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Dear Amy MAG
In life, there are moments when we, as human beings living in a world that sometimes seems superficial, are touched by rays of hope. It’s easy to forget that while society seems to be corrupt and we are struggling to become the best we can, there are good, unselfish people out there who are willing to give what they have in order to enrich the life of another.
Being an adolescent is perhaps one of the most insecure periods of one’s life, but I was always more than just insecure; riddled with low self-esteem but constantly trying to outdo myself, I was seldom proud and reluctant to accept compliments. Sometimes the things I did surprised me with their courageousness, and one of the things I did on a rainy Saturday afternoon was write a letter I had been meaning to write for nine years.
Although many people I know refuse to admit it, we all have idols. If I could remove small, incremental qualities from certain people – writers, singers, musicians, poets – and put them together to form myself, then I would be satisfied with who I happened to turn out to be. And I thought that perhaps by writing this letter I could achieve some aspect of my goals.
I wanted to know her secrets: why she was such a good lyricist; what made her so articulate and candid at times but relentlessly private at others; I wondered how she could have survived the turmoil of the music business from the early seventies to the present. While I wondered, I also respected her and appreciated her music. It was her words I could always relate to, her instrumentals that helped me to study. It was often frustrating because she certainly wasn’t a favorite with my friends. But my friends accepted my love of music nonetheless, and except for an occasional teasing, they understood why I was so affected by it.
Mailing the letter was perhaps one of the bravest things I have ever done; not only did I tell her everything about myself, but I enclosed some of my most personal poems and watched fearfully as the mailman drove away, my dreams trapped in his mail truck. I knew I would probably not hear from her, or at the very most, expected some fan club information, but what I received in the mail two weeks later shocked me and completely changed my outlook on life.
It was the kind of envelope that comes with personal stationery; small, with her return address stamped on the back. Tearing it open, I could only read the first line:
“Dear Amy …”
The words were jumbled together and I realized that not only had she acknowledged my letter, but she had written by hand to tell me I had touched her deeply, even though she was in the midst of promoting a brand-new album.
My poems were good, she said, but if I could be a bit looser, letting the creative side come forth I would be better. She closed the letter with, “Let me know … Love, Carly”
My first instinct was to follow her directions completely, writing freely, whatever came into my mind and I immediately sent these thoughts to her, hoping for another response. I didn’t realize what I was asking until I received another letter exactly one week later. She had not only torn through my thoughts, but rewritten them in a wonderfully poetic format, instructing me on how to improve, congratulating me for trying.
I think I became greedy. I wanted her to read everything I had ever written. I didn’t realize how busy she was, and I took advantage of her generosity by sending yet another poem, asking to be gifted with her editing techniques. My perceptions were so cluttered; I hadn’t taken the time to sit down and read what she had said as if she were a teacher and not a superstar singer/songwriter.
The third and final letter I received was much like the second: she had made so many corrections that her suggestions were written in the thin margins, taking up the entire page. She then went on to rewrite what I had written, giving me some of the best suggestions I had ever had. My disappointment came when she explained that what she had done had taken her an hour, and she would not have that kind of free time in the future, but she knew I was getting better and I had to believe in myself.
“I know you can do it,” she wrote, “you’re going to be really good … take these lessons, I hope you can learn from them on your own … Love, Carly”
When the letters stopped arriving, I sat down and read them all over and over. When I could absorb what she had said, it all became clear to me. I wrote her a farewell-thank you letter, but never heard from her again. Maybe it was her way of believing in me, not letting me become dependent on her, and having more faith in myself. I’ll never know how to thank her for such a wonderful realization.
Few people today would have done what she did. During the three or four weeks we wrote letters, I admired her on talk shows and late-night shows, as well as television specials and radio programs, so I knew her time was scarce.
In a week or two, my name will probably be a foggy memory for her, if that at all; but I will always remember her generosity, kindness and honesty. Thank you, Carly Simon, for proving to me that there is hope out there and thank you for giving some of it to me.