Dear Mattie

When I look back at the stories from my experimental phase, it’s wild to see all of the different kinds of things I was writing. Not so surprisingly, I was using a lot of these short stories to work through my trauma and depression. “Dear Mattie” is the result of all of that, and was brought into being thanks to the ReedsyPrompts Contest #78. The prompt in question: Write about someone who keeps picking up different hobbies but never manages to stick with them.

This story did pretty well in that writing community, despite the fact that I didn’t see it as my best work. And I think that’s because I was starting to lean more heavily into sci-fi and horror, so anything else just didn’t seem like a strong/satisfying piece of writing.

But for World Read Aloud Day that year, one of my fellow Reedsy community members reached out and asked to use my story for a read aloud project for school. I was flattered, honoured, and obviously said yes. Not too long afterwards, he was kind enough to send me a recording of him reading my story aloud. Although, to me, this may not be my best piece of writing, this story sure does sound a lot better when read aloud. I invite you to do so, should you feel inclined.

Dear Mattie,

I decided to write you a letter because I think it’s the only way you’ll actually listen to me. And I mean really listen. You know that this needs to be said, but it’s so easy to pretend there’s nothing wrong if no one says it out loud. Well, now it’s in writing. And hopefully you’ll read this out loud when it’s done.

Here it goes.

You are not a failure.

There is nothing wrong with you.

You’ve been doing all the right things; it just takes time. That’s what your therapist said anyway. And maybe its time to actually believe her. Maybe taking her advice will actually help. I mean, that is why I’m writing this letter, isn’t it?

I guess it was fine when it was only affecting your work. I mean, that’s not really okay, but is anyone ever really truly motivated to do their job? Maybe people who actually like their job, I guess. And maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe if you didn’t feel so useless at work, you wouldn’t feel useless everywhere else.

But that’s not even it, is it? You’ve learned by now that this is all because of trauma, because your family didn’t treat you the way they should have. But that’s okay because you’ve been making a lot of progress with that. You therapist definitely thinks so. So why do you still feel like a failure all the time? After all these years of going to therapy and doing your best to make yourself a better person, why does it still feel like you’re failing at everything?

Anyway, it still felt “normal” to feel that way at work, but now you’re starting to feel like a failure all the time and you know that needs to stop. It’s only getting worse.

You keep picking up different hobbies to try to feel successful at something, but you keep quitting them before you give anything a chance. Remember: it takes time to get good at something. You can’t just give up if it doesn’t go well the first time. You know that.

How many balls of yarn do you have sitting, untouched in that drawer beside your desk? How many times have you actually worn that dance leotard? Why are those colouring pencils sitting so high up on a shelf and so far out of reach? And what about that yoga mat? Where is that hidden away? You don’t even know anymore, do you? And when was the last time you played D&D with your friends? When was the last time you even spoke to your friends?

This is taking a toll on all parts of your life and you know it.

That’s why I need to find a way to get through to you.

This has to stop.

Book another appointment with your therapist. Tell her what you’re going through. Really tell her. Don’t just say you’re struggling to feel motivated, to feel successful, to feel happy. Describe, in detail, what it is that you’re going through. You know you need to. You know it will help.

And pick up one of those hobbies again. Any hobby. It doesn’t matter. Flip a coin, or close your eyes and point. Just do something that isn’t moping around on the couch, staring at your phone.

And whatever you pick, you have to stick with it. Give it a month, or two months, before you decide to give up. And don’t you dare pick something new. You have enough unused stuff lying around your house. And you don’t need to waste any more money.

Pick something, stick with it, and give it a chance. Give yourself a chance. Maybe you’ll never be “successful” at it, but it’s just a hobby; you don’t have to be successful at something that’s just for fun. It’s just for fun. It’s just to help you relax and keep you sane. You don’t have to be an expert. So, pick something, stick with it, and don’t quit. Please, just don’t quit again.

Or try doing all of them. What do you have to lose at this point?

Put on that dance leotard and take an online yoga class with a real instructor; a real human being you can interact with. Put on a movie or some music while you knit and draw. Call your friends and organize a game night. Or just call your friends and talk. But at least just call your therapist. Just talk to another human being.

And really listen to what your therapist has to say. Don’t just go through the motions. This is not the time for “fake it ‘till you make it”. You need to actually try. And you know what, I dare you to tell her about whatever hobby you pick. Tell her about your progress with it every time you meet with her. It’ll hold you accountable. It’ll keep you from quitting.

So, stop lying on the couch, stop starring at your phone, and stop staring at the tv when it’s not even on. If you want to cry, cry; just stop moping. You know you can’t keep going like this.

I hope you really take the time to read and re-read this letter. Read it out loud. You know you have to. You know it’ll help. Someone needs to give you some tough love. Someone needs to talk some sense into you. And really, who else are you going to listen to?

So, I repeat:

You are not a failure.

There is nothing wrong with you.

Read it again. Read it out loud. Read it until it’s burned into your brain.

You can do this.

Start small and work your way up.

Start by picking a hobby. Start by doing something that makes you feel good about yourself, something that helps you relax, and then you might just start to feel a little more motivation.

You’re such a hard worker and you know it. I don’t know why you can’t hold on to that sense of motivation, but I know you can do it if you just try.

And remember to forgive yourself and be kind to yourself.

Sincerely,

You (Mattie)

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