Motivational Letter for a Short-Armed Girl Who Wants to be a Trapeze Catcher

August 1, 2010


Your mother tells me that you want to be a trapeze artist-a catcher, in fact-but lately you’ve started to doubt your dream.

I understand that doubt, Danielle.

When I was a little boy I wanted to be a writer just like Mark Twain, but everyone said that my Negro characters sounded like racist stereotypes. As you can imagine, that was pretty discouraging. I even considered becoming a Soviet spy so I could tell the Russians exactly where to bomb if it came to that.

But I persevered and kept writing until I eventually decided to do something better: I’m a police officer. Actually, I work at the police station watching over the evidence from crime scenes. I won’t get into that here because this is about you and not about the blood-covered ice picks, etc. that I watch over.

I recommend that you get started right now.

Go out and  hang by your knees somewhere. For hours on end.

And hold heavy things in each hand like wrenches and tire irons.

The truth is that eventually your arms will lengthen out. I know that for a fact, Danielle. I’m a police station employee.

And let’s say that it doesn’t work out, that your arms don’t grow long enough for someone like you to swing from a trapeze and catch someone else in front of a crowd of thousands with no net below you. Let’s say you end up a short-armed cashier at a hardware store, taking returns from people who bought the wrong size nails. Let’s say you never leave your parents’ house except when they die and you inherit it, but you can’t pay the mortgage on your cashier’s paycheck.

Maybe at that point, when you’re living all alone, watching old movies on your VHS, maybe then you’ll realize that you should’ve trained more. Hung all night instead of coming in when it started to rain. Traded the wrenches for car batteries and old artillery shells. Maybe when you start passing out after slurping down an entire bowl of pudding will you realize that dreams don’t just happen.

You’ve gotta stop feeling sorry about your short-armed handicap and stretch yourself out.

Or learn how to catch people just outside of your reach.

Or both.

Keep believing in yourself,

Matt Barber


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