Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Addressing My Youth

Several months ago, I had a conversation with a friend; during that conversation, she suggested that I write a letter to a younger me. 

And while I loved the idea, it terrified me too. Young life wasn't always easy for me, and my childhood was about as far from rainbows and roses as it could possibly get. It isn't always easy to talk about, even with the people who know me personally, people that have literally gone through it with me.

But writing is my outlet - has always been my outlet. So I can write to a younger me, can't I? Surely I can find something to say to myself, some wisdom that I've gained through the experiences of my youth?

I let it sit. I let it rest. I let it form itself. And then?

A few weeks ago, I was driving with the wind in my hair (because the a/c in the car doesn't work) and my children were with me, quiet in the backseat (because they couldn't hear anything over the wind in the car windows at 70mph anyway). We were on the way to see my mother for basically the first time in over a year (due to her various illnesses), and I was praying as I drove that at least for that day, she would feel well enough to really be their grandmother, the woman they've known all their lives - and not the sickly, fragile woman I don't want them to think of when they remember her.

The drive to my mother's house is long and scenic, through several wooded areas on the outskirts of Knoxville. I was disappointed to see that the leaves hadn't yet begun to take on the colors of fall, but the green reminded me - as always - of when I was sixteen and Mom and I had just moved to Tennessee from central Florida.

My life at that time was complete chaos which, while chaos itself wasn't new to me, this particular kind was. I was leaving my father behind, which was painful because we had always been very close and I hadn't even had a chance to say goodbye to him. I was leaving my best friend, a girl I had quite literally grown up with - and the pain of us hugging and crying as we said goodbye in the parking lot at her first job was still desperately fresh as I looked moodily out the windows at the passing scenery.

But it wasn't all bad, and I still had hope; there was a boy that I loved deeply, and he was moving with us. We would be staying temporarily with my grandmother, which would put me back in touch with my most favorite cousin, who had always been more like what I imagine the blessing of a sister to be, and who I had missed painfully during the time we'd been apart.

I had no idea how much my life was really changing at that time, no idea how so many moments from that summer would continue to shape who I am now. And I didn't have the wisdom of today to get me through. But now, I can tell the old me that it's gonna be okay - with the knowledge of today's me. With the help of:

"A Letter To A Young And Stubborn Me."

Hey, me,
          Life can get a little rough sometimes, can't it? I bet right now, you're aching because the boy is gone. You're aching because some of your relationships with people that you've counted on to always be there will never be the same. And I'll bet you're just so damn mad at being young that you can't see straight. But let me tell you that it's gonna be okay.
          That boy you're crying over is not the person you think he is. Not yet anyway - but one day, when he isn't angry anymore, the two of you will clear the air. He's not for you though, and you're not for him, so you might as well let it go and move on. Take a lesson from him, carry the good with you as a standard for every man to uphold, and take the bad as a checklist of deal-breakers to protect yourself with. You'll add to both of those lists over time, but the man who fits the list will elude you for a while - so don't be so serious all the time, okay?
          The people who have walked away from you will be replaced by the passage of time, some by new people who will also hurt you. Some will walk away ... but others? There will be many people who will help you to see who are and the potential that lies inside of you. I'd tell you about one of them, but I won't - best to let you be surprised when you realize who it is.
          In the meantime, stop being afraid to fail that one person you've always been dying to impress. It can't be done. Processing that loss will take a while, but loss is part of life. When you've accepted that some things aren't meant to be, take the time to get to know yourself as you are, and stop trying so hard to be what other people seem to require. If you need help, listen to the ones who tell you that you're beautiful, who look at you and see intelligence and good humor, who see talent and an unbelievable spirit of such fine quality that it's terrifying. If you haven't met someone who make you feel like that's what they see when they look at you, be patient. He'll come along, and I promise he'll be worth it.
          As you're becoming me, you're likely to feel a lot of self-doubt; there's no escaping that. You'll experience loss, and love, and more loss. I can tell you that it won't turn out the way you planned, and you won't end up where you expected to. You'll veer off the path, you'll explore what life has to offer. But you'll be proud when you've become me, to realize that you haven't veered too far, you haven't explored enough darkness to get trapped in it, and there really is light at the end of the tunnel. Something to work toward, someone to believe in.
          And I know you don't believe this yet, but it's you.
          Remember to love yourself, accept yourself, and believe yourself. And chase your dreams; they are not as out of reach as you think.
          Love, Me


And this letter? It isn't just for the young me. It isn't just a reminder for the new me. If you're reading this and it speaks to you, then listen to it. Stop waiting for that one thing that will make your life worth living. Stop waiting for that one person that will make you a person worth loving. Stop waiting for that one event that will make it all worth it.
Because just like me, you are already a person worth loving, a person worth living a life that's worth living. And right now, if you use it, this moment is that moment that will make it all worth it. 

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