A Meeting with Twenty-Four-Year-Old Me
I have been in a funk since yesterday, when I watched some old videos I found while cleaning out my closet. They were made by my first husband, and spoke of such a far-away time in my life. I was twenty-four years old, and we had just embarked upon what turned out to be an almost sixteen year journey together. A time filled with twists and turns, during which we grew up in so many ways as people and as young band directors. A time of hope and anticipation. I was trying to understand why seeing those images made me feel deeply sad, and then it came to me; I desperately wished that I could talk to my younger self.
Watching the videos was like watching a stranger. I was so very young, so naive. I was fascinated as the camera made close-ups of my face, devoid of any of the myriad of lines that are now deeply etched, all well-earned through laughter and tears. My body was very fit, but too thin, and I remembered that while everyone praised my appearance, I was battling anorexia and bulimia for several years that began just a while before the videos were made. This was when I began to lose myself, becoming a chameleon who changed to be whatever others wanted me to be. Selling my soul to the devil called fear.
I am now almost thirty-two years older- hopefully wiser- and today I am feeling each of those years. Maybe it is from hearing my mother talk about the regrets of her youth before she died, thinking she was plain when she was, in truth, quite a beautiful woman, being afraid to take chances. She, too, played the role of the chameleon, never really coming into her own as a woman until after she and my father divorced when Mom was in her early forties…our experiences uncannily similar in so many ways. While I know that I am not an old woman yet, seeing that sweet innocence of my youth called out a warning to me: Life is fleeting, get out there and live. Don’t merely exist- make a difference. If not now, when?
As I looked at myself from the vantage of so many years, I wanted to give warnings, premonitions of what was to be, different choices to make, mistakes to avoid. I thought of the sadness and pain of the breakup of my first marriage, the heartbreak of our divorce…all of the things I wish that I had done differently. I felt the failure. And honestly, I felt a twinge of sadness that my youth is gone and I am on the other side of the proverbial hill. I suppose I wanted to protect my young self from the pain that was to come.
But…the more I thought, the more I realized that I had to go through every single thing I did to bring me to this place and time. The pain of the divorce catapulted me out of my chameleon shell made me strong enough to find who I was again, and enabled me to stand tall in my truth. And…..getting to that place enabled me to be ready to find Dan, who is my soulmate and best friend. If I had not gone through all that I did, I would have existed, not lived, as no life is without both smooth sailing and turbulent seas. Every wrinkle, every gray hair, all the pounds up and down, all the tears, the laughter, the mistakes, the successes, the failures- all just badges of life.
So what would I want to tell that young woman? I would tell her to be brave, to know she is beautiful and strong, that she is loved, that she is smarter than she thinks she is. I would tell her to hold on tight and know she truly is in control of her destiny. I would tell her about the wonderful adventures that she will have, all the exciting places she will see and the things she will do, the music she will make, that fear has no power over her, and she can do whatever she dreams of doing. I would hold her tight, stroke her hair, and tell her thank you for doing the best she could, for bringing me to my happy life filled with love and laughter.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of regret, something I almost did. Instead, I will hold onto the hard-earned wisdom that comes from all the years before, and be open to the wisdom that will come from this side of the hill. In fact, I have found that I like this side of the hill better. I feel so much more confident, more comfortable in my skin. I trust myself more, and I trust in the love of my husband and the beauty of our path together. I know what truly is important now. Thank you, Twenty-Four-Year-Old-Me…you did well.