A Letter to Baby Callahan on her 17th Birthday


Dear Baby C.,

Seventeen years (and a few months) ago, a bunch of ladies sat around a country club one afternoon and helped your mama prepare for your arrival by drinking mimosas, eating macaroons, and concocting birthday greetings for the first 30 years of your life.

You are a little over halfway through these yearly messages, and hopefully you have benefited from our nuggets of wit and wisdom. I imagine the tone and content of these letters changed over the years as well, from infancy: “I can’t stress this enough: do NOT eat your boogers!” to childhood: “Do NOT sit down in a port a potty, ever!” to adolescence, “Do NOT, under any circumstances, date the drummer in a rock band!” And now, you are at the cusp of adulthood, and it is my turn to offer my advice.

Assuming nobody has messed with the time-space continuum, the year is 2032, and everyone has long forgotten about the midterm elections, the ebola crisis, and the other petty problems of 2015. If pop culture and young adult literature have taught us anything about the future, your world is a bleak and torturous nightmare, possibly infested with zombies and/or evil robot clones. Fortunately, there should also be at least two strong, hot young men with great abs and unexplained powers to help you navigate this dystopian morass (and battle for your heart).

As you go about your day, sourcing food and shelter, dispatching slavering evil creatures and rebuilding society, keep in mind the following advice. Back in the day, these tips helped me get through the challenges of the Before Times, when people lived above ground and didn’t barter for food.

1. Appreciate Your Family

Sure, your parents might bug you, especially when they refuse to decapitate a roving monster or barbecue the nutria you caught for dinner. Maybe you don’t want them telling you how to wear your new rabbit pelt or how to use your budding supernatural powers. But, they are still your parents, and if you mouth off to them, storm off on a looting spree and then come home to find they were eaten by zombies, you will be really sorry. Words can be weapons, so wield them wisely. They have sacrificed a lot for you and worked hard to keep you from getting snatched by the slavering hordes. Be nice to your parents.

2. Friends Can Be Family

Whether you are lopping off heads, gathering intelligence for the rebel insurgency, or on a quest for a magical amplifier or other valuable artifact, life can be pretty lonely. Don’t ever be afraid to put yourself out there! When trying to make friends, be your best self. If you are kind, fun, funny, and good with a sword, good people/aliens/shapeshifters/faeries will be drawn to you. With good friends at your side, the apocalypse will suck a little less.

3. Don’t Listen to the Trolls

Don’t waste time with Negative Nellies or Fair-weather Friends! The first time a so-called friend tries to eat your brain, traps you in the aetheric otherworld, or suggests that you aren’t thin enough to be a cheerleader, hurl them into the Pit of Fire, Cold Abyss or whatever Dark Realm is most convenient. Life is too short to bother with these folks, and they don’t deserve you.

4. You, Woman, Can Do Anything!

If you are not afraid to work hard and make sacrifices, you will be successful, whether your goal is to overthrow the Robot Clone Overlord or earn the respect of the aloof guy with the drool-worthy abs. Even if you don’t feel confident, ACT confident, and that Overlord will think twice before nuking your village shantytown. Fake it ’til you make it!

And now a word about gender politics: Women have come a long way since the Before Times, when we were underrepresented in pretty much every arena and shackled by society’s limited idea of femininity. Now, you can wield that katana, crossbow, throwing star, or really well-constructed argument with authority. You will fight and you will win, and if your hair gets messed up or you get alien guts on your dress, nobody will care. In fact, the boys of the future will find alien goo an attractive accessory to any outfit and will flock to you in droves when you are fresh from the battlefield, triumphantly brandishing your bag of trophy heads. Boo-yah!

5. Take Care of You

Believe it or not, even with all the advances in medicine, and your surety to the contrary, you are not invincible. I will say it again: You. Are. Not. Invincible. Take your longevity pills. Eat healthy and nutritious food replacement bars and do NOT loot the abandoned Cheet-oh factory. Loot something wholesome, like a silo of grain or a warehouse of granola bars. Don’t skimp on your daily training and agility exercises, because you only get ONE body (unless you join the Evil Clone Conspiracy) and in order to effectively defend your settlement and live to fight another day, you must keep your body strong. Also, beware! There may be some shady sprites who offer you mysterious food, drink, or other suspicious substances, but here is some more good advice that has not lost its relevance in 60 years: Just Say No. If all the other Leaders of the Insurgency jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? No. Don’t bow to peer pressure! Avoid the frat boys with their Jaegermeister shots (they still exist, right?) and anyone else who tries to steer you down the wrong, unhealthy path.

I hope that these five tips prove useful to you in your 17th year on this earth. May you crush the zombie hordes, create a brave new world under the sea, and lastly and most importantly, find happiness with that handsome, brooding guy you have your eye on. Because whether the year is 2014 or 2032, love is the key to happiness. Love, and rock-hard abs.


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Currently residing in Sandwich, Massachusetts, Kristi is an aspiring writer and mother who spends most of her time ferrying her children to various sports practices and doctor appointments. She also substitute teaches and reads romantic fantasies by the bushel.

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