My mail nests in different nooks of my apartment. The glittery good-luck card on my refrigerator that reminds me I’m “Da Bomb.” The letters from my friend Kevin tucked by my bed, their Taiwanese stamps framed by striped envelopes. The Iowa Hawkeyes stationery my mom turned into a cute Future Tay checklist after I took the LSAT, peeking out from my makeshift study corner. The “This Card is 100% Gluten Free” mail a friend sent me during my weekly IVs.
The law school admission packets perched behind the framed photo of me and my sisters; sometimes I open the folders to confirm they’re real, that it’s OK to want things, that I’m good enough for those things.
2016 lives in the letters and cards scattered throughout my apartment, each emblematic of something — all emblematic of survival. Sparkles from my “You Da Bomb” card flutter to the floor each time I open my freezer, dusting my home in glitter and LSAT memories. Somehow, I survived studying for the test while I awaited diagnoses, while needles carved track marks into springtime skin that should have been showing off.
I relearned how to be a pen pal this year, graduating from the scratch-and-sniff sticker days of my letter correspondence with a friend from third-grade church camp. My college Tennis Club bestie Kevin taught English in Taiwan this past year, and we communicated exclusively by mail. Time stretched as we swapped the immediacy of texts and Facebook messages for mail that arrived monthly at best. We rambled about everything and nothing all at once; milestones and minutiae collide in letters more innocently, more honestly, maybe, than anywhere else. It was refreshing and soul-quieting.
Family, especially my mom, balanced the medical bills that piled up in my mailbox. I still find her notes nestled in book pages; I read greedily, ravenously these days, underlining passages and copying favorite lines into the ongoing list of book quotes on my phone. My mom’s swirling, beautiful handwriting surprises me — lunchbox notes, thank-you cards and life to-do lists are the currency of 2016, read, forgotten and remembered again, all in pages of beloved books.
Law school admission packets threaten to topple the framed picture of Tara, Jordyn and me in Chicago. I marvel at their existence, how the stack continues to grow. I’ve long struggled to believe I’m worthy of the things I want, whether it’s a raise, a boyfriend or a law school acceptance. It’s scary, almost, to see that worthiness confirmed and validated by people who haven’t even met me yet. I know I shouldn’t require external validation to this degree, but the fact that it physically exists reminds me every day that I am good enough, that it’s OK to say it and believe it.
It’s the first night of my holiday vacation and I fall asleep alone with a book in my bed, a note from my mom folded in blankets. This year, the sickness, the law school goals, the gluten-free lifestyle, have slowly folded into my being, the creases and crumples of 2016 smoothing slowly.