dear Bridget: pile it up

Dear Bridget,

It’s that time of year. The time when people think about what they’re thankful for and celebrate holidays with family. It forces us to look at the good. Although really, how long does that last?

Here’s the thing: we always have a choice. Not just during this season, but all year long.

I could look at all the bad stuff that’s happened in my life. I could pile piece upon piece until I have a mountain of “why did that happen” and “it’s not fair” and stories that would make people feel sorry for me. When you pile up all of those, it starts to look like a pretty impressive mountain of bad, and it’s easy to think the good can’t outweigh it.

But it’s not a scale. You can’t measure out each bad event and look for a good one to counterbalance it. Life doesn’t work like that. You have to make a choice, a deliberate choice, to step away from the dark, towering mountain of bad and make for yourself a mountain of good. Not for comparison to the bad. Not to see if it’s enough. But because you can. To show yourself all the beautiful parts of your life.

Pile up the happy moments and the incredible opportunities and the hard-but-well-learned lessons. Stack up the comforts you have and the people who love you (not literally, though, because human pyramids are so 1990s).

It’ll be a choice you have to make throughout your life, Bridget. To create a mountain of good. The mountain of bad makes itself, unfortunately. The mountain of good takes a bit more effort. But it’s worth it. Not to trick yourself into ignoring bad things, but to reframe your perspective.

Now, the season of cheer and thankfulness, is the perfect time to start that mountain of good so you’ll have a foundation when January hits and February feels lonely.

Pile up the good, Bridget. Stack it high and celebrate the beauty in your life. There’s more there than you think.





What’s Dear Bridget all about? It’s a series on my blog composed of letters to a hypothetical teen girl named Bridget. Why Bridget? It means strong. And it represents the current generation of young women. These letters are my attempt to break through the chaos and the crap that’s flying at today’s young woman in order to offer advice and encouragement, from me and other incredible women who remember what it was like to be in her shoes.

If you’re a teen girl and you’ve got a question or issue you’d like us to address, let me know. Just click on the contact button (that round envelope icon at the top of the sidebar) and send me your thoughts. If you’re an awesome adult woman who remembers those teen years clearly and would like to write to Bridget, feel free to contact me and tell me about yourself.

Big Bertha and back-floating

“Are we gonna see Big Bertha today?” Her excited face peered up at me.

The other campers were quick to join in. “Ooh, yeah, can we see Big Bertha? Please?”

I paused. “Um, I guess we’ll see . . . You just never know.”

It was a safe answer. Especially considering I had no idea who Big Bertha was. It certainly wasn’t another member of staff. There was a lot of wildlife around the camp (appropriate since it was an outdoor center). A raccoon maybe? A giant one? I knew it couldn’t be some sort of reptile because there was no way the girls would be that excited. I had no clue.

But I’d gotten good at pretending I knew what was going on. Mostly because I’d had a lot of practice.

I’m not normally clueless, I promise. It was just my first week as a counselor at a camp I’d never even attended before. The day campers I was supervising had been there longer than I had, some of them entering their third or fourth summers there. They knew every trail, every shortcut, every camp game.

I was still trying to figure out how to get to the dining hall. I’d been thrown in the deep end and expected to glide across the water.

The thing is, I’m not really a swimmer.

But I’m a darn good back-floater. So I improvised. I learned how to “let” the veteran campers lead the way through the trails, how to observe the other counselors so I could learn from them, how to exude an attitude of “I’ve got this.”

Sometimes I still feel like that first-time camp counselor, improvising my way through life and trying to pretend I’ve got things sorted out.

Confession: I don’t really know what I’m doing.

And for the first time in a long while, I have no concept of what my life will look like a year from now. The career plan I used to have was derailed when I was laid off a few months ago, and my back-up options failed to solidify with every application I submitted, catapulting me into the wilderness, struggling to find Big Bertha.

The positive thing is, I’m getting pretty good at this improvising thing. I don’t think a single year of my life in the past decade has gone how I expected. Don’t get me wrong–I definitely don’t want to have every second of my life planned out for the next five years. I’d lose my mind. I like the element of surprise, of change. But I failed to predict how much change would swirl through my life over the years, wreaking havoc every time I started to feel like I had things organized.

But I’m a darn good back-floater. It’s not what I expected, but if I’ve gotta back float my way through life in order to stay above water, I’m on it.

Oh, and eventually I discovered that Big Bertha wasn’t a raccoon but a tree. A giant, unmoving tree, just waiting for me to find her. And I did.