Memory Days

Listen to Mustn’ts
By Shel Silverstein

Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.
Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the Impossibles, the Won’ts.
Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.
Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

Memory days come on holidays and birthdays and days that remind you to remember.

Memory days come on days like today.

71 years ago Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese navy. That day marked my country’s official engagement in the second world war.

My grandmother was barely 18 years of age that day. Hawaii was not yet a part of the United States. That would not happen until 1959, three years after my father was born. As a Japanese woman she was required to carry her birth certificate, including a current photo, with her at all times. I have no idea what she went through during the war. It was not something I ever discussed in depth with her. I can only imagine the fear and uncertainty that must have invaded as the bombs shattered her peaceful island life.

Just under 3 months shy of the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I was 18 and a freshman in college. Living away from home for the first time I enjoyed the freedom from the responsibilities of being the oldest child. On the morning of September 11, 2001 I walked into my 8 am class and was promptly told that classes had been cancelled because New York City had been attacked. I rushed back to my dorm room and called my family back in Virginia and then numbly watched as the towers fell.

I knew at the time that the world had shifted. Life would not be the same and we could never fully restore or rebuild the damage done, nor could we begin to understand the far reaching effects of that horrible day.

Unapologetic evil had exploded into my world as it had for my grandmother decades before.

In the years that have followed, my memory days become more meaningful. The more I learn about the world, the more I am grateful for the life that I have been privileged to lead.

I had an idyllic childhood that did not strip me of hope and faith. Life showed me instead how to find hope in the minute details and has taught me to use creativity and imagination to combat fear and despair.

Adulthood will do it’s best to hide those early lessons from me. Memory days always bring them back.

Today I remembered Hope and Love because they are worth fighting for.
Today I remembered Friendships and Fun because I’d be lost without both.
Today I remembered loved ones lost and those still here because they have made my way easier.
Today I remembered those who fight because they stand guard so I can walk free.
Today I remembered that I get to be me because of the sacrifices made on my behalf.

I am proud to be me. I can be more than I am. I can sacrifice for those who will follow.

How Many, How Much
By Shel Silverstein

How many slams in an old screen door?
Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live ‘em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give ‘em

An open letter to my 14 year old self.

Dear Keely,

A quick errand took me past a high school earlier this week. It was late afternoon and the football team was running drills on the practice field. Noting how small and awkward the young players looked in their bulky pads and helmets, I chuckled to myself as I remembered the way I used to crush on the guys on the high school football team. I continued on my way while decade old memories began to flicker past my mind’s eye in quick succession.

As a freshman entering high school I know you feel the invincibility of youth. The world is your oyster with the pearls of life lying around waiting for you to find like a giant game of finder’s keepers. Of course you believe life is going to go exactly the way you want it to. You will graduate from high school and college, get the perfect job, marry the perfect guy and live happily ever after. You have no doubts, very little fear, and all the naive confidence of a girl in her early teens. You believe in ‘happily ever after’ as it has been presented to you in all the stories you’ve read and all the movies you have seen.

My dear, you are in for a rather rude awakening. The ‘Happily Ever After’ as served up by Mr. Disney and most of Hollywood has set an unrealistic expectation. Writer/director Cameron Crowe put it best through the character of Elaine Miller when she said, “Look at this: an entire generation of Cinderellas and there’s no glass slipper.”

You and those of your generation have been culturally programmed to believe that you are entitled to this hypothetically blissful existence that continues in your imagination after the credits roll. You also believe that all it takes to reach this state of unending happiness is to make it through a series trials, mishaps, comedic interludes, and maybe a montage or two; all of which fit into a two hour fabricated world.

Life, unfortunately, does not work that way. Happiness and love are not a guarantee. Fairness, equality, acceptance, and gratitude are fleeting, if present at all.

Experience provides perspective, and while I don’t believe that hindsight is really 20/20, I do feel that it does allow an introspective individual to view life through a much more focused lens. In the years since you and I were the same person the things that I know about and expect from life have changed drastically. I’m sure that in another 15-20 years they will have completely shifted again.

As I approach the milestone age of 30 I wish for the ability to do two things.
One: send a list to you of perspectives gained and lessons learned in the last 15 years.
Two: receive a list of the same from our 50 year old self.

Because The Doctor and his Tardis are not likely to show up and make that first wish a reality, I’ll leave my list here and hope that it may find a few others who can use it to make their own lives happier. As for wish #2, I’ll just have to wait and learn. It is probably better that way. I don’t really want any spoilers.

The List

Happiness is a choice.

Love has as many definitions as the sky has stars. Each one is unique and some are not stars at all, but twisted black holes, voraciously consuming all the beauty and light that surrounds them.

Your worth as a person is not a value that others assign to you but one which you assign to yourself.

Give sincere compliments often and always say thank you when one is paid to you, even if it is not sincerely given.

Never treat a child in a way that would make them feel insecure or insignificant. Those feelings will eventually become a part of them, and I promise that you don’t want insecure people who have something to prove making decisions about your healthcare when you’re old.

Read good books, and lots of them. Informative periodicals too. You will be smarter, more informed, and you will be able to speak intelligently on a broad spectrum of topics.

Always have at least one friend nearby whom you can call at any time for any reason and they’ll be there.

Always have at least one friend nearby who knows that they can call you at any time for any reason and you’ll be there.

Make sure to maintain one good friendship from high school. Once you graduate, it’s nice to have one person who has known you that long and can reminisce and laugh with you about things that happened all those years ago.

A person’s religious beliefs and political opinions are unique to them and should be respected. They are a very personal thing and should remain so. They are not tools with which to beat others over the head. (suggestion: keep yours to yourself unless you know that respect and common courtesy will be provided by you and to you.)

Exercise more. You’ll learn to love it despite hating it at first. And don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Don’t wait to learn to do that one thing you always wanted to know how to do. Once you get started it will make you happier than you’ve ever been before, and you’ll wish you had started earlier.

Education is important but remember that some of the most valuable knowledge can’t be gained in a classroom and some of the best lessons must be learned the hard way.

Worry a little less what people think about you and a little more about what you think of yourself.

Own one casual outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks. Wear it at least once a month.

Good music, like good books, should be searched out, consumed often, and in large quantities.

Musical tastes, like politics and religion, are a personal thing. They should be respected and not imposed on others.

Who you are should be a more fluid idea rather than be set in stone. Allow yourself to be changed by positive experiences, ideas, and people.

Be creative. Participate in creative activities as often as you can. When you are creative, you are happier.

Take time every so often to be silly. Make faces at friends, play in the snow and rain, or just go to a park and play on the swing set. These things are a huge stress relief.

Let yourself cry. Everything always seems a bit more manageable after a good cry.

Take a cross country road trip by yourself at least once while in your twenties. It’s best to do this when moving to a new place. You have to learn to like anyone that you spend more than 20 hours in a car with.

Have a good homemade chicken noodle soup recipe on hand. Nothing cures a cough, heals a broken heart, or warms up a cold winter night quite like a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup.

People watch. You will learn more about the world you live in than you ever thought you could.

Age is relative. Older doesn’t mean wiser and younger does not immediately indicate stupid and immature.

Sing out loud and at the top of your lungs whenever you feel so inclined. It will ALWAYS make you feel better.

Trust your instincts. When you do, act without hesitation. If you wait too long doubt and fear will stop you from experiencing some of the most amazing moments in your life.

Never take a job just because it pays well. You’ll be miserable and no amount of money is worth that.

When you give, give freely and without expectation. If you seek reciprocation or recognition you’ll be disappointed more often than not.

Never allow anyone to belittle or demean your sense of wonder or your appreciation for the magic in child-like belief. Defend these fiercely for that kind of faith is the miracle that pulls you through the toughest times.

People will come into your life who will change you and help you become a better person. After a time, most of them will leave. Live in every single moment. Love them unconditionally and you’ll have more to smile about once they’ve moved on.

Learn to manage your money well. Money won’t make you happy but proper management of the money you have will relieve a ton of stress.

Instant gratification is WAY overrated. The best things come to those who work hard and earn what they get.

Spend less time heart aching over some boy or worrying about the man you’ll eventually marry. Focus instead on becoming the girl who that guy wants to be with.

Prince Charming is a myth. He’s also boring and predictable.

Be confident whether you feel it or not. And remember, there is a fine line between confident and cocky. Don’t cross that line.

I could keep going, I’m sure, but I’ll just end with this. Happiness in life is truly all about the little things. A smile, a song, an inside joke, a sunrise, a full moon, the open road, snow-capped mountains, and a spring storm. Late night laughter, fresh baked bread, a child’s hug, a moment of inspiration, a movie quote, a crowded dinner table, a good book, a great dance, and most of all, friends.

You will live a life with no regrets if you choose to be happy.

Oh, you’ll still struggle, you’ll experience heart ache and pain, and you’ll question everything you thought you knew.

But.

Between all of that, there is still happiness to be found. Find it and you will cease to merely exist. You will be alive.

Love,
Yourself