when i was in the 2nd grade, i had an 8th grade buddy named debbi. debbi was every young girls idea of a hero. she had this head full of gorgeous, naturally wavy hair. she had the most trendy outfits. dated the most athletic and funny guy in her class. looked amazing in every picture. dominated on the volleyball court. rocked the top of the honor roll. spear-headed the "city beautiful" project. if it was out there- debbi did it- and she did it well. i wanted to be just like her.
i can recall with intense clarity the thrill i would get when i would enter the heavy red doors of my school, and see a piece of loose leaf paper- folded about 30 times into a tiny square - sticking out of the slits in my locker. a note from debbi. as my assigned "buddy", she took to regularly writing me letters. and i loved it. i would run into the classroom, whip out my notebook, pour over every word debbi had written me in her perfect script, and immediately begin a letter back to her. i loved that she always filled an entire page, and would then continue on with a "p.s". it made me feel important that she needed to tell me something more. to my 8 year old mind, debbi was an adult. at least 25. perhaps 30. she was the epitome of maturity. elegance. womanhood. and she flat-out rocked.
debbi graduated into high school that year. she left me her eight grade picture and one final note in my locker on the last day of school. and i never heard from her again. occasionally, i would see her picture in the paper (she continued to shine in high school), or i would hear about her through people at the school, or from her church. i had saved all her letters in a wooden box under my bed, but beyond that, i never really thought about her.
years later, when i graduated high school, i took on an active role as a leader in the youth group at my church. i loved hanging out and talking to the students. i loved listening to them. goofing off with them. remembering the very real fear and concerns of a 13 year old was humbling. it was during this time, when i was talking to a girl that was about to be a freshman in high school, that i thought about debbi again. this little girl was the same age as debbi when i knew her. i just stared at her. examined her eyes. listened to the animation in her voice. watched the way her ponytail flipped with every "and...like....totally", and i laughed in spite of myself.
this was debbi. my whole life came into perspective. at 18, i looked back into the 2nd grade and realized that my role model at the time was a 13 year old girl. with no idea who she was or where she was going. loving her life in the best way a little girl on the brink of adolescence could. in my mind, deb was going home every day after school to her husband, three kids and poodle. obviously driving herself in a convertible- wearing very stylish sunglasses while doing so. she was so adult. so grown up. it never occurred to me that her mom picked her up from school like mine did. or that she probably went home and watched Full House and slept with a teddy bear. i had no concept of age. or time. all i knew was i was 8. and i was me. and debbi was WAY older. in actuality, debbi was maybe 5 years my senior.
i shared this story with the young girl i was talking to. i told her she was someones debbi. told her to realize how much life she really had before her. but also- how fast it would fly by. i reminded her to keep all things in perspective. to dream. to make good choices. to give back. to look inside herself and figure out who she really was. and live it. because- no matter how young you are- there is someone younger. and they are always watching.
a few days ago, i was driving home from a sushi lunch and i saw this sidewalk art. it's a contribution from the 2008 city beautiful committee. and i once more thought of debbi. but not so much of her personally- but more of what she means in my life now. she is the representation of perspective. the realization and concept of age and time. today i feel grown. i feel like i am who i will be for the rest of my life. but i know i am not. in ten years, i will look back and think "wow- i could never have imagined being here". much the same as i will tens years after that. much the same as i look back now into my teens and childhood.
there was one night, when i was 10 years old, that i laid on the floor in my bedroom and begged myself to remember the moment. i wanted to remember being 10 forever. i stared at the ceiling and felt grown. i felt like i was who i would be for the rest of my life. i couldn't imagine driving. working. graduating. being in love. i remember wondering what it would feel like to be 20. now, 20 has long passed- and today, i wonder what it will be like to be 30. and 40.
because now i realize that i am very far from arriving. and that, like debbi, i am so young. and have so much more life to go.