Dear little starry-eyed former self,
It hurts, a little, to break this to you, but I'm going to serve it to you straight: you grow up to be quite ordinary. Certainly you care about things a lot. You feel things a lot. You think things a lot. But you are not particularly original, particularly smart, particularly brave, particularly endearing, or particularly funny. The realisation of this hurts, sometimes. I mean, it hurts the eleven-year-old you still stuck inside the thirty-something me. Because, while gravity has taken its toll on the outside, gravitas hasn't entirely consumed the interior. The fraction of me that is you keeps hoping that when I grow up, I'll be amazing.
To be honest, dreamy younger Danielle, there will be a lot of people smarter and more gifted than you. Very rarely, in a little spark of something halfway between Sehnsucht and illumination, you'll feel as though you are able to look at things for what they really are, and the realisation will cause your heart to beat quicker and your whole world will have an instant of greater, richer clarity. But mostly those moments will ride on the words and wisdom of other smarter people who have similiar experiences on a more regular basis.
There are people in this world who don't just see things for what they are; they see things for what they were, once, and what they could be in the future. Occasionally, you will feel as though you have a good idea. But there are people in this world who not only have good ideas but are able to articulate them so fiercely and so beautifully that they empower others to take hold of these good ideas and run with them until they are no longer ideas at all but clear, living actualities. There are people who will look at what goes on in the world and be able to tie it into the vast narrative of human history, recognising patterns and deviations, the ebb and flow of humanity's mark on the world.
There are people who are good at what they do, and people who are truly brilliant at what they do, and then there are people who are brilliant at what they do yet somehow also possess the voice, and the charisma, and the rare configuration of beautiful facial symmetry that makes people sit up and take notice. These people are able to talk about what's important to them without their features scrunching up into an ugly cry, who look endearing and purposeful even when squinting into the sun.
But this letter isn't to those people. It's to you. You'll grow up, little you, and you won't be especially amazing. If I could slip back through time and let you know that, I don't think I would. Because if you can't have dreams of grandeur as a child, then when can you? It's important that you think big thoughts, hopeful thoughts, foolish thoughts, before the cynicism of the world slaps them out of you.
If I did end up face to face to with you, though, and you asked me whether you'd be brilliant like all those other people? I'd tell you to stop looking at them if all it means is comparison.
But if you are looking so that you can cheer for them, honour them, learn from them, and imitate their goodness, then by all means, go. Know this, however: you won't be a genius, but you can have a go at doing ordinary well. You won't. Not always. But you can try. And if time and again you come up against limitations (even if the primary one is simply that you're too darn scared), then that's okay. Start again tomorrow. If it's possible to do something so earthbound as eating or drinking and yet make it for the glory of God, then it's possible to work extraordinarily hard at your ordinary life.
Chin up, little heart. Normal people still dream.