Following the very last class I took in college, I stopped by our university’s post office to check my PO box and forward my mail. I was excited and hopeful for the future, feeling relieved I would never have to attend another lecture unless I wanted to. When I turned the dial, I was surprised to find an envelope marked from Raleigh, NC with my name neatly typed on the front. Full name, mind you.
As I walked behind the building to my apartment on the main strip in town, I stopped dead in my heels and my mouth dropped: I had received my very first hate mail.
More or less, the anonymous writer wished me ill-will in New York City. They said they hoped I fell on my face, that living in the city for two months during an internship was no indication I could survive full-time. They misquoted me and promised me that fairytales don’t come true, that my Prince wouldn’t be waiting at Grand Central or Times Square or Bryant Park to greet me when I landed on Northern soil. They were rude and blunt, standing their ground as a coward who wouldn’t reveal their name and though they started the letter with “this is not from someone who is jealous of you – there is nothing to be jealous of” -each and every one of my friends could feel the envy seep into their hands as they read it and laughed with me in the days that would follow.
They signed their Letter of Unlove with: “Seriously, wake up.” I think there were some Gossip Girl-like “xoxo”s thrown in for good measure, and in all, it didn’t amount to anything more than a few sentences strung together without proper punctuation or a real purpose.
At the time, I was a little stunned. Part of me was hurt. The biggest part of me was curious and annoyed whoever had such beef with me wasn’t willing to say what they wanted to my face. I read their words with a grain of salt, never being one to let anyone’s opinions stand in the way of what I intend to do, no matter how unmanageable a task may seem to everyone else.
And I mean, I couldn’t exactly disagree with them because they weren’t telling me anything I didn’t know.
I never expected New York to be peaches-and-ice-cream, sunflowers-and-roses. I didn’t think I’d prance in and climb the media ladder without faltering here-and-there. But I’ve been successful. I’ve landed on my feet with a great group of friends, a job I enjoy, an apartment I adore, and a happiness that’s unparalleled. I didn’t think I’d meet my husband the second I moved (though in my love addict stage back then, I wanted to)- but I’ve been blessed to love a few good men and discover a possibility worth taking a chance on. I never wanted to work in magazines because I was “pretty” as the author claimed, but because my byline could has the opportunity to make tides – even if women’s issues in dating, love, relationships, and such doesn’t seem like that big of deal to many. (But don’t we spend the majority of our time obsessing about those things? Just sayin’)
Before I left to return to NYC today, I went through some old things on a bookshelf my father made and inside a book I read before I took flight when I moved, I found the letter in its original envelope. A dozen life lessons, heart breaks, changes, and tearful nights later, it had a different impact on me than it did on that cold December afternoon.
In fact, it probably had the intended effect the writer wanted. I read the typed lines, smiled and realized, I was awake. Anything that I once took for granted or anything I thought would be easy and wasn’t, most of the unrealistic notions I had about love and men, and all of the things in between – they’re all different now. I’m not cured, but I’ve matured. I didn’t need a letter to wake something up inside of me but it’s nice to know someone cared (or didn’t care) enough to go to the trouble to say such cruel things. If anything, I now see it is a testament to my own impact, my own power, and the essence I exude into the world by dancing across keys. I’m not the best writer, but unlike this author, I’m actually one who is brave enough to state my name. Even when more often than not, it isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
Without showing Mr. Possibility, I tucked the letter into my purse and decided just what to do with it. One day, when I find that private office, when I’m doing just what I want to do, when I’m happily married with a non-happily-ever-after mentality, when I live downtown and finally find comfort and cushion in my finances – I’ll frame this letter. I’ll hang it in my office where younger editors and interns can see.
So that they too, like every other dreamer in this city who also happens to have the conviction and courage to chase those desires with heightened ambition, will wake up. Because like me, they may find the life they created isn’t merely a dream, but a dreamlike reality based on your own hard work.