Saturday, February 6, 2010
As any of my close friends will tell you, I have usually bestowed my favorite little nugget of advice on them at some point; "Guilt is a useless emotion."

And it really is. The only time guilt does you any good is if it motivates you to make right the situation that is causing you to feel that way. If it's something in your past, then you can only change how you act moving forward. There's no way to undo anything. You just have to learn and grow and make amends. Guilt will only weigh you down and keep your mind rooted in the past. If, however, you're feeling guilty about something you're about to do... well. Then I would usually say, "Don't do it."

That's the pickle I find myself in. I'm sad about leaving my family. I'm sad about leaving my closest friend. But I know that with the social network era we live in, I'll be fine. We'll be able to communicate every day. It won't be the same, and believe me, I will still cherish the time I get to physically spend with them, but I know that our relationships won't suffer. I'm guilty, however, about the little girl I mentor.

Right after I moved to Tulsa, I got involved in a volunteer mentoring program at the elementary school by my house. For almost two years, she and I have met once a week and just hung out. In a weird way, I do consider her a friend. Sure, she's only 10, but I've known her for two years. I've watched her grow from an imaginative 8 year old to a clever 10 year old 'tween' (I hate that expression, but it fits here.) She was enrolled in the program originally because she was anti-social. She's the youngest of three children; her brother and sister were 28 and 18, respectively, when I met her. Her mother was quite old when she had her, and her father is not in her life. She knows he's a meth addict, and that's why he's not allowed to see her. Her grades were only average, though all of her teachers agreed she was a bright girl, and they told me she rarely played with the other children at recess. So you can imagine my surprise when they told me at our annual progress meeting that she was making friends, attending sleep overs, had gotten involved in her youth group at church, and all of her grades had improved to A's and B's. When our moderator told me all of the things she had said about me in her meeting, it actually made me cry.

Now you have to understand the gravity of the situation. Sure, I cry when I watch Grey's Anatomy. Sure, I cry when someone I like dies in a movie. In real life, however, I very rarely cry. In the last year, with the exception of my Godmother's death/funeral, I've cried four times about something real. Four! And I was drunk for two of those. Until yesterday, when I cried about leaving that little girl.

When I was in Seattle for the first time, I sent her cards and postcards while I was away. I've gone to Arizona twice since I've started mentoring her. The first time I brought her back a little refrigerator magnet puzzle in the shape of a sun, and the second a pencil in the shape of a saguaro cactus. Both kitschy, cutesy souvenirs. This most recent trip to Seattle, I couldn't find postcards until halfway through my trip, and the grocery store nearest my hotel had the tiniest greeting card section I've ever seen. There were no cheesy 'Thinking of You' cards, no adorable 'I miss you' cards. Nothing. Even the blank cards were overtly Valentine'sy. Roses and chocolates and hearts... excuse me while I vomit. So since I couldn't find any touristy postcards, I decided to get her a little souvenir. While Boyfriend and I were waiting for our Chowder place to open, we popped into a shop across the way and I found her a little teddy bear with a rain slicker. Her school does a ridiculously awesome sorting, like Harry Potter. (I'll have to ask her if there's a talking, mind-reading hat involved.) Their mascot is a bear, and there are five different kinds of bears, like houses. She's a Polar Bear. The little rainy day bear I got her is not white, but it is a pale yellow, so it's close enough.

When I saw her yesterday and presented it to her, she immediately started playing with the coat (which you can remove.) As we were walking back to her classroom, she held the bear out in front of her and said, "What should I name it?"

"I don't know. Whatever you want to," I said.

She danced the bear around in front of her while she thought, then said, "I'm going to name it Lori! It's Loribear." And hugged it to her chest... while a knife went through mine.

I haven't told her yet that I'm moving. I wanted to wait until the guys have their new van, so I'm absolutely, 100% going on tour. I don't want to tell her I'm leaving and then be like, "Just kidding!" The downside of this, of course, is that we're getting closer and closer to me leaving, so she won't have much time to get used to it.

Granted, most of these mentoring relationships only last one school year, so we're ahead of the curve. And I'm planning on sending her postcards and cheesy trinkets while I'm on tour. But it's not the same, and I feel terrible. This change in my life blindsided me. I always thought Boyfriend and I would just be friends; that our boat had sailed. I never expected to have feelings for him still when we became friends again, and I definitely didn't think we'd ever get together. It was such an unexpected twist. I thought I would be in Oklahoma for the rest of my years. I thought I would either find some country boy I liked enough and have a passel of kids, or spend the rest of my days writing and tending to my passel of cats. I thought I'd be here to see her go on to middle school, to high school. I fully expected to mentor her long enough to talk about boys and whether she should take art or driver's ed. I might get to do those things if we keep in touch, but it will be a lot more difficult now. And I feel absolutely horrid about that.

I think maybe I'll give her a stack of pre-stamped envelopes with my parent's address on it. That way she can send stuff to them, and they can send it to me, wherever I may be.

Damn... I just... wow. I'm dreading telling her. I'm so scared she's going to cry, and that'll make me cry. Or worse, she'll not cry. She cried around me once and tried her hardest to hide it from me. It was heartbreaking.

I am sooo not looking forward to this.

2 comments:

Sara said...

Make sure you visit when you return to visit your family. And continue to send her postcards and letters. She may not have you there in person but that will help.

Children are amazing and resilient people. Far stronger than we often give them credit for.

Lori said...

I plan to. In fact, we'll be back in Oklahoma on tour in April, and I plan to have our Second Annual Silly Hat Peanut Butter Picnic.

And if the weather doesn't cooperate, I'll be back in May. =)

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Seattle, United States
During this course of study, you will come to learn much about the strange eating, sleeping and mating habits of the Instrospective Lori under stress. We will observe as she moves halfway across the country to start a life with her own Captain Wentworth, takes a year off of work to pursue a writing career, and incessantly references Jane Austen.
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