Letter To A New Niece

by Annie Stillar

Dear Callie,

Happy birthday. This is your auntie. You have several, but I’m the funny one. I love fish tacos and eyebrow waxes, and I once stared down a skunk after (hand to God) it came around the corner while I was sitting on my front porch feeling sorry for myself. Other stuff I’ve done that you should totally do someday: I jumped out of a plane two summers ago, road tripped Ireland last Spring, and recently picked up cycling. Our family thinks I should quit because I fell off my bike while clipped in, like that’s hard to do. I’ve decided to stop listening to them–so far I’m much happier. I used to honestly think I was the weird one but then I remembered that I can type 108 WPM and was once told by a bunch of bespectacled (albeit probably drunk) Portland hipsters that I have the voice of an angel, so not only am I not weird, I’m basically a Transformer: there’s more here than meets the eye.

But, enough about me.

What knowledge do I have to impart? So much. I’ll stick to the important stuff, like how there are things one has to work for, to become who you want to be. A few months ago, I put myself in therapy. It’s one of the better decisions I’ve made in life, right up there with keeping activated charcoal pills in my purse because when your tribe of siblings have 21st birthdays, it’s a good precaution especially when they don’t listen to your suggestions to keep hydrating. One of the quickest ways to get your Gunga laughing is to bring up the time we went to Vegas and your Aunt Kelsey, waving a bottle of Jaegermeister, told us we need some medicine and IT STARTS WITH A “Y”!

I digress. While a few months of counseling don’t make me an expert, I feel confident that the following would change your life. So listen up.

Must #1: Use your powers for good instead of evil. I’ve had two jobs in my adult life, both defined by excessive wrangling and an impressive trail of tyranny. I’m a worker bee, not a queen bee. Fortunately, there will always be a need for people like me. I’m allowed to say that. I’ve spent ten years being a linchpin between “success” and “up shit creek without a paddle.” The other side of that coin is that I spend a lot of time keeping copious notes in the event that I get hit by a bus. Because in the words of Beyonce, don’t you ever for a second get to thinkin’ you’re irreplaceable. Make sure somebody else knows how to tackle stupid Microsoft Office, ’cause when the rapture happens (or Europe comes calling, I mean Irish pubs don’t crawl themselves), you are OUT OF HERE. Which brings me to my second point.

Must #2: Travel. Lots of people say this, but only because it’s true. Travel to far or near places, I don’t care, just go places. Also–invite people into your home. Host CouchSurfers! I’ve learned there are two kinds of people in this world: those who think it’s sketchy and those who flip two middle fingersto the first kind. I’ve yet to be chopped to bits and have decided it’s only dangerous if you’re stupid. So be savvy! I’ve met the kindest, coolest people in my travels or upon inviting them into my home. Not that stranger-danger isn’t a thing. It totally is. Make sure your mother knows I told you that. But some strangers are fascinating, hard-working PhD candidates who happen to be dead ringers for Bradley Cooper.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, as a Stillar woman I’m compelled to warn you of one particular cross we bear. I’ve started a list which goes something like Things Only Women With Big Thighs Will Understand. You have a decent shot at these, and though I complain, I should lead with the argument that they’re not all bad. They’re great for balance, which probably explains why I’m so good at yoga. Back to my list.

1) Mending. Your Nanagram is an excellent seamstress, which will come in handy when you rip holes in your crotch because your pants decided they can’t take it anymore, they’re leaving you. It will be the same spot every time, and your desire to emancipate yourself from these genes will burn with the fire of a thousand suns.

2) You will need to buy pants to fit your thighs, not your butt. Which means the waist will probably be a little loose, which means you’ll be constantly be pulling your pants up, which means people will think you don’t know how to buy pants. It’s a vicious cycle.

It’s a work in progress.

You have two big brothers, and I don’t say that to be cute. They get a lot of weird looks, like from the buffet cashier who told us 3 & under are free and we said OH PERFECT, THEY’RE TWO–which is another way of saying your brothers are on a helluva lot of black lists. Blake and Gray are really into fire hydrants right now, having moved on from airplanes and trains and sunglasses. Now that you’re here, I’m sure they’ll swarm you for a few weeks then move on to something like tire irons.

Now for the things you should know, I promise they’re few:

– The internet became a big deal back in the 80’s. While a great source of information, it’s also a cesspool of sensory and informational overload. Use it, don’t abuse it, and remember Facebook does not need to hear about your food poisoning.

– Rejection and disappointment are a part of life. They’ll teach you great things. However, good to remember it’s not always about you. I was once set up on a blind date and before we ever went out, he found my family’s Christmas letter online and decided we weren’t a good fit. I laughed long and hard and told him not to let the door hit him on the way out. Because not only is this family the bitchingest family around and a good study on how to laugh at oneself, but sometimes other people are idiots and it’s not your fault.

– Your parents? Everything they do, comes from a place of overwhelming love for you. Remember this before (or after, I mean nobody’s perfect) you call them jerks for not letting you near whatever it is you’ve convinced yourself is a must-do, must-have, can’t-live-without-it kind of thing. And maybe make a note: it’s not the end of the world. It hardly ever is.

I guess I should also say that it’s totally okay not to know stuff, too. Sometimes knowing more about a few things is better than knowing less about more things. As Ron Swanson once said: never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.

I love you more than hummus, buckwheat pancakes, and a warm car on a rainy day. Also, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.

Auntie Annie

p.s. You may wear brown with black. Don’t listen to your Auntie Grace, she moved to Portland and thinks she’s the Jesus Christ our Savior of fashion. I’m here to tell you that the only accessory you need is confidence. Contrast is in, Julie Andrews.

p.p.s. Maybe don’t let your Auntie Leslie teach you how to drive.

Annie Stillar is a late-20’s triathlete-in-training whose goal is twofold: to make your life easier, and to see amazing things near and far. She’s worked for the English Dept. at Whitworth University since 2009 and says the best part about being surrounded by professors is their willingness to sing karaoke on command. She spends her days cooking good food with good people, attempting to grow an herb garden, and learning how not to ride a bike. She lives in Spokane and, together with her roommate, has singlehandedly set more things on fire than there are members of the neighborhood watch. Annie is the Managing Editor of Rock & Sling

Couch image is from here.

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