Dear Caleb, Happy Birthday

Dear Caleb,

Happy 26th Birthday!

Yesterday, someone offhandedly wished you a “happy last day of your 26th year” and you, after a cursory reflection on the last 364 days, responded with, “It’s been a year.”

I know you, and I know the kind of year that it’s been. If asked, I know you could dredge up in a heartbeat a list of perceived mistakes and regrets longer than many of the previous years. I have been here and seen for myself as this year has pushed you harder than ever before. I have seen you push yourself harder than ever before.

I know you’re struggling right now with the consequences of an overfull life. You’ve struggled to find time for even the simple things, like doing the dishes and responding to emails, and have seen your personal relationships sacrificed in the process, in a very literal sense.

But each year you’ve lived has taught you more about life, and you should be encouraged that you are choosing this year to choose your priorities with more intention and care. As you head into your 27th year, you have already taken some incredible steps to make time for both yourself and for others.

And — my word! — even in the midst of the frenetic highs and lows you have experienced this year, look at all the choices you’ve already made! You have read more this year than any year in recent history; you have continued to study two foreign languages, and added a third; you made definitive steps towards practicing your main instrument more consistently (even if it’s been difficult to maintain lately); you’ve finally taken up the violin like you’ve been talking about for years; and you’ve taken charge of your finances and your debt by starting a budget.

In a year full of things of which you weren’t sure you’d be capable, you have fought, and are fighting, to be better than you were. And that is always something to be proud of, regardless of how much progress you have made. Progress is progress, even if you’re beaten back in the process, even if it’s not as far as you were hoping to get. Progress is progress.

And so, in the midst of one last push to end out this semester, be encouraged! Though you have trudged through much to get to this day, you are here, and you know where you want to go.

Happy birthday.

Love, Caleb



An Exercise in Rolling with the Punches

“Wait, why don’t you drive a Subaru?”

A funny thing about my family – or at least about my dad (and me, too, since we share this trait) – when we find something that we like we tend to stick with it and never change. My dad, having done his thorough research and comparisons, at some point declared that Subaru station wagons were the best bang for the buck, and that was that. My dad drives a Subaru, my mom drives a Subaru, and I, up until a head-on collision back in August, also drove a Subaru. (Neither of my sisters drive a Subaru, but that’s irrelevant to this post. Carry on.)

In yet another instance of this trait of ours presenting itself, we have also have had all of our car servicing done at the same garage, year in and year out. Enough that our family is both known by all the mechanics, and known to drive Subarus. That above quote was spoken to me this morning by Fred while on the phone with him asking for service on my small, white, decidedly non-Subaru car.

Meet Baymax (named so, of course, for his white bulbousness):


I bought Baymax from a friend of mine after the aforementioned head-on collision prematurely took the life of my blue (unnamed) Subaru wagon, and this little car and I have been everywhere together (almost literally, but now is not the time to detail just how much I find myself driving; let’s just say, it’s somewhere between “a lot” and “excessive”).

Last night, however, Baymax would not start. And – after a period of time where he started up long enough to get me over to my dad’s house, for my dad and I to look at him and decide to drive him over to the garage, only to have the engine stop on the way over, forcing me to steer my car into the nearby parking lot using the momentum of gravity – he was soon on a tow truck.

I made my first foray in the Great Wide World of Budgeting this month. (This is related, I promise, bear with me.) My friend Derek set me up with budgeting software (YNAB, highly recommend it!), ran me through the basics, and I am absolutely determined to follow through with it and become even more of a Reasonably Functioning Adult.

YNAB is big on their “rules,” a set of guidelines that they believe will help their customers conquer their money woes. It’s my first month, so I can’t rattle them all off the tip of my tongue, but rule four (EDIT: it’s actually rule three; I told you, it’s my first month) is sticking in my head at the moment: “Roll with the punches.” (See, I told you it’d all tie in!)

Forgive me while I continue to personify my automobile, but I’ve known for a little while that Baymax has been sick. He would, from time to time, give a bit of a cough. Now, I know admittedly very little about cars, but I at least know that they aren’t meant to give you the occasional cough, they are meant to run smoothly.

And so, I planned. I said, “Ok, so long as my car lasts long enough, I’m going to use my newfound Adult Powers, budget out some money, and get the engine fixed before it becomes a serious issue.” I was so proud, so wise. I had a Plan.

Then my car died. Just like that.

All of a sudden, my plan to get it fixed in a month or two turned into getting it fixed right now. It is not convenient, it is not easy, and it just isn’t fair… I mean, can’t life give me a break? Work on my schedule?

Nope, no, indeed it cannot.

And so I find myself sitting here, thinking about YNAB’s rule number four (three, it’s rule three, guys *sigh*). They know as well as the rest of us: Life doesn’t always go to plan. There will be punches, and we have to roll with them. Sometimes we have to write a new plan.

So, for the moment, I find myself driving a Subaru again, thanks to my dad, and learning a bit more about humility, and rolling.

A Look to the Stars

Cloudy Night.jpgLast Night, I looked up at a Sky devoid of Stars.

Night Skies shot through with tiny points of Light are more common than not, but last Night I couldn’t find even the tiniest of pinpricks at which to look.

Not one at which to throw my thoughts.

Not one to listen;

To wink back;

To give Light;

To Light the way through into Day.

Last Night, I looked up at a Sky devoid of Stars,

And so I went inside, as I always do,

I huddled by the dim Light of a desk lamp, as I always do,

And determined, as I always do,

To try again tomorrow Night.

I Saw You Today

Clouds Black and White.jpg

I saw you today. I caught a glimpse of you under the skin of who you are today. For just a moment I touched, brushed, you and jumped back, unsure.

But yes, it was you. You felt the way the air smells after a storm: the way the memory of the rain stains the air after it’s gone, leaving nothing but the ghost of its impact.

You are your ghost. You are the memory of you. I miss you.

The Things That Matter

“My dad never hugged me.”

The statement was all-encompassing, concrete; it hung there.

Yet I recalled it wasn’t entirely true. Besides absurd and amusing imaginings of an overgrown man offering halting, awkward physical affection to a tiny infant, I recalled a time when I was six years old, and I found myself sitting in a car with a stranger who, despite all his assurances, was not in fact sent by my parents to take me home. This was explained later through the sobs of a man whose arms were wrapped tightly around me for the first and only time in memory, and I remember thinking with astonishment, Do fathers really cry?

Ever since that day I’ve had to make do with affirmative nods, an assuring hand on a shoulder, a few scattered words of encouragement amidst more frequent criticism, a terse smile. Even at graduation: a stolid handshake paired with a stolid face, and that single, solitary, stolid word. “Congratulations.”

And at the last, the weakened grip and the whispered words, “I am proud of you.”

No, my dad never hugged me. But the bitter phrase softened in the light of memory.

“Yet I know he loved me.”



No one likes that word, or at least I don’t. I like to think I can do everything on my own, as long as I just learn enough, practice enough, think about it enough. I like to think I don’t need other people, that they’re just a fun, optional addition to this thing called “life.”

And why? Because “dependency” is often synonymous with “vulnerability.” You can’t get close to people without being at least a little vulnerable to them. And vulnerability, more often than not, is extremely painful. When you get close to someone, you make it stupid easy to be hurt by them, and for them to be hurt by you.

People suck. It is a fundamental fact in this universe that we all call home that human beings make mistakes. A lot of them. Sometimes we really do mean the best for the people we love, but we let our pride or our selfishness or our greed get in the way of it, and we end up hurting people, whether they’re people that matter to us, or people we couldn’t care less about but maybe should.

Sometimes our only mistake is ignorance. “I didn’t mean to,” we’ll say, “I didn’t know any better.” The terrible truth is that those words, when uttered by someone we depend upon, don’t feel like anything more than lemon juice poured into an open wound. You should have known better, we’ll think. Why didn’t you love me enough to know better?

I hate depending on others, because not only does it highlight the imperfections of those I wish were perfect, but it highlights how vastly, enormously, astronomically imperfect I am. And that, to me, sucks the most.

I love the people I depend upon. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t depend on them. I love them so deeply. It’s in my nature. The worst thing that I can imagine in the world is hurting them. I don’t like to face the fact that sometimes I really suck. I get angry and frustrated and jealous and I hate it.

To anyone else I meet or know only superficially, I don’t have to worry about it. I know how to play well with others, or fit into the crowd. But this “dependability,” this “vulnerability,” means others get to see me at my worst. It means I can hurt them and they can hurt me, and I wish I knew how to handle it. If you want a sneak peak into the struggles of Caleb Heckman, this is it: The hardest thing I’ve had to deal with this past year are the people I love. Because I depend upon them. Because they can hurt me and I can hurt them. Because they have hurt me, and I have hurt them.

Sometimes I wish I could be entirely independent. That all I have to do is figure enough of life out, and I would never have to get close to another human being as long as I live. But I read something somewhere that’s been sticking inside my head like a thorn. I read something that told me that if we were meant to be completely independent, we would have been given everything we needed in and of ourselves. But we weren’t. We were designed to find what we needed in others, and so we must sometimes be close. We must sometimes depend. We must sometimes be vulnerable.

And that’s the hardest thing, I know. Dependancy.

She Lives With God

I wrote this in a reply to a letter in which I was asked to draw a picture. I told her I’m not good at drawing with pen or paint, but I like to draw with words. I liked it well enough to share it.


She awakes with the dawn.

She rises with the sun.

She stirs with the day.


She runs with the wind.

She spins with the leaves.

She laughs with the birds.


She lies down with the light.

She sleeps with the moon.

She dreams with the stars.


She lives with God.