an open letter to my graduating seniors

You are going out into a beautiful and scary world. You are going to do things for yourself from now on. Sure, you may have a small taste of independence from the time you’ve spent as a student and artist in this crazy, unique, wonderful place. But now you have to decide who you will be outside of here. What will define your first foray into adulthood? What will you take away from this place where you grew up, where you honed your craft, where you learned to take care of your friends and they took care of you, where, somewhere in the middle of the cuddles and Instagram photos and food deliveries, you built a second home? How will you leave here and still take the ghosts of something that was so central to your being and identity along with you?

These questions are all running through your mind, whether you realize it or not. You probably won’t be able to answer them right away, or maybe ever. But I do have a few hopes for you and the life you build after you leave.

I hope you make your own decisions because they are the right ones for you, not because all the friends you hastily made during freshman orientation all decided to do keg stands and you feel like you have to do one, too, or because your academic advisor is pressuring you to pick a more “responsible” major. I hope some of these decisions lead to mistakes and you can laugh about them . . . maybe not until five or ten years down the road, but still laugh nonetheless.

I hope you love and love completely. Love without focusing on whether it is the right kind of love or the right person. Love and maybe you won’t be loved in return, but at least you will see what it’s like to watch your heart float away and tie itself to another person’s for a little while. Love and eventually find a person who loves you back, too — maybe a friend, maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe a roommate, but someone whose heartbeat aligns with yours. Love and soak in the fact that you are human and capable of loving and being loved, and let that be a defining moment for you, as it is for every person at some point in their life.

I hope that you don’t stop being you. No boy is worth changing your personality, no audition is worth pretending to be someone you’re not, and no lie is worth telling to avoid showing someone else the beauty that is within you. I hope you let other people see your own unique light that has lit up our little house of girls for the past year.

I hope you know how beautiful this year has been because you were a part of it. I hope you know that I learned just as much from you as you did from your experiences at this school. I hope you tell me about your future successes and disappointments if you need someone to tell those things to, and that you know I still care what happens to you after you leave here.

So soak up every last second you have here. Cry and laugh and jump up and down and drape yourself over your friends and watch the sunset over the lake and appreciate everything that is around you for these next 24 hours. Celebrate the fact that you survived, you succeeded, and be proud of yourself! Be excited about the possibilities the future holds! Let your goodbyes be bittersweet and soaked in tears, but remember that nothing you do, no move you make in the future, will take away the memories you have in this place. You are leaving this place but it is not leaving you, and that is something you can hold onto.

I will miss you, but I can’t wait until our paths cross in the future. Because I have a feeling that they just will, and that will be beautiful.

Love,
Madeline

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5 things that are probably taking years off my life

It’s the end of the year at boarding school. In less than three days, all the kids will be packed up and shipped back where they came from, and I will probably be sucking my thumb on the floor. While all of the goodbyes and end of the year parties and hugs and reminiscing are a beautiful part of this job, I’m also halfway to losing my mind completely. For some reason, I blocked this insane time of year out of my memories from my previous year here. So, because I just bit all my fingernails off (something I stopped doing at age 14), I decided to compile a list of all the things that are stressing me out and therefore probably shortening my lifespan significantly.

1. The pile of dirty laundry in the corner of my room is large enough for me to hide within and not be found should I ever need to avoid an attack by a villain in a Stephen King novel/movie or win an extreme game of hide and seek with a million dollars at stake. I have no idea when said pile of laundry will have time to be washed in the immediate future, so it will continue to grow until it’s large enough for two people to hide from Johnny Depp’s multiple personality killer in Secret Window. Even thinking about this massive amount of laundry and the possibility of having to re-wear underwear before I get a chance to wash it all gives me a tiny ulcer.

2. My main source of nutrition has been meals made up of any combination of the following: chicken strips from any of the fast food restaurants in the surrounding area, parmesan & garlic Triscuits, grapefruit juice, honey mustard Pringles, mini Babybel cheeses, and cupcakes. Writing that out actually made me feel like I was dying a little bit.

3. I drink on average 3.67 large iced coffees a day. This data is merely an estimation and has been thrown off slightly by the few times I mistakenly ordered the “medium” size, which is the biggest waste of money ever because why order a medium when a large is only several cents more and will give you more minutes filled with iced coffee enjoyment while you obsessively check Facebook and then plan your next trip to the grocery store to buy more things that will rot your insides?

4. The last time I got more than five hours of sleep in a night was weeks ago, because when I finally get done working at midnight, hastily remove my makeup, and collapse into bed, my internal monologue suddenly reads like a Steinbeck novel (if Steinbeck ever wrote a novel about an anxiety-ridden twenty-something) while I analyze in great detail everything that crosses my mind: any loose ends I could have left hanging during my afternoon desk shift, my to-do list for the next day, possible future blog topics, emails I forgot to reply to, how I will decorate my future apartment, what kind of tattoo I would get if I got one, possible scenarios in Candy Crush Saga, how I can get John Krasinski to @reply to me on Twitter. Then, once I exhaust myself enough to stop thinking through how to formulate a Tweet that would catch John Krasinski’s attention and make him fall in love with me over the internet, I fall asleep and my iPhone alarm vibrates next to my face only a few hours later. The next day, I go through my day like a zombie, ingest 3.67 large iced coffees, breathe a sigh of relief when my closing shift ends at midnight, pull on my PJs, and the vicious cycle starts all over again.

5. I have lost count of how many mosquito bites are covering my body, but it’s definitely in the double digits. I know this may not seem like a big enough thing to decrease my lifespan, but if any of the mutant mosquitoes (seriously, I just killed one that was the size of a fly) that have hatched in northern Michigan happen to be carrying diseases, it might. And won’t you be sorry if I contract some mosquito-borne disease and die young, huh?

I’ll probably wake up tomorrow morning and everything will be sunshine and rainbows and hugs from my girls. I’ll probably forget about these stressful things while I suck down yet another iced coffee, but for now, I’m going to hope writing this blog entry at least cuts down on the number of things I have to think about while I try to fall asleep tonight.

stop posting on facebook about how your mom is the best, because obviously mine is

Mommy cuddle puddle.

Mommy cuddle puddle.

For someone who has decided they want to become a writer, I’ve sure been doing a crappy job of keeping this blog updated. Truthfully, I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing lately, but most of it isn’t material that I want to post here right now. So I decided to take this Mother’s Day, as I sit at the local coffeeshop, two lattes into my afternoon and hiding from the SNOW that decided to make an appearance halfway through May, to write a short post about my beautiful mom. I know nothing I write will be able to truly express just how important this woman is in my life, but I’m going to try anyway.

A few days ago, I was having a rough time, which is typical of my anxious self at this point in the school year. We’ve only got two weeks left, and my time isn’t really my own anymore. For every item I cross off my to-do list, three more get added to the bottom. I’ve also been making every effort to spend quality time with my girls before they graduate and move on, not to mention all my coworkers and friends who will not be returning next school year. It’s overwhelming, but it can’t really be avoided.

That said, I called my mom during one particular moment when I felt like the sky was falling. She’s always the one I call because she knows the ins and outs of my frightening brain when I work myself into what one can only describe as “a tizzy.” Coming off a long work week, a marathon day of meetings, and a couple moments of introspection about the state of my life, I sat on a bench on campus as the sun was setting, and I cried to her about all the little things in my life that sucked at that specific time. I was a fragile mess, but luckily, my mother is perhaps the only person alive who knows exactly how to put me in my place without sounding like a bitch.

“You realize you tend to think of everything that’s going wrong all at once when you’re feeling stressed, right?” she said, simply.

That’s my mom. She lets me word vomit all over her from two states away whenever I’m having a bad day, and she still manages to help calm me down with easy sayings like, “You’ll be okay. Go collect yourself and get back to work.”

As the oldest of three daughters, I’ve gone through a lot of firsts with my mom. We’ve had our ups and downs, but she is still the one I go to for pretty much everything. She’s one of the strongest women I’ve had the privilege of looking up to. I know I wouldn’t have made it where I am without a beautiful, ambitious, loving person like her as my support system. When I moved away after college, the hardest part was saying goodbye to her and knowing I would only be seeing her for holidays and special occasions during the foreseeable future. But I think we’ve survived the separation and it’s made all the moments I do get to spend with her that much more special.

Happy Mother’s Day, Momma. I can’t wait to see you in June, and I couldn’t be prouder to be your daughter.