A Letter to the Eight-Year-Old Me and the Eight-Year-Old Beside Me

Dear Anna,

I saw something last week in Colorado. I saw you through the eyes of me, but not these old eyes that have learned through experiencing a lot of life. It was my eight-year-old eyes that still sparkled blue without corrective lenses and saw clearly but fearfully. That girl saw you and wanted to be your very best friend.

It is true that I wanted to be your best friend from the first day I held you and that will never change. You were a tiny, wonderful gift placed into my arms and you will always be welcome there. You are an amazing girl and I look forward to seeing the woman you will become. There was just something a little extra special about watching you discover your independence on the ice rink and ski hill that connected the child I was with the little person you are now.

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Not quite eight, not quite to the roof.

I was eight in 1980—kids had more freedom then. Those were the days when winter still delivered lots of snow to Minnesota and I liked playing in it. My dad would use snow as extra insulation on the back side of our house and blow huge ramps of it from the ground to the roof. My little brother and I would go up and down our personal hills all afternoon long. If that was not enough gravity beneath our behinds we would walk a few blocks to the big sledding hill in town. Here is where fear starts entering the picture. You see, I was a fraidy cat at eight. I was afraid of walking past the one house that all the kids said was occupied by a crazy lady. There were stories about what she kept in that box on her steps. I was afraid of going too fast on my sled. I was afraid of crashing, especially if we brought the sled with the metal runners instead of our fancy plastic ones. Fear led me to prefer ice skating at the pond over sliding down the hill. I still had fun, but I wonder how much more fun I could have had. That would be my instruction to her—worry less, have more fun. The only one holding me back was me.

Your world is very different than 1980, much more structured and supervised. You must earn your independence through proving savviness with each situation. That is hard. What I saw last week was your tenacious spirit, stronger than I expected at eight, and that is why my inner eight-year-old really wants to be your bestie. You could teach her how to set an intention and work at it without letting fear take control. On the ice rinks and the ski hills you were determined to figure it out and have your best adventure of the day. There were sparks in your eyes as you stared at the mission, that turned to twinkles of joy when the boots came off. You discovered the giddiness of freedom in the mountains. All of us loved that and look forward to nurturing that spirit.

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I do know about the conversations you had with Stephen on the big slope. I am glad he shared with you what I tell myself all the time—put on your big girl panties! To improve with any skill you have to keep pushing yourself. There are a lot times on a frozen waterfall, rock cliff, or ski hill that I stop, take a deep breath, and tell my head, hands, or feet to just cooperate with me. Fear is a tricky thing to manage, you have to listen to it just enough to know when the concerns are ridiculous versus real.  You were handling the fear well and being guided through it by someone that has helped me a lot. Stephen knows you and I are a lot alike, so if he was giving you advice about how to stay calm and get down the hill, you can bet he has told me the same thing. I wish I had him when I was eight.

One more thing, always trust yourself. Do not let anyone diminish your confidence or make you feel capable of less. You know best because you have done the work to build your skills. I watched you improve on every run down the hill or lap around the rink. Your wings are ready to fly, keep exercising them.

Little me will never have the experience of chasing you around the mountains, but you and I are going to have a lot of adventures together. No doubt there will be times you come up alongside me and say—“Sissa, put on your big girl panties because we have farther to go.”

I love you, my tenacious best bestie.

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