As the 10 year challenge swept Instagram I, at first, refused to look back. My 19 year-old self was someone I would rather forget. But last week, when the challenge showed no signs of abating, curiosity got the better of me and I hunted out my old diaries. Maybe I was doing a disservice to the young woman I used to be, underestimating her now as she underestimated herself then? If I could write a letter to her, I wondered what I would say...
Dear 2009 Self,
I reread your diary (every page of 2009) so that I could write you this letter. Forgive the intrusion. I was prepared to offer you a few gentle lessons but find myself in the role of student. Ten years ago you already had many of the qualities I find myself needing more than ever: a questioning nature, the ability to create a rich, inner world without caring what others think and a preference for creation over consumption.
In December, as the old year tilted into something yet unformed, I found myself seeking abundance, especially in a creative sense. On January 1st, 2009, you wrote a simple desire to:
“fill each day with at least one richly imagined thought.”
You follow this up by saying:
“I just want to share precious thoughts with precious people.”
You proceeded to fill 2009 with so many lists of the things that made you smile – a blend of simple pleasures, conversations and things that inspired you. A piece on jam was both heaven and contentment. A frosted branch, the field after snow ‘white as a tablecloth’. Crows talking to one another. A song about the sea. None of these things cost money, only the time it took to slow down and notice them. I would like to find my way back to you – a young woman centred by her self-built, rich interior world.
And yet I know that these lists and imaginings sometimes concealed pain. There was a subterranean layer of hurt and anxiety that darkened your days. Often these small pleasures and creative pursuits were responses to a crushing self-doubt. You were frustrated that you would stuck forever, unable to create the life you wanted. Painfully introverted at time when introversion was socially unacceptable. Unable to draw personal boundaries or articulate what you wanted.
“I am sad and lonely”.
“I’m continually haunted by the fact that if I wasn’t here nothing would change. I don’t add or take away anything to anyone.”
Here I can offer some advice.
You mean a great deal to a lot of people. Your absence would be felt. Just because you cannot see your value does not mean you are valueless. Just because you don’t find your life worth the effort does not make life worthless. Keep creating, keep imagining. Cultivate those roots, they are going to nourish you in a drought. And there will be droughts to weather. Trust that great things are coming your way (including a dark-eyed island boy). Keep noticing the little things for then life will be a constant source of wonder. Know that in the end you save yourself.
It’s going to take a little time. All good things do. But know that you don’t have to be anything other than the person you are right now.
Having said that, here are some things you might wish to consider.
Don’t worry about always waking up to the same view, for the time will come when you’ll never see it again. Read Lavondyss, it will change everything. Spend more time with Sophie. Walk the hind legs off Alfie. Don’t cry over a hurt that was someone else’s wound passed on to you. Remember that there are people out there who appreciate you – when you find them remember to love them back. There’s nothing wrong with safe ports in a storm. There’s an island that you don’t even know about yet. Conversations in your native tongue. A ceilidh and stumbling out of a tent at 3am. Places. People. Books. You’ll hold it all in the palm of your hand as easily as you hold it now in the depths of your heart.
Above all, be your wistful, imaginative, yearning, learning, growing self.