at the end. When I was 14 and homeschooled I would get all my music and bookwork done from 5am-1pm, and then I’d read books, write letters, and journal for 4 hours until my hand ached and spasmed. I read Louisa May Alcott’s full journal and her hand did too. Which made me feel special. (Rabbit trail alert: Poor Louisa May Alcott!!! Such a sad and lonely life story. Not as bad as L.M. Montgomery though…she was an agnostic who married a man who went insane. Anne Frank beat them all though. I cried and cried after reading her diary and had nightmares for weeks about being in a Christian holocaust.)

But the biggest thing I noticed about my 10-year-letter was how much the same I was. Not in big life changes, like getting married, or going to college, or learning life lessons…but in who I am. That never changes, no matter how old you grow. Isn’t that weird to think? That you’ll be the same person when you're 70 as you are when you’re 24?

I think I’ll write another 10-year-letter to Camille at 34.