24 September, 2013

A Letter to My Sister at 16

I wrote this a few months ago but wasn't brave enough to post it just because. But now I am, so here you go. Warning: it's long. 
Steven and I, newly engaged in 2008.

I thought I was in love with a boy I’d never talked to. Lie – I did talk to him. I said hi once and then he said hello and got up and walked away. I was in eighth grade.

He went to another school and I saw him at least three or four times a year because Southeast Alaska schools are amazingly integrated and travel is frequent from district to district.

And then I was a sophomore in high school and direct-contact was unfashionable. This was about when text messaging came into existence and I realized that if I was serious about this, I could never, ever, ever approach him again. I’d have to go about it the cool way. The serious way. The talk-to-a-mutual-friend-and-hope-they’ll-talk-about-you-to-him-way.

I casually mentioned the music festival dance, asking if she thought he might go. (She being the cool mutual friend).

“No, I doubt it. He’s got a girlfriend and they’re serious.”

Serious. Serious! SERIOUS! The word echoed in my mind. Serious? I felt like I’d been cheated on.

Serious: Serious means you have better things to do than slow dance to “Back at One”

“You don’t think he’ll even show up? For a little while?”

“His girlfriend graduated two years ago. He like never spends time at the school if he doesn’t have to. He’s always with her when he’s not with his band.”

Serious: Serious means you date someone older than you. At the time I thought this was terribly, painfully romantic and star-crossed rather than weird.

“What’s her name?” The stalker emerges, “I think I know who you’re talking about, but I’m not sure.” (Big fat lie)

“Ryan Silk.”

“That’s her real name?”

“Cool, huh? So you don’t know her then?”

Serious: Serious means having an unusually awesome name. Sounding like a character in Fight Club

“No, I don’t know her.”

“She’s like really cool. We hang out sometimes and go for coffee.”

Serious: Serious means drinking fancy coffee. But I don’t drink coffee.

I tried to swallow but everything felt terribly dry: my cheeks, my throat, even my toes felt like they’d been drained of blood.

“Yeah, actually she called me earlier today. They got in like a car accident sort of. Like someone rammed into his truck. She said that like one second she was eating an almond M&M and the next, her forehead was smacking the dash. Like… talk about surreal. And he like jumped out of his seat and ran over to her side and pulled her out and put his arms around her and was all, “I never want to lose you”. I guess they’d been fighting like the second before. So crazy.”

“Crazy,” I agreed. If by crazy you mean romantic, heartbreaking and… serious.

Serious: serious means getting into car accidents, eating almond M&Ms and emotional make-up hugs when you think the other person could have just died in the midst of an argument.

Serious: having arguments

Serious: telling people about the arguments that you were having when your truck was rammed into

I fell asleep that night thinking about almond M&Ms. Easily the most sophisticated of the whole M&M family. Of course he was in love with an older girl who eats almond M&Ms. Of course they were serious.

By some grand scheme of fate, I saw the two of them the next day at Fred Meyer while I was waiting outside of the dressing rooms. Fred Meyer is one of a small handful of department stores in the entire state. The next closest place to buy clothes is Seattle, Washington.

And then it was slow motion and sad music.

He had his arm around her shoulders, and their fingers were intertwined loosely. That was the first thing I noticed.

The second thing I noticed was that he was wearing a flannel shirt, completely unbuttoned with a light blue thermal underneath. I have loved flannel since then.

The third thing I noticed was that he was carrying a packet of Haines socks.

I finally forced my eyes to her face and my heart fell out of my chest, then imploded on the linoleum. I would never, ever be able to compete with that. She had short, choppy chocolate-colored hair with dark red highlights and a perfect lady bug face. She was a miniature human; shapely and petite and mature. She was wearing a North Face raincoat with an enormous chunky scarf wrapped around her neck like a boa constrictor.

Serious: serious mean going to the store together to buy socks

Serious:  serious means loosely intertwined fingers

Serious: serious means chunky scarves

I walked over to the bench by the waiting rooms and put my face in my hands. How had this scenario come to be? Had she been rubbing his feet on the hypothetic couch of his hypothetical den when she exclaimed in her hypothetically sweet yet husky voice that she could just swear that every pair of socks he had were torn? Had his mom heard while she was sitting at the desk paying bills, and laughed along with Ryan and handed him her debit card and asked him to please pick up some white potatoes in addition to the socks while he was out?

Serious: serious means your parents know your significant other and think that he or she is delightful

I was in tenth grade, he was a senior. I was only fifteen. He was probably eighteen. She was in her twenties. I remember looking down at my worn-out clogs. The ones I’d ordered online from American Eagle two years before because my friend Katie always wore clogs and I liked how she dressed.

I’m such a child, my heart cried. I’m ridiculous. I’m a joke. They’re so mature and grown-up and serious. Forget him, how am I ever going to have a real relationship with a boy? How am I ever going to be as poised, natural and confidant as Ryan? I will always be this goober with huge cheeks and boring hair. Always. I’m a child.

Serious: serious means mature, which means you dress and look and act like an almost-adult

I’m not sure if I admitted it to myself then. I like to think that I did. But I know in my heart I wasn’t ready to be like that. I wasn’t ready to invest so much in someone I had a romantic relationship with. My life had forced me to grow up in many, many ways. This was not one of them. I could still choose the time that was right for me to be serious. And I think I knew that when I was ready to be serious, the definition would be very different from the conclusions I’d formed from stalking a couple I didn’t even know.

It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re a teenager and you think that now is the time to be serious but no one is taking you seriously.

I was in college when he added me on a messenger service I hadn’t been on in years. The alert had come to my email and when I logged in and saw him there, online, I just about died.



Do you know who this is?

I think so (big fat lie, I know exactly who you are, the names of the three different garage bands you were in back in high school, your ex-girlfriend’s name, and a detailed account of the time that you were rear-ended back in ’04) you’re from Juneau, right?

Right. So you’re in Idaho. Me too

Rexburg. Are you in Boise?

No. Moscow.



So you’re Mormon, right?


So you don’t party? Do you smoke weed?

I don’t know why this made me so very emotional, but as I clicked the little “x” on the right of our first ever conversation, I cried a little bit. Then I forgot about him until a few months ago when his ex-girlfriend, “Ryan Silk”, commented on my blog and I realized that she really is just as cool as I remember her being and that I think that if we didn’t live on opposite sides of the continent, we’d probably be friends. Plus, I’d always have this major secret that I only know who she is because I stalked her boyfriend all throughout middle and high school and even tried to cut my hair short like hers (big mistake).

At this point of my life, I was a few months from meeting Steven and in a tangle of a relationship with someone I couldn’t commit to all the way.

Serious: serious is saying enough is enough; you want commitment, but I don’t love you enough to give it to you. I’m sorry, goodbye.

I wanted to hold on to lots of different relationships because it’s scary to be alone, and when you find someone who is almost what you need, you worry that there will never be someone who comes as close or closer to filling the blanks in your soul.

Serious: serious is being single instead of being in a security-blanket-romance

When I was dating Steven, he asked me to teach him to play the guitar. Together, we sat down and I started a basic lesson on chord progression and strumming. He insisted that he knew how to strum. He didn’t; he was terrible. But I felt like I should just shut up and tell him he was doing great. Did I do him a great disservice in the long run? No. He didn’t really like the guitar and hasn’t picked it up since then. I didn’t forever hamper his guitar skills by curbing the habit of poor strumming early on.

Serious: serious is thinking before you speak or act or react because you love the other person so much that you would rather swallow your own selfishness than cause anything but joy in his or her heart.

Something I’d never done before.

Serious: serious is settling into the cavity of one soul, filling it up with yours and never expecting payment in return. But the funny thing is, yours gets filled in the process, every time.

When you’re sixteen, everything wants to bury the child in you. And when you’re in love – real love – all of the best things about you bubble up and you so much resemble the child you used to be.

Don’t let the world’s definition of “serious” bury you.

Serious: serious is integrity. Serious is real love.

And real love is silly and giddy and hard but full of light and peace.


  1. This was well written Brooke. It's amazing how a little perspective can change how you look at everything. The other day we were driving past the local middle school and as we were passing I caught a glimpse of some of the kids inside a classroom and thought.... they look so LITTLE. I remember as an elementary kid thinking they were so big and likewise the high school kids seemed SO grown up, but now I see them and think.... they have so much to learn. And that's okay, learning is what life is all about, after all.

    1. Hey Kati! Thank you! That is SO TRUE about perspective. I still can't believe how little even middle schoolers are!

  2. I loved your short hair cut. I thought it was so cute and stylish and mature...there's that perspective again.

    1. Haha, thanks Erika :) Definitely a perspective thing! By the way, I saw your family in Sitka last month - I cannot BELIEVE how grown up your sisters are!!! (David was in Utah, but I'm sure he's quite grown up too). :)

  3. I loved your short hair cut. I thought it was so cute and stylish and mature...there's that perspective again.

  4. Brooke, this was hilarious and one of my favorite posts so far... I could very much relate to the heart-imploding, mouth-drying feelings you described... and it replayed over and over as I fell hopelessly in love again and again. But my reaction to those things changed as I began to realize how pitifully little of an investment I had in each of these boys and how entirely unknown to me they really were... You make perfect sense and say so well what it means to really feel seriously about another person... the maturity of heart that is chosing to curb your instinctive actions for their sake - great example with the guitar lessons : ) Anyways, good letter. *(I thought I knew about all of your major crushes... reading this, I'm not sure I know who this is... )

    1. Thanks Michaela! I'm sure you know who this is, next time I email you I'll tell you - he might think I'm crazy if he googles his name and it shows up in this comment, haha!

      But I know what you mean. That is such a good point that we really invest so little when we are in that stage of life that when you think you're in "love" sometimes it's really just major infatuation.

  5. Brooke, I'm speechless. I loved everything about this post.... I love you! I just.. ahhh I just love this! Okay, I guess I wasn't really speechless. :)

  6. i still love reading this!
    love you!

  7. seriously love this. just shared it with one of my friends...its so true. love you!


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