Perspective is a funny thing.
I often get accused of living in the past and worrying about the future without really being here, in the present.
True. All true.
But I think calling what I do “worrying”, might be a bit off. I don’t so much worry, as I do wonder. Worrying means anxiety, nervousness, dread. And I’m not apprehensive about the future, I’m just curious. I wonder what will happen, what will become of me, of us. I wonder what I will think when I look back on the days that I’m living now. I wonder what I would tell myself.
I’ve always done this. In High School as I clawed myself out of a depression that was as much drama and attention-seeking self-destructive behaviour as it was real, I spent a good chunk of my time just desperately wishing that someone, anyone, could guarantee me that things would be okay again some day. That I would be okay again some day.
I just wanted someone to tell me that it would all work out. I needed that to feel like choosing to continue was a worthwhile option.
And now looking back, and knowing what I do, I have some choice words for my small, embattled former self:
Ditch the guy. He’s not worth it – don’t you dare argue with me! Go date the runner with the cute butt, I guarantee that he’ll be the only one that you’ll regret not getting to know better. “Hot Black Guy” is going to kill himself, soon. Speak to him, reach out to him, do something. Don’t worry so much about your hair, messy is more interesting. You don’t have to be perfect. Go easy on yourself. Try to reconcile with your dad, one day you will find yourself sitting across from him, stumped for words, heartbroken that he is such a stranger to you. Stop crying. You spend far too much time crying. When you go to University you’ll meet a beautiful man, but he’s not going to fix you. He’s just as stubborn as you are and he is going to insist that you fix yourself. And you will. Everything is going to be okay. YOU are going to be okay.
I think about this a lot. It’s hard to explain why, because I don’t regret anything – truly. Regret isn’t what it’s about. I guess it has become about the search for meaning.
What I think about is this: If I hadn’t been so head over heels for a guy who forced me to my knees to face depression over and over again, I wouldn’t know what that felt like. I wouldn’t know how much love (even inexperienced puppy love) can manipulate, batter and bruise. I wouldn’t value the simple state of happiness as much I do today.
I might not have appreciated Adam as much when he appeared, with all his laughter and light. His joy might have seemed easy and superficial had I not just spent three long years learning just how painfully elusive it could be.
I wouldn’t know what my teens need to hear when they come to me in this same zone. I wouldn’t know that they (corny as it is) just need someone to grab them, look them in the eye, and guarantee –guarantee!– that things will get better, because they can’t get much worse.
If the boy my friend and I had teasingly called “Hot Black Guy” hadn’t suddenly shot himself before we had ever gathered the courage to speak a single word to him, I wouldn’t know the sharp sting of loss, the piercing feeling of culpability. I won’t make that mistake again. I don’t doubt people’s intentions. I know how quickly life can be lost, how permanent impulsive decisions can become.
And my dad…my dad. Maybe I do regret this one. There’s something to be said for having a father, in the real sense of the word, with everything it connotes.
But there were two of us in that situation, duking it out day after day. And – perhaps selfishly – I felt like the onus lay with him, that the adult should have been acting like an adult. This one is still fixable it’s just…. awkward, and becomes more awkward when you realize just how awkward it is and how you feel so much closer to your father-in-law than of the man who pushed you so hard (perhaps too hard?) throughout your childhood.
So, no regret, but small important, stubborn lessons that I try and learn again and again. An eternal student studying my own life from every angle imaginable, memorizing the outcomes, trying to see where things went wrong- why they went right.
And I wonder what I will want to tell my present self, in ten years.
Why are you always trying to wake up early? SLEEP IN, girl! Get it while you can. You will soon be on uncomfortably intimate terms with 5 am. 6 am. You will remember these six years in this small town as some of the best, and worst, years of your life. It’s all necessary. The lessons you are learning now will serve you well some day. Eat less salsa con queso for Christ’s sake. Talk to your sisters more, you miss them more than you realize. Talk to your friends more, they miss you. Some day soon you will have a beautiful child who will blow your mind daily, she will look like you and act like Adam and, really, isn’t that perfect? Don’t worry about the money. Don’t ever worry about the money. Everything will be okay. YOU will be okay.
Maybe that’s what I’m searching for. What we’re all searching for. We want a guarantee, but we are smart enough to know that life offers none. So, the wondering continues.
The lessons, the learning.