A few times now, I’ve been instructed to think about what this me, old me, would say to young me, teen me, to encourage or show love, acknowledgement, etc. Picture it, they say. What would you say?
It’s a hard thing to do on two levels. For one thing, I mean, it’s just weird, and you get all self-conscious just thinking about you meeting you, and all the while you’re thinking about it, you know that someone else is watching while you try to process this, and you picture your high school photos and try to see what you might have looked like because you really can’t remember clearly, and well, it is weird, right?
But that’s the cop-out reason. The real thing is, it’s hard because I can’t just fix things with one hug, or a few well-placed words, and I can’t warn her (me – see, weird) about the horrible things coming, and I can’t change anything for her (me) and I can’t even pretend that the gap between who I was then and who I am now is traversable. The real thing is, it hurts too much. I was a girl who had no idea how smart I was, how capable, how pretty, how worthwhile in any way. I was outgoing, sure, and I had friends. I loved life, really, in some ways. I was capable of giving great support, but not very capable of receiving it. I didn’t get practice growing up. I don’t even really know what it looks like. I tried to do it better with my kids and even myself, but I guess some things will take generations to fix.
So how can I look across the void at that girl who just wants to be accepted and acknowledged and give her that? How can I give her the hug she needs? How can I warn her that her neediness is a weakness, how she will be used and hurt and lost? How can I tell her not to walk into that house, into those relationships, into so many goddamned spider webs spun by people just looking for targets like her? And how can I tell her to keep singing, because she has a gift and a joy that she will too easily let die, a gift that will tarnish and never shine the same way again? How can I tell her she is enough, more than enough, just the way she is? I mean, I can see it now about her (me?) but I can’t see it or even say it to myself here, today.
Self-worth isn’t easy for so many of us. Where we should see beauty and grace, we see nothing at all, or worse. It’s easy to blame our parents, and yes, they played a part. I’m a parent now, and I take this blame too. Sometimes doing the best you can isn’t really good enough. So while I want to tell teen me she’s amazing, and she really is, I also want her to tell me it’s okay that I’ve made mistakes, because I’ve never stopped trying, and I never meant harm. I guess in order for her to forgive me, I have to learn to forgive my own parents. They did better than theirs did, I know that’s true. It all just keeps coming down the line. And I guess I need to learn to forgive myself, which I’ve worked on but never really mastered.
But I do think teen me would forgive this me, and I think she’d do better with the whole weird thing too. She was pretty open-minded. I think she’d tell me that kindness is worth some pain (she was naive about how much though). I think she’d tell me it’s not too late to start singing again. And I think she’d give me that hug right back.