This portion of this letters to my former self is going to be from my younger self when I was about 12. -JBHarris
I know life right now is crazy for you. You’ve moved a little, you’re a big sister to two smaller siblings, and your mom? She’s working all the time. But, let me tell you: she is doing as best she can. When you grow up, and become a Mama yourself, you’ll find out just how hard it is to be mother, wife and employee. I know you want her nearby, and spend more time with her, and I know that you hate her sometimes, but I need you to focus on what it is you want to do.
I am proud of you though, dear one. I am proud of you that you have leaned into your talent, trying to understand it. I know that you are still mystified how your hands, pens and thoughts all come together to make this magic known as words! But, you will keep that curiosity. You will keep trying to perfect your handwriting, you will keep trying to get it perfect for this burgeoning dream you have of being a writer.
The thing I am most proud of you about is you telling your father, one of the strongest men you know, whose shadow was a mountain, that you no longer wanted to be a doctor. That you no longer had the dream of being a cardio-thoracic surgeon. That you know longer had the desire to heal hearts from the inside. The inner workings, the physiology of arteries, valves, veins and the ascending and descending aortas–the pathology of cardiac dysfunction–will no longer intrigue you. It will not push you to what your heart desires.
I know the bravery it took for you to say this to him, what more than you really thought you had. Here, right here? You became a lioness. I know you don’t see it as that now, but you are. You decided what you wanted, and were brave enough to say it out loud. You roared when it was easier to whimper. The thing is, the same thing you will soon be known for will be the one thing that people will not be able to stand about you.
But that’s later. Let me refocus.
What I want you to know, right now, is that feeling you get when you put pen to paper? Nothing will ever satisfy it, or duplicate it. Nothing. You are a healer. A mystic. An oracle. A writer. A creative. A prophet. What were, are, the prophets of most holy Scripture save for visionaries that availed themselves to the Master for vision, talent, time and use. From that use, we have words and language we may not have had before. You, Jennifer Bush, are special.
And now that you have your unrestricted library cards, all silver and amazing, I want you to know that the world is a little bigger. But I am going to tell you one thing. In the peculiarity of your awkward Black girlness, you keep reading the ‘dark’ stuff. Horror writing, dark literature, the world behind the world, is still going to be your first love. Just wait till you meet Anne Rice, Christopher Pike, RL Stine, Tananarive Due and the grand dame Octavia Estelle Butler.
I want you to remember the writing to remember what it means to you. I want you to remember that you like Jesus and angels, yet you know demons exist. I want you to remember that you don’t have a ‘white girl name’. I want you to remember, dearest one, that you are all you need to be in the world. You are enough. The most essential thing you can remember, right here, right now, is don’t let the depression win. It will get better. You cannot die, you will not die with all the the gifts God has given you.
Be brave, Jennifer. Be brave.
You (age 38)