First of all, I wanted to say that I know it's may be kind of weird that I'm writting this to you, having been your teacher and stuff... but we're facebook friends yo'.... and not much is/has been kept secret from you.
Second.... I wanted to say how touched I was when you steadfastly supported me when I came out last year - really..... you never cease to amaze me. Thanks for that.
This is actually so hard for me to write.
I'm pretty sure that I've disappointed you - by not returning to school to teach photography. I know how much you loved the class and I've LOVED LOVED LOVED having you as a student for the last few years... I see so much of who I was at your age: creative, fun, vibrant, a little wild..... you are that and so much more. I really loved teaching those classes and it was incredibly hard for me to accept that I would not be able to return this year.
The thing is.... reality sucks. (BTW - this is a great movie you should see in a few years with Winona Ryder - 'Reality Bites' - just know that Ethan Hawke really wouldn't change in real life.....). Anyhow.... *my* reality sucks a bit - and circumstances require that I get a full time job, which means no more homeschooling for [The Boy] and no ability to continue to teach for me.
It doesn't really matter how I got here - ie. the whole husband leaving me thing.... but looking back it *matters* how I got here and that is what I wanted to write you about.
Life is a wonderful thing.
It's full of rainbows and sunshine and opportunity and dreams - and all of that really is at your feet... truly.
But the thing is..... you have to fight for it.
And .... you have to fight to keep it.
When I was, not that much older than you, I couldn't *wait* to get married.....I had this whole June Cleaver (ok... out of date reference - Leave it To Beaver - it's a show, look it up.) - idea about what I wanted my life to be. I wanted to grow up and get married and have kids who slept in twins beds in the same room. Kids who came running down the stairs for breakfast and ran off to school with a skip in their step.... and a husband who loved me and patted me on the butt as he headed out the front door carrying the lunch I would have lovingly made for him.
Yeah.... I know: I wasn't too smart, huh?
Even though that wasn't how life was turning out for me... I still help onto that dream. It wasn't bad that I held onto that dream - it wasn't bad that I always put my family first - ahead of me, ahead of my needs as a woman and a person..... but, it kind of was.
Let me tell you why.
When I first got married and I got into a car accident and I was awarded some injury money I used *all* that money to pay off a few bills and (mostly) a large bill my husband had from before we were married - over $5,000. Later, when I came into some more money I used $12,000 for the down payment on our home, $15,000 for improving that home, another $5,000 for another debt that belonged to my husband a few other things......
I SHOULD have put some of that money away for a 'rainy day'..... may be I could have put $10,000 away in a separate account for the future.... and may be that future could have been a trip to Europe on our 20th Wedding Anniversary..... or, as the case turned out to be, I could have used that money to help off-set the cost of living on my own with two kids after my husband left.
Instead..... when my husband walked away - he walked away pretty much debt free.... and I walked away with debts and a little bit of savings that I used up in 13 months of COBRA payments to keep my health insurance.
You see.... it was okay to fall in love.
It was good to be so willing as to use every penny I had to pay what I thought were "our" bills and help our family get ahead.... but in the end - when I was putting so much into everyone else, I forgot to keep 'investing' in myself.
Forgetting to 'invest' in myself has now cost me everything..... no more homeschooling for the kids. No more teaching..... and, worst of all - no more being solely a photographer.
It's the only "job" I've really had for going on 18 years now..... but, it doesn't pay so great and I have to find a ways and means to ensure that I can pay rent and buy food and clothes and gas.... and our rainy weather makes working in the winter months very hard and not financially reliable for a single Mom.
Because that studio I had in the house I put the down payment on.... and 'improved'.... that belongs to someone else now.
So, my point to you is this: while I can't be your teacher anymore, there is one last lesson I want you to learn and it is this: DO NOT STOP INVESTING IN YOURSELF.
Fall in love.
Fall head over heels, ass over tea-kettle, mind blowing, heart stopping.... BREATHLESSLY in love.
Fully trust whoever you are with with everything fiber of your being and every ounce of your love.
But.... invest in yourself at the same time.
Make your career plans... and don't drop out in the fourth year of your English Degree so that your husband can go to college for Chemical Engineering.... (because yeah, I did that, too and now I'm 38 with only two-year degree and no way to really "make" any kind of serious money...... sigh.)
So, make your plans and GO TO COLLEGE or a trade school and get a trade you love.... and when you're lucky enough to be doing that trade or job... don't give it up for the betterment of *anyone* else but yourself because life comes at your fast - sometimes it's a heart-attack or a fast car or a landslide or a 22 year old - but something could take away your partner and leave with you nothing if you have put allllll your financial eggs in their basket.
If you think life is hard now at a teenager..... let me tell you sucks major balls to be starting your entire life over at 38..... trust me.
Wait.... the only thing worse than starting over at my age is knowing that the hand that has now been dealt to you means that you have to change your children's life in ways that they don't want changed and you honestly don't know if it's all for the best or not...... but at the end of the day - it doesn't matter: money has to made, rent has to be paid...and two kids need to be in public school so that the former two things can happen.
Yeah.... that's worse.
Invest in yourself. Earn your own money and put some of it aside - may be it's for the world's biggest and baddest 50 year Wedding Anniversary.... or for your kids college or a down payment on a retirement beach house..... or may be, it'll be the money you need for first and last on an apartment you need for you and your two kids when you suddenly find yourself single.
In years past I would have thought that advice to be cynical and wrong.... as though I were "preparing" or planning for the "end" of things.... that certainly doesn't show faith - and I'm *supposed* to have faith and act in that faith.... which is all find and well - but I SHOULD have had faith in myself and invested in both my family and in me.....
So. Don't be like me.
Follow your heart.
Live life by the seat of your pants (within reason, young lady.....)
Be carefree and full of hope.
Be honest and true and have faith in love.....
But invest in yourself.
Invest in an education and a trade.
Invest your savings.
Share.... but don't sacrifice everything you are and everything you have for *any* relationship.
And ..... always love yourself. Know, especially as a woman, that you are more than a pant size - this is true, but I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that it's soooooooo much easier to take off 10 pounds than it is 100 pounds.... just.... invest in yourself.
You have no idea how sad I am not to be there with you this year. It's a huge regret for me. HUGE.
But.... again, this is because I didn't keep 'investing' in myself.... so this is the end result.
You are gorgeous and talented and wonderful..... and a talented little photographer. :) Just do me a favor and when you lose that head of yours and fall in love for reals'....... remember to keep loving yourself enough to keep investing in yourself as much as you are investing in your relationship.
Then your life will be incrediballs.
You deserve nothing less.