Dear 20-year-old me,
Hey, it's me. Well, you. Well, us together. We are the same.
30 years ago today a 30-year-old woman gave birth to a round baby girl that the nurses said looked like the Gerber baby, and others questioned whether or not you were named after Erika Kane from Days of Our Lives (because that was cool in the '80s). Actually, you were named after your mother's brother, Eric. Your mom was psyched that day; you were a miracle baby, and she had had dreams of you long before you were even born. In the years to come, she would go through hell and back to protect you. She would tell you stories when you were older about the court battles and the sleepless nights and living on $20 a week and not eating too much at dinner so that you could have enough to eat because you were always ravenous (your first word was "more" because you were eating chicken; I mean, come on). She would tell you about how she dedicated you to God by herself in her little bedroom with no formal celebration. She would tell you about how she prayed for you just to make it to your fourth birthday - that if she could just have four years with you, safe, she would be happy.
10 years ago today you were studying Music Performance (which had changed from Music Business, and would later change to Music AND Business - phew) at a small Christian college in Boston, Massachusetts. You were traveling with three other college students on your birthday as a part of a summer ministry team, hopping from camp to church to camp to church. You did this two more times after that summer, but you'll never do it again because sleeping in vans is overrated, and sometimes it's nice to have a vegetarian meal that isn't ketchup and mustard on saltines. Your biggest concern was weather or not you looked cool in your goth pants, and how you would eventually pay back your student loans. You never worried about your waistline, and dreamt of getting married.
10 years ago, here are things you didn't know:
You will eventually love The Office, even though you used to loathe hearing it in the dorm hallways during college evenings. You didn't know this then, but you had already met your husband on the first day of your freshman year. You will still crave fries from the Dugout even though you had to schedule a night in after eating them because they wreaked havoc on your stomach. You will miss the faces and the voices of that college. You will miss the sea breeze. You will yearn for your college choir. You will be heartbroken within friendships and relationships, but you will solidify some of the dearest friendships in your life - the type of people who know your heart, and only want the best for you. You will thank God for placing these souls in your path. You will look back at your college days as the best days ever. You'll be able to pay back your student loans.
You'll love vaguely passive-aggressive AIM away messages and Facebook statuses. Don't worry, you'll grow out of that. MySpace will go away eventually, and you won't need to worry about rearranging your Top 8. Cell phones will get better cameras, as will laptops. You'll love taking selfies in Photobooth on your first MacBook with your cute little cat, Alice. You'll have an adorable apartment with roommates, and have to tell guests just how to flush the toilet to ensure that it actually flushes. You'll see a few cool shows at the Avalon Ballroom (now House of Blues) in Boston. You'll work at Starbucks for a few months as a barista, waking up at 3 AM just to get there in time for the morning shift. You'll call your mom on your walk there because it's dark and a little scary, but she is always up for a good chat - even before the sun comes up. You'll make friends with the regulars, and laugh when a customer tells you that one of the pastries isn't a scone when it is clearly actually a scone. You'll tear up when one of your favorite customers hands you a $20 bill on the day you tell him you're leaving, just as a measure of good luck and faith.
Your mom will die four days before your 24th birthday. She was your best friend. It will be the beginning of several long years of fear and anxiety. It will also be the beginning of courage and independence. You'll shed a lot of tears, and lose a lot of weight because you can't keep anything in your stomach for months after she dies. You'll try to text her, and won't be able to because she is gone. You'll see her face in your face in the mirror. You won't sing for months. You won't remember anything between July and October 2011. Your grief will never end, but you will eventually come out the other side, and feel somewhat "normal" again. You'll move to New York.
You'll marry the love of your life, and have the most beautifully perfect wedding day. You'll have pops of pink in your gown, and you'll wear your mom's hairpiece. Your aunt will design your wedding band. You'll cry when you say your vows, and watch a tiny tear drift down your new husband's face when you are praying together. You'll get to go on your first cruise for your honeymoon, and fall in love with Bermuda. You'll get a kick ass facial that week.
You'll grow and grow and grow your business, and get to work with the most incredibly soulful people. You'll cry on long drives in thankfulness that you get to do what you do. You'll buy a house, and adopt three furbabies after you gift Alice to your dad because she's become so attached to his cat (named Kitten). You'll get to travel more than you ever even thought possible. You'll have cute nephews you are obsessed with. You'll become a part of a farm share, and look forward to it every week. You'll live in pursuit of a simple life. Your favorite part of every day will be coming home to your sweet husband's smile.
Erica Paige, you wouldn't have known these things when you were 20, but, like Semisonic says in Closing Time, "Every new beginning from some other beginning's end." Happy 30th. :)
And to think - your mom was just hoping you would make it to age 4.