Every so often when I browse Facebook or Tumblr, I see a post that goes along the lines of “If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?”
I think if I went back in time to meet my younger self, even by as few as three years or so, she’d slap me back into my current age. I wouldn’t blame her. As little as one year ago, if someone told me I’d be doing the things I do now, I would’ve assumed they were out of their minds.
However, when I see that question, it’s myself as a child I think of. I usually picture myself back around age 7 or 10. There are a lot of things I would go back and tell my child self because I very much needed to hear them, but no one ever told me. Hearing them probably wouldn’t have made life back then any easier, but in the moments I needed it, it probably would’ve helped. Had I any artistic skill, I’d create a comic about it.
I want to keep this list fairly short, so I’ll stick to what I think are the most important things.
- You will be happy to be alive (sometimes). The very first time I thought about suicide, I was ten years old. Before that, my thoughts were often of running away from home and not returning. When things got especially bad and I was crying myself to sleep, I spent the time until I finally wore out hoping someone would break into my house and snatch me away. If I could go back and speak to my child self, I’d tell her she’ll be happy those thoughts were never a reality. She probably wouldn’t believe me and, again, I wouldn’t blame her. But I’d still say it.
- Love does not hurt. Well, not the way I learned it did as a child. To be totally honest, this is something I’m struggling with as an adult. I prefer to just be grateful and not dwell, but in the back of my mind, I question why someone loves me or why they care to help me or why they want to know me. This is something I’d probably say over and over to my child self until I was certain she understood. No, your loved ones are not supposed to hurt you and no, being family does not justify them doing so.
- You’re the cutest child ever, but that’s not what matters. No, I don’t think I was the cutest child ever when I look back at my childhood pictures, but “ugly” was the most common insult I heard growing up. It wasn’t only by the school bullies. My family’s vanity and obsession with looks also pushed me to believe I looked horrid when, in actuality, nothing was wrong with me. I spent my entire childhood hating how I look because I believed my looks weren’t good enough and that was all anyone cared about. I would tell my child self she is an adorable person, but it’s not the most important thing about her and most people really don’t care.
- Friendships aren’t like the cartoons. I’m certain this one speaks for itself. I had trouble keeping friends because of how often I moved and my mother didn’t like friends visiting or letting me visit them. I would tell her it’s not completely abnormal and she’ll not only find her own friends in due time, but learn who’s a friend and who’s not.
- 2010 will be the worst year of your life. As awful as it sounds, I’d tell her this as a warning. 2010 is the year everything began to crash and burn. My life was ripped apart from the inside out and this is the year my suicidal emotions were at their worst. The only thing that kept me from acting on those emotions was the cowardice to cause myself pain, and I regularly kicked myself for that. I’d tell her she, unfortunately, doesn’t have a choice and she’ll get through it, but it will be painful. Very painful.
- Your family will fall apart, but you won’t. This is the final one and arguably the most important after love doesn’t hurt. My family indeed has fallen apart. It’s ripped up more than I could’ve ever imagined as a kid. I’d tell my child self this will happen and she can’t stop it, but it’s not her job to stop it in the first place. I won’t lie and pretend it doesn’t hurt. It hurts a lot! However, what hurts more is when you’re trying as hard as you can to keep it together and your efforts are failing. I’d tell her she’s not a failure for being unable to hold her family together and it really is alright for her to worry about keeping herself together first and foremost. I’d tell her it’s their choices and their actions that are making them fall apart, and she’s not at fault for what they do.