before you tell me you wasted your childhood, tell me how you got here, how you met me. let’s make a timeline, a treasure map of dotted lines and of Xs and Os. i know you will find the courage to sing in the dark again. you will find new rooms full of books unexpectedly, when you are running away from the things you wanted most. when you look in the mirror, you elbows look like elephant trunks and you smile looks just like regret. one day, you will walk beneath that powerline without seeing yourself strung up and whitewashed, a corpse without bones. you will listen to the mixtapes your mother made in the decade you wish you were born in, but you will not admit it to her, even when she claims the tapes are missing. you will look at her wedding pictures and wonder if she will live long enough to see yours. you will ask about her wedding dress and try it on even though you know it won’t fit you—you inherited your grandfather’s height. you will sing as the shooting stars fall into the ocean. you are the girl that people pray about, crossing themselves after you pass from their sight. you will have blue hair at fifteen, black at twenty-two, and white hair with receding red streaks at the ripe old age of seventy-four. you will create nursery rhymes for your great-grandchildren, bouncing your favorite child upon you lap. you will find your raggedy ann doll in your attic and sew up a new dress for her for her from the fabrics of your aprons that have served you so well. you will grow old and you will forget almost everything about your life. you will imagine yourself as someone else, someone you’ve never met. so, do not tell me you wasted your childhood. nothing you do will ever be a waste, not even dying with dignity.