Movin' On with Nellie: Note to self follows Apple in hand


The Note to Self era has arrived. What would you tell your younger self? Would the note be more than “Be sure to brush your teeth”?

I think I would tell myself, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I would also add, “It’s all small stuff.” (If you’re wondering, that’s a card my elderly neighbor Mr. Hartnett would share with me when my son was 3.) If you think about it, our lives are specks in the earthly timeline; and philosophers, prophets and “planetists” (I needed another “p” so I made up a synonym for “astronomers.”) have encouraged us to keep looking up and forward. 

Yes and even as the half-moon sinks behind that Monte Vista mansion and that jet streams noiseless across the sky and stars, at least for a while, I’m reminded that I think I need an apple.

Back to my younger self, I would tell that girl that adding peanut butter to a halved apple is a gourmet delight at this age; and I ‘d jot down that she always had the best ideas. When she would scratch up her knee from falling or climbing on a tree, she wouldn’t cry too long; but would get right back across the play yard to that Oak giant. She embodied that courage plaque: Never. Never. Never Give Up.

But with teenage hormones and the chaos of the universe, the world can be topsy-turvy. So it was for the lass that was me in walking long walks with my dog PeeWee. As a teen, I had more sad self-portraits than any happy snap shot.  Those Polaroids do remind me that I carried depression like a back pack and I was battling riders on dark horses before Dungeons and Dragons launched. I would remind her that depression can impact any age. Thankfully there’s help now and I would tell that girl from long ago, keep on keeping on. New techniques to overcoming the imbalance in the brain are ever growing. But she possessed an innate ability to swim through the depression. She brought along her paper and pencil to draw, to paint, to color and to write. 

I’d tell her that there is science now behind her drive to always smile; smile though your heart aches, like the song said. Dr. Daniel Amen and others have proven that smiling changes the brain. So even though you didn’t feel good inside, you put on those smiles between class periods to brighten someone else’s walk to class and in so doing you forged small cures for your own depression. On a sticky note to self, I’d write: Smiling works. It’s scientifically proven! (By the way, “The Happiness Advantage” shows the science behind smiling.)

I would tell that teen, that younger self, to dream big and keep learning. Writing is a tool and a gift which is deep inside of you; and I’d predict she’d keep moving (her father was in the military and relocated frequently) with the urge to write and create. Keep that dream working by practicing, and practicing. With that notion is reading. And with apple in hand, she did read. Yes, even comics. She read comic books about Mighty Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, then, the Green Lantern, The Hulk, Super Girl and Wonder Woman. Then there were the detective stories of Nancy Drew and later the perseverance and faith of Corrie ten Boon. And in college she reread Jane Eyre, The Color Purple, and the Handmaid’s Tale.

In Mr. Mergler’s 10th grade English class, that girl learned to foster debates that were point-driven, and embraced new perspectives. Already a traveler of Europe in the elementary years, she saw a little deeper than some who had not visited the Prado in Madrid, or seen the Gutenberg Press in Mainz. 

With my freshly sliced apple in hand (and my Apple iPad not far away), I put my note to self squarely on my forehead: try again and again and again. A life is built in moments, days, and shared times that fetch beauty, strength, science and made up words.

--Nelda Curtiss is a retired college professor who enjoys writing and fine arts. Contact her at [email protected]

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