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Dear No One
Author's note: One thing that inspired me was finally accepting the fact that I failed, and learning how to move on from there. That is the message of this story and it doesn't matter what the struggle is, you can manage to relate with this story.
Dear No one,
It wasn't supposed to be this way. I was supposed to be good at school. At every subject, in every test, ALL THE TIME. But I failed. Literally. I failed the only thing I thought I was good at. One day I'm so motivated to excel, the next I', crying in the bathroom because I feel like I can't handle and adjust to high school standards. What if I can't? I feel lost. I hate this! It's not fair, and I know life isn't supposed to be, but I was taught that if you work hard you'll be able to do anything. I don't even believe in myself anymore. It seems so far. Success. It seems like something so unreal. I don't know how to live without school and good grades; It's all I really have. I never had a lot many friends, but I wouldn't let that get to me too much. I play the piano, but lately it seems like I've only been practicing to try and raise my concentration level for tests. Like suddenly, everything I used to do for fun is now something I do for school. The only pure thing I have left is this. My thoughts. How I feel. I'm so tired of crying over grades. I should cry about tragedies, not D's. I don't sleep. I wake up for the few hours I do, go to school for eight hours, then come back just to study until it gets dark. I thought that if I'd devote myself to this, it would be worth it. That I'd feel so good, but I feel worse everyday. I've talked about this to everyone I know. Now it's time to write this to someone I don't Please reply.
A frustrated teenage girl
What are your difficulties in life?
Fold. Envelope. Stamp. Random, yet possible address. Now, to the post office.
"Well, here it goes" Madeline said to herself as she shoved the envelope into the mail box. She walked away thinking how great it would be if "No One" could become "Someone", and even better - with an answer to her problem.
"Taxi!" Landon Birly shouted down the streets of New York City one bright morning.
His failing attempt to catch a cab to work made his regret once again, that he didn't have a car. Yet. Not that it would help him get any faster, the streets were jammed.
8:47AM. Great, he thought to himself. He had no catching a cab and getting to his new job all the way across town in 13 minutes.
"Late for my first day" he muttered."That will look good in my personal file."
9:19. He was late. He had been waiting for a chance in a real job for so long, and he could see the short and bitter end of it now. As he ran to the building, his knee started to hurt again. Landon was recovering for a horrible tear in his ACL. He thought about using that as an excuse for being late, but then he remembered that no one cares if the 'coffee guy' is late. So he hoped.
"I'm sorry I'm late Sir, traffic was really bad and I-" He tried to explained as he followed his new boss down the hall.
"doesn't matter now" He interrupted Landon. "Go get the coffee for the meeting at 9:30. You know how to make coffee, kid?"
"yes Sir" his pale skin returned to its slightly darker shade when he realized he wasn't getting fired.
"The meeting will be in room 308." Mr.Sulivan, his new boss, continued. "Just walk in quietly, bring the coffee and leave. Got that?"
"You got it, boss!" Landon finally smiled since, will in a long time.
"Stop smiling" Mr.Sulivan snapped. He looked up at Landon. "How tall ARE you?"
"I'm 6"8, Sir" He answered incomfortably.
"Then what are you doing here? You should be playing basketball!" He laughed loudly.
"Yeah you're right" Landon said, trying to smile, but Mr.Sulivan was long gone. He rubbed he knee and kept on walking, slightly regretting that he didn't get fired after all.
8:21PM. Finally back from being at the office for 5 useless hours and a long ride home. Home. His apartment was a little bigger that the cubicles people had at work. Not him. Yet.
He had the mail in his hand, that he had gotten from downstairs when he entered his building. Nothing too special. A bill he couldn't pay yet. Another. A few more.
Wait. There was a letter. From Madeline Hoffurd.
"Who's Madeline Hoffurd?" he asked himself. It was definitely sent to him. The letter was sent from Livermore, CA. He didn't know anyone from California. Landon shrugged, opened the letter, and sat down. 'Maybe as I read it, things will make sense', he thought. Boy was he wrong.
An hour had passed by since Landon read the letter form Madeline Hoffurd, aka 'A frustrated teenage girl'. He stared at it, trying to let everything sink in. A teenage girl from the other side of the country writes him - a total stranger - a long, emotional and very private letter about her life. Why? She must had had no luck with her loved ones, so she took an unexpected turn, Landon assumed.
'Should I reply?' He wondered. She asked him to. But she didn't even know him! And that's the whole point...It was all quite confusing. He looked at his apartment. then at his knee. He remembered when he felt that he had worked so hard for something that got torn apart right in front of him. Literally. He thought for a little while longer, and decided. 'Why not?" he asked himself. 'What could I possibly loss from replying to her? Nothing'. And what could he gain? Understanding, advice, help. 'Like a free shrink' he thought. As much as he'd been denying it for almost 2 years, that was exactly what he needed.
Dear Madeline/Frustrated Teenage Girl,
My name is Landon Birly. I'm 21 years old, from Boston MA. When I first saw your letter, I had no idea what to do with it. So I read it.
About your school-related problems: I don't know you, but from you wrote and how you wrote it I don't think you have too much to worry about. I have never, well, read about someone who cared about school like that. I believe that you'll find your special way to shine trough high school, because if you feel so determined to find your way, you are actually paving it without even realising. D's aren't that bad, I've gotten worse and I made it to Princeton. I do think that you're taking those years 4 years a little too seriously. They were meant to help, not confuse. Maybe if you focus on other things too, you'll be able to get better perspective on your life.
And now for my troubles. About 2 years ago I tore my ACL playing basketball during my sophomore year in college. Since then, I dropped out of college, gave up on my recovery and moved to New York, just to be the guy who brings coffee in a law firm that I don't even know its name.
So there you have it. My lovely problems. I kind of wish I had yours. Maybe I would've done things differently. Or maybe I'm just telling myself that so I don't feel like a complete failure, I don't know if this helped you, and I don't even know if you'll reply.
Tears. Everywhere. Madeline's eyes shimmered as she re read for the third time the letter she received from Landon. His story touched her heart and she couldn't stop thinking about it.
2:04AM. She wasn't able to fall asleep, so she decided to answer Landon's letter instead.
I tried to think of the best and most grown-up way to reply, but the words didn't wait for my approval. My feelings are shoving them onto my note-pad.
I can't believe you answered. When T checked the mail and saw the address I shrieked with excitement. My parents thought I went crazy.
Anyway, about your advice. I think you're right. I know you are. So i decided to sign up for the talent shoe at my school in a few months, and play the piano. You don't know this about me, but I'm really shy and have stage fright, but I have to give my mind something else to do or I'll go mad (just like my name). So thank you.
So you played basketball, What was you position? Did you always know you wanted to be a basketball player? If you did, why did you give up? And even if you didn't, why did you give up? I know I can't judge you because I don't know what you went through, but I do know this: if you loved it enough to get hurt it will hurt you more to stop doing it all together. This is so funny, I love basketball! I'm from San Francisco, so Warriors or nothing, but this is so cool! Anyway, it seems like you let your dream go because you were too hard on yourself. It's not your fault you got hurt, and you can still recover. It might take a year or more instead of 8 months like recoveries that weren't stopped, but you should try. The main reason I keep failing is because I'm way too critical about everything I do. When I get a C- I cry, but when I get a B+ I get so mad it wasn't an A-. Stupid, right? So let's believe in ourselves together and fight for what we love. Our hobbies, our occupation. The freedom from our weaknesses.
Madeline aka a not-so-frustrated teenage girl anymore.
Wow. Just wow. Landon's eyes were wide open after he read his second letter from Madeline. She wrote things he couldn't believe a complete stranger would write to him. But they were true. Every word.
I'm not so good at writing like you are, so instead of letting my emotions spill on paper I had to think carefully about what I wanted to write.
OK, so I'm a center (I'm 6"8). Well, I was. For now. I don't really know if I always knew I wanted to be a basketball play, I guess it was just always a part of who I was. A big part. Like my identity.
Are you sure you're a teenager? because the things you wrote were a powerful and mature, so don't worry about your words being approved by you. By the way, that sentence was beautiful. And you're right too. You signing up for that talent show encouraged me to go to a physiotherapist for the first time in 19 months. He said there was hope. Good for you for signing up! It makes me proud that me own advice helped you and then you helped me back so now we're even.
I never thought it would be so easy to just get up and take one step closer to achieving something you pushed away. I guess I didn't really need a big change like in the movies, all I needed was a reason to go back. And it was there all along; you just managed to write to me all the things I was afraid to tell myself. So thank you.
Now, about you B+'s. I know exactly what you mean. In college, one game I'd score 3 points and have only one rebound and I'd be so upset I;d bang my fist in my locker after the game. When we won I didn't feel so bad though. But when I'd have 18 points and 8 rebounds I'd get even more frustrated. Just two more rebounds for a double double. I guess the A's and double doubles are like luxurious things everybody wants to achieve, but when they don't no one remembers what they did, even if it was great.
So I say: So what? You did great and so did I! We don't need a fancy thing like that to tell us that. All we need is ourselves. We need our own motivation, that's why I'd tell myself before every shot I've ever made: One more.
Landon (I'm glad you're not so frustrated anymore)
A big smile appeared on Madeline's face, as she finished reading Landon's letter to her. Thanks to each other, they were both getting closer to their goals.
She looked out of the window near her bed as she was sitting on it, with the letter in her hand. She thought about how great it would be to just leave everything and go. Run away to some place where she could relax and be herself. She wanted to go to New York and meet Landon in person. She knew she couldn't, but that didn't stop her from imagining how incredible it would be if she did. So instead, Madeline wrote him another letter. That's what she did now every time she felt lost and upset, and wanted to do something reckless, like run away. And every time she'd write, he'd calm her down, and then he'd go to physiotherapy for his leg.
But with final exams beginning for Madeline, and Landon being promoted to a secretary who ran errands that mattered, they had less time for letters. That didn't stop them from talking on the phone every night before Madeline went to bed and Landon finished the exercises he was instructed to do every day.
"It's like we're healing each other from our mistakes" Madeline told Landon one night on the phone.
"Yeah, you're right" He replied as he stretched his leg muscles for his training. "I'm healing physically, and you are emotionally"
"Well, more like we're encouraging each other to heal ourselves" Madeline continued, "Oh, I got a B+ on my Chemistry test from last week" She added.
"Really? That's great!" Landon said happily.
"I think it is" She grinned. "Thanks. Are you alright Landon? You sound tired"
"Oh, that's because I'm doing these exercises for my knee. My trainer's really tough on me. I can't even feel my toes!"
"Good" Madeline said "That means it's working." She paused for a few moments. "You know, The talent show is next week. I'm really nervous, what if it was a mistake to sign up for it?" Madeline started to panic.
"Nonsense, it was a great idea!" Landon answered. "Madeline you're going to do so well, I know it."
"I hope you're right" She said.
"I know I am" He added.
"So how's work going?" She changed the subject.
"Work's going great" Landon replied "My boss is actually listening to my opinion every now and then."
"That's wonderful!" She shouted with excitement "Well I'm gonna go to bed."
"Good night, Madeline" Landon smiled.
"Wait" Madeline suddenly said. "Tell me about your last game again. Please?"
Landon sighed. "Fine. Are your eyes closed?"
"Yep." Madeline replied. "I'm ready"
"OK. 22 months ago, my sophomore year at Princeton University, I had a game. It was against Duke. I'm on the starting 5 after a successful freshman year. The crowd cheered and the first half started. That half ended with the score 56-49 in our favor. I started in the second half too. During the middle of that half, I go for a dunk, but as I was in the air, there was this fight going on. Nothing serious, a few players shoving each other. Well, one of them shoved too hard, one of the guys flew, he knocked me down and I landed horribly. The pain was indescribable, but the part I resent the most is when they carried me away on the stretcher. That's when I knew it was over. Things changed and there was nothing I could ever do to fix it. The end"
Madeline chuckled at the was he had finished the story. "You're really good at telling stories"
"Well, just this one" Landon explained "It's the only one I've ever told. Kind of a weird bed-time story, but you asked for it."
"I know. Thanks" Madeline said softly. There was a short moment of silence. "You know" she begun "I Looked you up and saw your games from college. You're really good"
"Well, was" Landon said, remembering those times.
"You still are." She corrected him "You just need to prove it again"
Landon waited for her to continue.
"Good night?" He asked, unsure.
"Good night" She answered.
A week went by. It was thee end of thee school year. Every student was waiting for this day. Not Madeline, because that meant one thing to her: The talent show. She had never been this nervous. Not even before a test.
'OK. Deep breathe.' She said to herself, as she stood behind the stage, waiting for her turn. The audience clapped. That meant it was her turn. She brushed down her black dress, pulled its long sleeves all thee way down and fussed withe her slightly ruffled skirt.
"One more time to shine, Madeline" She whispered "One more."
She walked slowly on to the stage and stood in front of the crowd. She took a small bow and sat down in front of thee piano.
Madeline played 3 pieces: The first one was the 5the Symphony by Tchaikovsky. She loved that piece so it went smoothly. The second piece was Libiamo ne' lieti calici by Verdi. Quick and tricky, but it went well. The final piece she played was the hardest one she had ever played: The Waltz in A Minor by Chopin. Every time she'd play it, she would never be able to play it correctly all the way. She took a deep breath and started to play it.
'So far so good' Madeline thought to herself. 'Just try not to think about it too much, you're doing fine.'
She finished. Everyone clapped. Madeline stood up and went to the front of the stage to bow. She looked out at the crowd, when suddenly she noticed a tell figure. She froze. 'No. It can't be. It's not.' She kept telling herself, but she knew she was wrong. Landon was there. He flew for 6 hours, he travelled 3000 miles for her. Or maybe he had a business meeting and decided to drop by. Who cared?! Landon was there! Madeline's smile got wider and wider. She ran down the stairs of the stage and kept running towards him. He stood with his back against the wall so he wouldn't block any one's view. She ran to him and gave him the biggest hug she could give someone who was almost a foot and a half taller than her, and nearly 3 times bigger. Tears of joy streamed down her face as they stood there hugging each other, without saying a word.
Madeline finally let go and wiped off the tears from her face.
"I can't believe you came her!" She yelled, still processing that fact.
"I can't believe you wrote me that letter" Landon answered, with a big smile on his face.