When my niece was born nine years ago in Helsinki, and I became an aunt for the first time, I was 29 years old and 3,900 miles away in Boston. I'd had my heart broken and was doubting my ability to finish my PhD. The distance between us — both geographic and situational — left me wondering how I could bridge that gap.
When my niece is in her late twenties, I thought, would she be dealing with the same kind of self-doubt and heartbreak as I was? Would she come to me and ask what it was like for me when I was her age? Or would the gap between us remain constant? Would she believe that her fiftysomething aunt was incapable of understanding?
I started to draw illustrated notes for her to read when she got older, to give her a window into who I was and the issues I faced at specific times in my life. I hoped that, in this way, we could "meet" at a similar age.
Now, I am a mother. Every week, I think of something I wish I could share with my daughter, but I encounter the same dilemma as with my niece: a toddler is too young to hear these thoughts. Simultaneously, I am doubtful that my daughter, 20 years from now, will ask for or listen to advice from her middle-aged mother. My solution is the same as with my niece: I start drawing notes. They are my logbook of life and love, from a younger me to an older her.