Dear Open Letter to an Open Letter,

There’s this nice lady at my gym that I talk to regularly, and she reminded me of you today.

I know we haven’t talked since shortly after that one celebrity posted on open letter to that other celebrity on their blog, and I felt the need to satirize open letters, in general, through you. I’m truly sorry about that. Bear with me here, though. Please try and hear me out.

The lady, who I’ll call Brandy, is a casual friend who works out around the same time I do. Brandy has this incredible energy that I rarely see in people. Everybody in the gym seems to be her friend. She’s smart, vocal, in great shape (even for a person half her age), and is always a positive presence. She even clapped for me after I did a particularly rough set on the dip machine a few weeks ago! She sees my efforts to get healthy, and is the kind of person to show her support, even though we barely know each other.

So, Brandy stopped to chat with me today, and I was a little out of breath, but happy to talk to since it’s the beginning of the year and, you know, even random conversations seem so full of optimism. People are just so damn nice in January.

She asked me how my New Years was and, to be honest, any other year I’d be recounting a shit show. I’ve been pretty wild for what seems like forever, and asking me how my New Years went would surely send me into some story about how I drank too much and shot fireworks off at my brother, barely missing his face, or that one time my friend broke his arm, or how I accidentally pushed someone into a bed of fire ants, or that other time I was run over with a four-wheeler or, you know, on and on and on I’d be sharing things that, truthfully, I should probably be regretting in silence.

This year, however, I had a very calm New Year’s Eve celebration. We did our normal, smallish fireworks show, and I held my son while he shot off his first roman candle. I didn’t even overdo the drinking! So, unlike my usual rambling recall of idiocy, my response to the “How was your New Year’s Eve?” question was a pleasantly short, “Great! I shot-off fireworks and didn’t do too much else.”

Brandy, again a very charming, unassuming lady with an adult daughter and a consistent gym routine, replied that she also had a very enjoyable but calm celebration. Then, in that slightly awkward way, it got quiet between us. And you know me, An Open Letter to an Open Letter, I’d usually break the silence first in this kind of conversation. I’d likely relate a funny anecdote to fill the time, or crack some joke, but I was still recovering from doing the workout thing I was doing. I was still a little winded. So there I stood, soaking-in the gym silence.

Then, out of that silence, something great happened. It’s simple, but for some reason it felt like an epiphany. I did something I don’t do enough. I listened to another person talk.

“I wasn’t always tame,” she said. “We used to live at the end of a cul-de-sac. The neighbors would bring out their Christmas trees on New Year’s Eve, and put them in the center of the street.” She continued, “my husband would stack them on top of each other, and we’d light them on fire. They’d burn all night.”

“My favorite part was the gingerbread house I would make every year,” she went on, “we’d line it with M-80s, and blow the hell out of it at midnight.”

And here’s where I thought of you, An Open Letter to an Open Letter. I hadn’t given you a thought since you were rejected, but there I was, and there you were, in my head again.

I get your premise. Open Letters, especially from celebrities to other celebrities, seem silly and pointless. But in that moment I thought about it, and I thought, “Why bother calling Open Letters out?” And really, why not just let Open Letters be Open Letters? If people want to say something, why not let them say it? Why not just listen to what another person wants to say?

I’m positive that, had I spoken first (which I generally do), Brandy wouldn’t have shared her experience with me. Shortly after sharing her story, her workout partner walked in and our conversation ended. Had I felt the need to talk first, had I cut her off, I would have never realized how special Brandy, a mom who made gingerbread houses out of small explosives and blew them up for her family and friends, truly is.

I realized today, An Open Letter to an Open Letter, that the act of listening is more important than the act of speaking. Using satiric language and an overly obvious premise to poke fun at celebrities is not nearly as valuable as listening to what other people, even celebrities, have to say.

I truly enjoyed the time we shared while I was writing and submitting you, but I can’t say that you represent my feelings well anymore. We were lucky to have our moment, and thankfully that moment was quiet.