I’ve experienced a lot of personal loss and upheaval in the last couple of years. The dust still hasn’t settled, though I keep waiting and hoping.
Huge life changes have a tendency to disconnect you from crap that that doesn’t matter while excavating stuff that’s important. Those things you unwittingly buried long ago in favor of the other demands of life come erupting to the surface, demanding your undivided attention, threatening further erosion of your soul should you refuse to comply.
I’m so there.
Recently, a dear friend of mine who, just like me, has been bitch-slapped by the last couple of years was comparing herself now to who she was in her early 20’s.
Yes, we’re both 40-something. Don’t you know it’s not polite to ask a woman her age?
As she lamented about the lack of balance in her life now versus then, it struck me that while I definitely enjoy the “wisdom” that comes with the life experiences and responsibilities I’ve racked up over the years, I too have most certainly lost something. Sure, there are parts of that innocent 20-something-year-old me that I can and do laugh about. But she also had a certain spark, a kind of effortless magic, if you will, that my older self can no longer seem to conjure.
She’s gone, and I want her back.
So right along with grieving for the people/situations I’ve lost, in many ways, I’m grieving for myself too.
How sad. That’s not how I envisioned living my life! And I don’t think it has to come with the territory of aging.
So, in honor of that younger me which is commanding my attention, I am taking this opportunity to write a letter to her, because maybe, just maybe it will help me recover that soul part that seems to have splintered off somewhere along the way.
Dear Younger Me,
You don’t know this yet, but you’re a magical creature in danger of extinction. Who is going to kill you?
Bear with me for a moment while I try to impart some advice to help you circumvent your own death.
You have a constant sense of waiting for your life to begin. Understand that this isn’t yours. Instead, it’s a result of everyone around you, those who pound into your head over and over that in order to be a success, you must go to school, get a degree in something conventional, get a good corporate job with a big corporate paycheck, and that anything not matching this scenario is not success. That you must have something, many things, to show for yourself. That your identity will depend on your title and your role in society rather than the person you are within and the values you hold.
They are wrong. The thing is, you inherently know they’re wrong, but their fears will start to creep under your skin like a hidden mold, always there, even when its spores are dormant.
If I could save you from this one thing, it would change your entire world.
Your life is right now, and trust me on this, it’s more amazing than you can possibly realize. If you could see yourself the way I see you, you’d understand what I mean.
Being an artist is never easy, but art chooses you and not the other way around. And it chose you. Don’t ever try to deny that. And don’t try to escape it out of fear that isn’t even yours. If you do, you’ll end up with a gaping hole inside you that you’ll never be able to fill.
Speaking of escaping, there is a difference between adventure and running away. You are more brave than you know. Sure, you feel scared a lot, but you face your fears to do the things you want to do anyway, and that’s the definition of courage. That, plus your cat-like curiosity, prompts you to do things other people consider reckless and stupid, like selling everything you own and moving across the country without knowing anyone or having a job. But that turned out okay every single time you did it, didn’t it?
So why exactly, over the years, does your fear start to get the best of you?
I ask because if you continue down the path you’re on, your adventuresome spirit will morph into one of continually hiding by running away. Yes, it’s okay to remove yourself from harmful situations in which ultimately, you can never win. It’s even good. But you will keep running and running and running. Who will you be fleeing from? Will it be yourself? Please think about that now before it’s too late.
Sometimes, everything you’re looking for is already right under your nose. Think about that too before it’s too late.
You know this, but you are incredibly intuitive, so much so that it often scares the crap out of you, and you do everything in your power to shut it down. So it’s kind of ironic that someone so intuitive doesn’t trust their own gut, isn’t it?
It’s not that you don’t trust yourself, actually. When you do follow your instincts, you know magic happens. Every time.
It’s really that you worry so much about what everyone else thinks rather than what you feel or what you know without knowing how you know. You second-guess everything your inner world is telling you in favor of bad advice from an outer world. This will get you nowhere. This will bring you nothing but unhappiness. Trust me.
I know you’re in a very body-conscious industry, and it’s hard not to be extra self-critical when everyone else is. But please understand this can become a kind of sickness where you can no longer see clearly, and if you’re not careful, you will begin to sacrifice your own mental and physical health over unrealistic ideals. Also try to understand that these so-called ideals you see around you in various forms of media are merely sales pitches and not reality. Don’t be a victim of marketing. You’re better than that.
Stop worrying so much about what you think being responsible looks like. You’re 20-something years old, and to be quite honest, nobody expects as much from you as you think they do. Try to enjoy this as much as you can, because it won’t last.
Oh, and when faced with what you think are responsibilities and what you think are limited financial resources preventing you from going to visit a sick friend, get over it. You will never regret borrowing money or taking time off and risking a job you don’t care about anyway, but you will always, always regret not being able to say goodbye to a loved one because you were too late.
Please read these words with the love they were written with. Live your life, not anyone else’s, right now.
I wish I had a time machine to deliver this to my younger me. I wonder if she would listen?