An Open Letter to my Future Daughter

Dear Daughter, 

I woke up this morning—day number 13 of quarantine—at 8 o’clock. The cat was screaming and scratching at my door. I’d left the window open so it was freezing inside. My closed eyes were stained with that glowing red of daytime. I had a long, unorganized list of homework to do. If I counted them, there were at least 100 reasons to get up, but the only one that meant anything to me was this one: “I can’t spend all day sleeping. My life’s not that sad. Just get up, Vail. It could be worse.”

It’s that last part I’m worried about. 

I have been really sad, depressed even. Almost two weeks ago, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented me from returning to my new home of Wells College that I only recently transferred to this semester. I found my intellectual cocoon at Wells. I was ripped out of it prematurely and wing-less. It physically hurt. 

And so, all this global and personal chaos has brought me to your grandfather 3,000 miles away in a house I thought I’d only ever see again in my dreams. It’s a safe and loving environment here but it’s not home, not Wells. And as I’m reluctantly learning, like everything, it’s impermanent; your grandfather is moving and I don’t know where to go. 

It’s now that again that waking voice echos inside me. 

“It could be worse.” 

Yes, it could be worse. Yes, I have options. Yes, I have people who love me. Yes, I am healthy. No. I will not let that stop me from feeling my feelings. My pain is not as painful as others’ but that doesn’t change the way it feels to me. Pain is relative; just because mine isn’t as painful as others’ doesn’t make it go away. Attempting to dismiss my pain by comparing it to someone else’s only makes things worse. 

Before I started at Wells, a friend of mine wrote to me, “YOU ARE BRAVE”. Though I didn’t believe him at the time, now I have to. I think of you and all the other daughters who don’t exist yet. I must make use of my bravery to scream at the clouds and cry when I walk past a taped up playground. By doing this, I hope to teach you by example the only way to deal with pain is to feel it. How can any of us women ever support those who do have it worse if we don’t let ourselves be sad first? 

I hope you never have to feel the pain of a pandemic like COVID-19, but I have no delusions. You’ll still experience great pain in your life. As a woman, people may dismiss it or even ignore it. Try not to join them. That pain might seem so small you will tell yourself, “it could be worse.” And when that happens I hope you remember this letter. 

Love always, 

Mom