haileigh, hayley, haley, hailey, haylee, haylie

I submitted this letter to one of MY favorite tiny letters, "thank you notes," and posted it on 11/19/17. “thank you notes” is really detailed and mundane and wonderful and you should subscribe immediately. 

I am thankful that trying to finish my dissertation has forced me to confront all my worst tendencies: my insecurity, perfectionism, self-criticism, and all the other ways I don't feel I can be loved unless I am perfect and accomplished. I am grateful for the people who have been willing to patiently walk me through why that is. I'm thankful that when I asked for help on Facebook, no one made fun of me; instead, my friends produced

a little tidal wave of kindness and support. I'm thankful that if anyone thought it was self-indulgent to ask for compliments on Facebook, that they kept that feeling to themselves. I'm thankful for the lessons I'm going to learn from this truly shitty time. 

I'm thankful to have a name that is really hard to spell; it gives me frequent little opportunities to make someone else feel better about a mistake. I'm thankful that when other people need my help I'm happy to give it, and to believe that sometimes asking for help is the nicest thing you can do for someone. 

I'm thankful that I saw my mom for the first time in a decade recently, not because it was a joyous reunion, but because I have a better idea now of why I feel so unlovable sometimes. I'm thankful for her anyway; I'm thankful to be alive and to talk with my hands like she does and to know that we have the exact same arms. I'm thankful to feel like I come from somewhere, even if it's a rough and rocky place. 

I'm thankful for the mentor who, after I told her what it was like to meet with my mother, looked into my eyes and said, "do you know how strong you are?" I don't think I'm very strong at all, especially now that I'm unemployed with an unfinished dissertation, but I think she does. I'm thankful for how much this mentor intimidates me, because I really believe that she means what she says, and I can cling to that even if I don't feel it. 

I'm thankful that my mother spelled my name in such a funny way. I'm grateful for all the weird, awkward, broken moments where we crash into each other and either ask for, or give, forgiveness.  

Haylie Swenson