I wrote this in June as part of Easter Seals Letters To Thrive.
Hey there! Sadly (or maybe not), you’re still pretty perky at 34. And you still will use it at times to hide your discomfort, your embarrassment, and sadness. You’re 14 (I’m writing this to March 1995 Kati) right now and it sucks. Dude, it really sucks. I’m sorry that this new prosthesis isn’t working out the way you wanted. I know you wanted, for just one minute, to be normal and it sucks that even with that hunk of metal hanging off of you, that you aren’t. I’m sad that it’ll only become more glaringly obvious over the next few months. The grief you are feeling for the loss of Dustin is just so painful and you wear it all the time right now.
Sweet friend, it is okay that it hurts. It’s okay that you are begging someone, ANYONE to reach out to you. I’m sad to say that they won’t. No one in your small world of Dean Rusk Middle School is going to reach out to you and ask what they can do to help. Even if you all but lay it out for them that you need it. They don’t really know what to do with this perky, one-legged, cancer survivor. They try, but the fact that you work hard to hide your sadness makes everyone think you’re fine. It’s okay that you’re not. Jana will be there, she will come to your aid just when you need it most. And Camp. Camp will always be a refuge.
It’s okay to be pissed at Leah for pretending to feel up your prosthesis in the gym locker room. That is okay. You should have called her a bitch and reported her (not that anyone really cares about bullying). But, I know that you were just so in shock that you couldn’t. You would NEVER think to be that cruel to someone. She has no idea that what she did influenced your life in such a way.
Kati, you will be okay. You will overcome so many hard things, but you do it with a smile. You do it with grace and perseverance. You make stupid mistakes. These things are all okay. You find the theater in high school, really you burst your way in and make them take notice of you. You do well there. You go to college on a theater scholarship. It is hard. It feels like you are often have to fight for every single second you are on that stage, but you make the most of it. You go away to summer stock and you realize that you are pretty kick ass in acting. You graduate. You get real world jobs and continue to do theater. Here’s a little tidbit- in 2003 you receive two awards from the professional theater scene. You start teaching middle school theater and find that you absolutely love it. Then the unthinkable happens and you meet a guy who loves you. You get married. You have TWO beautiful girls. Your passion moves to writing.
While right now sucks and you think that there will never be any sunshine again. You think that no one could ever understand you like Dustin. You think that you will always be that awkward girl with one-leg. Listen to me when I say these words. You don’t need a prosthesis anyway. You will walk down the aisle at your wedding and never put that leg back on again. Ever. You are so much cooler without it.
Kati- the incredibly old 34-year-old
Kati Gardner is a recovering actor and current unpublished Young Adult author. She has a BA in theater from Brenau University. Currently she is a Stay at Home Mom and works hard to make sure that her girls are filled with independence and whimsy. She can be found on Twitter @KatiTheWriter