Stop obsessing over your weight. Your forty-year-old self is going to be so monumentally pissed you for thinking you’re fat. And that guy you fell in love with in 11th grade? The one with the soft eyes and the smile as wide as the open sky? He’s gay. Don’t be surprised. Just because he slept with you for 9 months does not mean he isn’t gay. It won’t be until you’re in your thirties and you meet your best friend — a man who swears he’s not gay (“It’s just a rumor spread by all the guys I’m sleeping with”) — that you figure out it’s not such a big deal for a gay guy to sleep with a girl.
And stop obsessing over your solitude. The fact is, there aren’t a lot of people who relate to you. You’re a tri-lingual, Oxford-educated ex-waitress who doesn’t trust a buck until she’s breaking her ass to make it. That’s what happens when your mom was a missile scientist and your dad was an alcoholic traveling trailer salesman. You’re different. The second you stop trying to fit into a group is when groups will start clamoring to accept you.
And that guy, the one you met at a wedding in the early nineties? The one who smiles like he just injected you with poison and is eagerly anticipating the onset of side effects? He’s not evil. He just looks evil. He will become one of your best and most reliable friends. I’m proud of you for figuring that out.
In a few decades you will miss the time in your life when you were falling in love every single day, when your lips on a boy’s clavicle could send you reeling, awash in a sea of desire, when all a man had to do to earn your devotion was to cup your face in his hands and pluck an eyelash from your cheek. You thought all of these experiences were mistakes. You were wrong.
One sunny day in the near future you’ll be walking across Piedmont Park and it will occur to you that you’re young, employed, unfettered, alive, orphaned, independent and — Jesus God! — happy. It will occur to you that if you did nothing else in life you’d still go out a winner. You’re gonna look back on that day a lot in the decades afterward and wonder if you made the right decision, because you decided — right then and there — to pursue a meaningful life as opposed to simply a happy one.
That decision will bring you a truckload of pain. It will rip open your chest and let the Gods of Irony converge overhead to crap all over your heart. But more importantly it will make you strong, resilient, flexible, impervious, funny, profane and one goddamn hell of a good mother. So when that day comes, don’t do anything differently.
Hollis Gillespie is an award-winning humor and travel columnist, and her column appears every month on Atlanta magazine’s back page. She is also a best-selling author, NPR commentator, professional speaker, and guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (“A very funny lady,” says Leno.) Her work has been optioned by Sony Pictures and Paramount, and she has collaborated with Hollywood hard hitters like Mitch Hurwitz, (creator of Arrested Development), Eric and Kim Tannenbaum, (producers of Two and a Half Men), Bill Haber (producer of Rizzoli and Isles), Sheri Ellwood (creator of Call Me Fitz) and Amy Palladino (creator of Gilmore Girls). (George Clooney has also kissed her twice. Twice!) Hollis herself has been featured on scores of TV shows and magazines and runs Shocking Real Life, the largest writing school in Atlanta, which offers workshops on book writing, blogging and social media. Her next book, titled UNACCOMPANIED MINOR, a young adult action adventure mystery, is due out January 2014. These days she gets most of her exercise running to catch flights. Contact Hollis through www.ShockingRealLife.com.