In sprawling across the inspirational sector of the digital sphere, I was dead set on my mission to reunite with my flaky companion, hope. My recent days have felt fairly gloomy and it was time I took matters into my own hands. In this day and age, you can be sure to find just about anything on the interweb, so that is evidently the first place I looked. I dodged past the glittery promises of love and light, fought the urge to scream at the thin white woman gliding through a field of sunflowers in her pastel gown, but it was the ‘7-day juicing remedy to detox and heal your soul’ that really made me lose it. It’s either “stay positive and don’t be sad, ever,”“aspire to be like me,” or “buy/do this quick and easy thing and it will solve all of your life’s woe’s.” I suppose that’s what I get when I think that seeking some sort of salvation from Pinterest is a good idea.
In the midst of this otherwise chaotic search, I happened to come across a concept that was at one point, a source of relief for me. It was and is, this ever-present notion of our “past selves” and how we’re reminded that they should be proud of who we are now. It is disheartening to have to declare I no longer believe this to be true, but there have been moments in my life where I happily nodded at this idea.
My past self wanted financial stability, a romantic partner, and adventure and there have certainly been spans of time where all of those things simultaneously existed in my life. I had a good, stable job, I was in a long-term relationship, and I traveled quite frequently. There were, of course, dreams I had yet to achieve, goals that I remain in the progress of, and more I wished to do with my life, but the basic checklist was ticked off. Done, done, and DONE! I love a good tick off a list.
And then it all blew up into flames.
When my life took a pretty hefty detour, I found myself hidden in a corner of my half-furnished apartment on the other side of the country, starting over and wondering: what she would think of me now?
If I can be frank, I’m not quite sure I want her opinion. As much as there still remains a part of me that would love to receive any semblance of validation I can get even if it is coming from a former version of myself, I have come to terms with the fact that I may not even get it there. Over time, my values have shifted and still continue to. What I once imagined would bring me happiness no longer aligns with what I have found to be true. If our past self’s viewpoint is supposed to be a testament to our growth, then doesn’t the idea of pleasing them become a tad contradictory?
The vision I have for my life now isn’t as clear-cut or set in stone. I’m open to surprises, detours, and uncertainty a lot more than before. I haven’t necessarily mastered my relationship with the unknown, but I now take it into consideration when dreaming, planning, and most importantly, living.
My past self didn’t value emotional maturity, but instead, looked for external circumstances to dictate her levels of happiness. If I were to speak to her and tell her I’m lost again, she would immediately flare her nostrils, enraged at the prospect that she might grow up to be a failure. I can nearly hear her irritation as she poses questions such as: Aren’t we finished being lost? How have you not had this all sorted out by now? If this is what’s coming, I don’t see the point – It’s like I’m right back where I started!
I know my past self well because I often hear her voice seeping through, reminding me that we’ve been here before, we’ve felt this, we’ve dealt with similar experiences. What she doesn’t understand is that because I’ve experienced states of uncertainty and the feeling of being lost many times before, I know that this state is not only temporary but fairly essential in moving forward. It doesn’t mean I have grown to like it because quite frankly, I haven’t and I’m not sure I ever will, but I know it will pass. It always does.
This space I’m in right now that’s glazed with confusion is often only understood in hindsight. Living in it is meant to be uncomfortable, disorienting, and a source of frustration. Though my past self would see this recurring cycle as a form of failure, I can recognize now (even in the midst of it), that it’s a necessary part of growth.
I don’t despise my past self, but I must acknowledge that she doesn’t have all the information that I do now. Though I’d love to have a conversation to explain and teach her what I’ve learned so far, I’m not as keen to gain her nod of approval.
To a voice that has often haunted me with fears, I’ve always wished to comfort and console. I wanted to be a success for her, but how can I do that when I’ve grown to redefine the meaning of it altogether? Perhaps I can comfort her, but I can’t guarantee she will one day receive the certainty she believes she needs. All I can say to both myself and to her is that there is new information that will continue to come and there is an openness to receiving you’ll begin to develop the older you get. This life was never promised to bring you certainty, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been an adventure.