A few weeks ago, I realized something really interesting– adults are always telling young people and children that they can’t possibly know what they really want and who they really are because of how young they are. They haven’t lived life, how on Earth do they know what they’re made of? They haven’t been tested.
And yet it occurs to me that this is precisely why young people, especially children, know themselves better than we as adults do. I think that there is this interesting thing that happens to us in life. We start out young and amazing. We know exactly who we are. We know what we like. We know what we don’t like. And we live our lives. Changing your opinion is natural and easy– one day you like pink and then suddenly purple is the best color EVER and that’s that. You don’t like spinach and suddenly you do. Changing your mind isn’t a crisis and people don’t freak out about it– calling you out for flip-flopping on your views or pointing out “But the other day you said…”.
But then we get older and people start telling us “You don’t know who you even are” and we believe it I think. Not at first, because we are REALLY confident when we are younger. But definitely later, especially when life starts getting harder. Cruelty comes up. Fights happen. You cry a lot. Things don’t make sense the way they used to. And suddenly, for some of us more than others, other people’s opinions matter– a lot. And that’s when things get really scary and complicated because you suddenly realize– you DON’T know who you are because you tucked yourself away to proctect yourself.
It happens in different ways and at different times. Bullying in middle and high school really get things going. And I mean real bullying not this crazy crap where some kid teases you one day and makes you cry and everyone freaks out. I mean the relentless kind of bullying that happens almost every single day for a year, two years, three… And then, getting involved in toxic relationships which is easy to do when you’ve panicked and hidden yourself away.
Before you know it, you’re in your thirties and you’re clearing the rubble, shining around your flashlight wondering, “Where are you? You can come out, now it’s ok. I get it now. It’s safe. You can’t get hurt anymore because I finally GET IT. They don’t matter, you matter. Where are you?”
You tune your ears to the sound of your heart and you begin to pay attention for even the lightest of whispers. You follow the sound, and it gets louder and louder.
Of course, there are still other voices and it’s hard to drown them out entirely because for years you listened to them more than you listened to yourself. And yeah sometimes the doubt creeps back in but it’s ok.
Me. Finding me in my thirties. How the hell is that even a thing? And yet it must happen all of the time. I imagine people who go through a mid-life crisis do so because their hearts just burst after being trapped for so long and chaos blows in. It’s as if it’s screaming “I’M IN HERE YOU IDIOT! SAVE ME!”
The thing is, tracking myself down again, following the clues, it’s fun. It’s not painful or sad or anything like that. It’s fun and happy and that’s how you know you’re on the right path. You’re around the right people. You’re listening to the right music. You’re reading the right books and watching the right shows. You’re doing the right things. For you.
And it seems silly to think that things like going to musicals, and dyeing your hair, and listening to music could you lead you to you and they’re not really but they help. They make things comfortable. They recreate a time when you were more SURE. They help you remember what it was like when you listened to yourself more than ANYONE else.
So, today being in touch with me means singing along to ska music. Last night, it meant playing with watercolors. The other day, it meant staying in bed with books most of the day and then staying up way past my bedtime lost in a great story. The day before that it meant going to a salon and finally (FINALLY) doing something fun with my hair (hello hot pink ombre).
It means standing up for myself and for my kids. It means loving them and cuddling them and talking with them when they are worried or frustrated or confused. It means watching and listening to them proudly.
It’s pretty cool being me. I like it. I like it a lot.