A Thank-you Letter to a Dear Friend, 24 Years Too Late

Thank you dear friend because you have made me aware of something I have forgotten. I have spunk. And if this is so, then it is not fear that stands in my way. It is only I who do that. (but I’m not a spunk bucket, just saw that on the internet, I mean even if I was or anyone is, no call for shaming. Why aren’t there masculine equivalents of these derogative terms? all right, all right why aren’t there any heteronormative male equivalents of the word – stay off google folks it’s a dark, dark place).

spunk: noun [ U ]
 US  /spʌŋk/approving


I had thought it was fear impeding me, but only because that is a thing we are told: by therapists, well-meaning friends, self-help gurus, memes.


It is true that I am wracked with doubt. I doubt everything. I stop and analyze and over think all the time. Then I second-guess and doubt myself. If I could tell you this, you would be surprised. I am not who you thought I was.


In a moment of introspection your image came to mind. Chuckling; you say, “That’s why I like you, you’ve got spunk.”


You liked me the moment you saw me passing by in the corridor of Hunter College. As I was leaving, you stopped tossing the football to Rob, casually handed me a slip of paper and asked me to call you. I never did. When you saw me again, you asked why I never did call you. I don’t remember my response. I just remember that a friendship flourished from there.


We were soul mates, you and I.  We saw each other frequently throughout the week for not very long amounts of time. We could always sit down together and talk openly and honestly about the rest of the world around us and our role in it.


You were a true gentleman and friend. You saw through me, flaws and all, and you accepted me. Our relationship was not physical, but rather metaphysical, we could just be in one another’s presence. You echoed others opinions of me when you called me a free spirit. Yet, I wasn’t truly free because I never accepted myself the way I was. The way you did. I was always trying to move forward and improve myself. I think the only times I stood still in those days were when we met at the cafeteria or at the Peace & Justice Club. You didn’t even go to Hunter College and I saw you more than my fellow classmates.



We became closer after a mutual friend went missing. It was you who broke the news to me that, “He was gone and won’t be coming back.”  We were not best of friends spending all our time together or calling one another to see what was going on. We never hung out with each other over the weekend. You understood when I was there; and when I couldn’t be there. I never questioned how you made money without a job. I listened to your challenges of what it was like to take care of an aging, legally blind father. You looked after me. If I was sitting with another male you always came up and asked if he was bothering me. You’d carry me over the turnstile to the train when I didn’t have the money to pay the fare. You sat and drank with me, always making sure there was somewhere safe that I could use the bathroom. You accompanied me on tedious errands such as running to the bank.



It’s been many years and I don’t remember when I last saw you. I don’t recall our last conversation. And here I am so many years later recalling one off-handed comment you made to me so long ago when I was a young free-spirited woman. I have spunk, so why am I constantly caging myself with conventionality? I keep trying new tricks, new tasks, new apps, new methods and various exercises to make myself into something that I am not.


I recently discovered that I am not who I think I am. I am not so smart, not so valiant, not so self-sacrificing.  In short, I am not the change that I want to be.  I will never be who I want to be. I need to accept that; instead I have put myself under house arrest, charging myself to fulfill my dreams. I am to be a writer. I am to overcome my fears, challenge my doubts, and walk the walk. Just do it. But, what if the shoes don’t fit? What if they are really tight, constraining and just hurt? Yeah, like most women I’ve bought a pair of killer cute shoes that look good but provide little comfort and a great deal of pain.


I have spunk, I believe you were right about it. I need to let go of feeling like a failure and  embrace my free spirit. It is time to give up my quest for that elusive potential everyone told me I had.  It is time to stop trying to place a square peg in a round hole. I need to accept that me and my ADDled brain will never be able to keep a schedule, never be able to commit to any long-term task even if I am ferociously loyal, that I will never champion speaking up and out. And that is ok. So what if my life is a sequence of trying and failing? I have enjoyed every attempt that I failed at and that took spunk. I have run races where I’ve come in dead last, I have tripped on the bus and fallen into a strange mans lap, I’ve peed my pants, I’ve put drinks and snacks on the counter at 7/11 only to discover I forgot my wallet at home, I’ve locked myself out of my apartment several times, I’ve been in toxic relationships, I’ve travelled alone on trains in Europe, I’ve been broke, I’ve been hungry, I’ve overeaten on way too many occasions, I tend to drink too much, I walk away from things, I avoid conflict, I let the chores pile up while I read Facebook comments all day, I let my son play way too much Xbox, I bring him to R-rated movies and he’s only 10, I’ve gone from job to job and never had any satisfaction, it took me seven years to get my bachelors degree, I was on the dean’s list every semester and graduated magna cum laude, but it was only a City University, I have run marathons, I have stayed home for ten years taking care of my home and family, I lose my temper and yell at my child, at my husband, I have tried to be a blogger and a writer – only to write some flash-fiction and not regularly, I have an MA in TESOL and taught with the NYC Board of Education for six years, but I do not want to be a teacher anymore, I do not know what I want to be. And that’s o.k. I am giving myself permission to embrace my flaws and to let me just be me; not who I think I should be, not what others expect of me. No excuses. I don’t have to be recognized or receive accolades or have followers to feel successful. I just have to live my life. And live it with spunk.


I think that would bring a smile to your face. I see your smiling face in my mind’s eye, tucked away in cherished memories. There, in those memories img_3545is where you will live on, for you were taken too soon. Shot by a stray bullet on White Plains Road, in the Bronx, NY 24 years ago. You are gone and won’t be coming back. But your words forever live in my heart. Thank you.