How did I not see you back then?
Going through some old photos the other day, I found a photo of myself from decades ago, actually about 45 years ago. (Where did all those years go?)
One of my issues in my life has been that of being harsh on myself and lacking in confidence. I have always managed to find things about myself to criticize, to hold against myself in the tally of self worth, to pay more attention to what I thought were deductions to that value of myself rather than seeing any additions.
How sad. Such a waste of precious time.
I look at the photo now and see a young woman who was trying to navigate her way in the world, who was doing her best, who was beautiful in her own way and with her own style. I am drawn to this photo. I am drawn to her. I am drawn to that version of me. Young, learning, making mistakes, persevering. Innocent. Anxious but trying to hide that and act as if all was ok. Feeling like an imposter in the young adult world. Feeling like I had no clue what I was doing, yet doing my best.
I look back on you, my younger self, and this is what I would like to tell you.
You are just fine. You are a beautiful, sensitive woman and you want the best for yourself and those around you. You are not what others may have told you that you are. You are not less than anyone else. You have a right to be here. You have a right to claim your space on this earth and in this life. You deserve to be here, as you are. There is no need to earn that right to your life. You already have that. It is your birthright.
You don’t have to earn anyone’s love. You don’t have to measure yourself by anyone else’s opinion. You are a precious human being, with a life to live. And live it you must. The time goes by quickly, trust me. More quickly than you can ever imagine.
Don’t forget to play. Yes, work hard, and play hard. Enjoy the moments of laughter and joy. They are more precious than you can realize right now. They will be your memories of gold and help sustain you through more difficult times.
You will have pain. That is part of life. That does not define you or your life. It simply is part of being human. It does not mean that you are a failure.
Yes, you have and will continue to make mistakes. You will regret some things. Don’t drown in your regret. Learn from it. And carry on. And do better, when you can.
You are kind. Never ever underestimate the power of that trait. Treasure it. It helps define who you are, and that is beautiful.
Love passionately. Even if you have pain and disappointments in love. Even if relationships don’t last. They will add to the fabric of who you are and the rich tapestry of your life that you can look back on and smile. And know that you loved. And were loved. Even if it doesn’t last in the same form with everyone, it lasts in some measure. It lasts in the piece of you that knows how to love.
Treasure your love of art and writing. It will come back when you are ready to pay attention to it. It will help you save your soul as you approach the end of your path.
Treasure your love of animals. They will teach you about life, love, and loss. The pain will be deep, as deep as the love that you learned from them.
Treasure your body. Try to stop the incessant judgment of it. It is beautiful, just the way that it is. It will change as the years go by. And it will still be beautiful, albeit in a different way. It will reflect the years and your life. It will reflect your journey. It will always be a sacred vessel that carries your soul.
Treasure your spirituality. That will sustain you more than you can ever imagine right now. It will be your guide and your direction.
Treasure your innocence and what can be your childlike qualities. They are wonderful and add joy and delight. Keep them close to you as you continue your journey into the years.
You have never really heard these words from me …“I love you, completely, as you are. You are perfect, with all your imperfections and flaws. You are so much more. You are alive, and you have a right to embrace that life fully, to be exactly who you are fully. There is no one exactly like you. Embrace that. Hold that close. It is a gift like no other, one that grows with time and with aging.”
I am glad to be able to write this letter to you now. I am glad to meet you again.
And, as I think about this, perhaps this is also a letter to where I am now from my future self. Maybe I should read this again. And listen to the message.
To live, fully, passionately, as my exquisite self. To fully inhabit where I am and who I am right now, still alive, still here.