Conversation with my 17 year old self
Today I went to lunch with a blast from my past. After nearly 12 years of not seeing one another, we reconnected over kids, family, careers and the horrid commute he has.
More than anything though we discussed our hometown and went over the happenings from high school. All of us have those conversations right? Talking about the good times we had and the stupid things we did and said to each other. We laugh it off as adults tend to do. And imagine the unsurpassing possibility that awaited us.
If I only knew then what I know now is usually the first thought. I would have warned myself to not leave that relationship or I would have gone to this college and not that one . I think we each want to have this conversation with the 13-18 year old version of ourselves. To issue those warnings, to save the far more idealistic version of ourselves the hurt and the pain.
Even though I feel in my heart that each thing that happened in my life happened for a reason I can’t help but look at who I was as a person and how my own distortions stalled my growth in the future. I wouldn’t warn myself away from certain people or situations, but rather urge a reliance on her own instinct so that it would be more attuned to what I honestly need from myself today. But more than that I know I would have been the first person to deliver most of these life-altering messages to her and I feel some ownership to be able to provide them in a way that she will understand.
So, here I am imagining that letter I might have given myself back in 1995.
I’m sitting here thinking of the best way to tell you what your life is like at 35 while trying to tie it to the things that are important to you today. Fortunately, I know where your head is at these days and that you have a value for honesty and artistry. So if I give it to you frankly but with some beautiful or poetic imagery, I know you will listen to what I have to say. You are under no obligation to take my advice, only to give it some thought before you launch into your decisions.
First, stop blaming yourself for everyone else’s failings. I don’t care whether it is Dominic missing your birthday so he could go get high with his friends (and likely cheat on you) or whether it’s your parents and their lack of attention to nurturing you. You are not the reason they are like this. It’s going to sound rough, but I know you need to hear this: It’s not about you. Don’t use their words of blame and guilt to force you down a shame spiral. Once you go down that road, it will take years to undo the damage. Each person you encounter is working through their own drama, their own growth and you, my dear girl, are the perfect person to help reflect those issues back to them. Let them be who they are but recognize that there is a very thin line between supporting growth and enabling bad behavior–especially for you. Know when to say when.
And none of this is to say that you don’t bear responsibility in your life. But hon, you have shouldered more than your fair share for quite some time and knowing you, you’re not going to stop any time soon. But again, understand what is yours and what is theirs. You are carrying a ton of others’ karma on your shoulders…and frankly over the next 20 years, you are going to have plenty of your own to shoulder, so don’t overdo it, okay?
Let me be clear right now: Everything you suspect about your calling is true. More true than you can imagine. As you sit in a church praying the rosary during the anniversary of Medjugorje I want you to take what you suspect about the sexual nature of your calling and to embrace it without fear or shame. You were chosen for this and God, Mary and any other divine presence within your awareness right now, is supporting you and loving you for the choice to follow this calling. But more than this, you enthusiastically said yes. And you renew that commitment each day you draw breath.
Your sexuality will be the doorway for others to find a beautiful and divine reflection of Who They Really Are. It is one of your most valuable tools but by far not your only tool. You allow people to connect to the divine within you and thus make it easier to find their own light. The divine resides within and not inaccessible behind altars and confessionals. It is real, it is tangible and you have a talent for drawing forth the divine love that resides in others. You are a flame, a light that leads people to self acceptance and awareness from the depths of their darkness.
This is how you will touch the world. Not through ambition or crusades. You are not your mother. You are compassion and charisma, kindness and passion in one being.
You are the hands. Mary’s hands. The hands of the mother. The hands of unsullied lover. The hands of the divine feminine. The hands of the Dark Goddess, Black Madonna, Kali and Mary. The hands that grasp the forsaken stuck at the crossroads. The hands of the sacred whore who brings souls back to an experience of Oneness and Union. A priestess. A goddess. You will meet demons in the souls of lovers and find them just as sacred and valued as the broken angels you will also encounter. They will come to you and find wholeness and acceptance in your embrace.
There is no battle except the one you will wage with yourself. And that will be the biggest and loneliest struggle you will ever face. You have many struggles coming up during your time, but this one is the biggest. You have a wealth of shame and guilt that has accumulated over the years. You are terrified of being found imperfect. Just look at your journals, girl. You will see how often you beat yourself up for some minor mistake you made and you end up concluding that you are not deserving of joy, fulfillment or love until you are found perfect.
Many throughout your life will try to convince you it is the Church that put it there. But you know better than that. It wasn’t the church. It was the history of the family you adopted and chose. Forgive them. And find forgiveness for yourself. One of your many perfect gifts is your forgiveness and the more you can exercise it over these next 20 years the happier you ultimately will be. You are exactly who you are supposed to be. Resist the shame imposed on you and conditioned in the very fiber of your being. Allow yourself to embrace your wholeness even if it makes you less pristine and perfect than you aspire.
Over the next year, I need you to break rules, kiss boys, kiss girls and pay attention to who you are. Explore your passions and each and every connection you find regardless of the gender, appearance or propriety involved. But don’t get attached. You don’t have to get married. You don’t have to tolerate jealousy. You don’t have to endure abuse or neglect. And you certainly don’t “owe” anyone for the favor of their attention. (you’ll find out soon enough who I’m talking about)
You can allow casual dalliances to be exactly what they are–friends with incredible benefits and you already know the likely candidates for those. You are loved even if there isn’t some overly romantic gesture to accompany it. You will get your fair share of romances (How many proposals thus far? Just wait…more are coming)
And by the way, your body is loved too. You are not plain and by far not ordinary. You are unlike anything anyone has ever seen before. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that boys (and girls) are attracted to you “despite your looks”. Yes, it is your playfulness and vivacity. It is your sincerity and understanding. But just as much, yes, lovely girl, it is your body too. And despite your best efforts you are beautiful and dazzling in the most natural and elegant way.
You’ve driven men (like the many who work with you) and boys wild because of how utterly effortlessly you carry this beauty. And perhaps it is because you are so misguided in this belief that you lack beauty or grace that they each feel the need to demonstrate with cock in hand just exactly what you do to them… But let’s let this be our secret. You are beautiful in more ways than I can count.
At some point in the very near future, you will have to embrace your bisexuality. When you get to my age, you’ll cringe that you ever thought there was only male and female ways of identifying and you will find beauty and delight in all the various forms of gender expression. But before any of that (since 1995 wasn’t the most conducive time to be fully gender queer–a term you will learn) , you must accept that you are bisexual and that there is nothing wrong with finding attraction to women. But you will have to go through much heartbreak and rejection in that journey. The sooner you embrace it and declare it for yourself, the harder it will be for others to hurt you with their judgment of you.
Also, don’t hide from your intelligence. You have never hidden the fact that you possess a brain of some formidable power, but you shy away from having that fully recognized. This may be the last time in your life you will be praised and noticed for your intelligence so soak it up. I don’t want you to have to doubt yourself later in life because you refused accolades that would have provided the confirmation you will need in the years to come.
I already know you value each and every moment of your life but truly commit each experience to memory. Not only will it serve you well later in life, but it will demonstrate all the ways your life has been truly blessed. Start a “secret” journal (although you will soon grow an intense dislike for secrets) to detail the experiences. Don’t be vague. Don’t be haughty. Say it all. Speak your truth with the fullness of your being. Trust me…I really want these memories to reflect on later in life.
I hate to share this, but too soon, you will find anger and more self hatred than you ever thought was possible. It is okay. And I promise that you will survive this. You are not a bad person for feeling any of this. And it was not your fault. In fact you will use this and other experiences to change your communities and make them more aware and compassionate toward other survivors in the years to come.
Most of all, J, I want to convey that I want you to remain authentic to yourself. I know you already are, but your ambitions will challenge you to be something and someone you are not. It will cause you needless angst because the most important quality is a fierce sense of self-possession. Please don’t let go of the fact that we (you, me and the countless years between us) will always do things “my way”. You are a Colorado girl infused with the nature of the pioneer and the breadth of spirit only felt in this powerful and amazing place. Be that woman now and always.
And if this weren’t enough let me answer the questions on your mind now:
-The Boyfriend: This relationship has overstayed its welcome. Once you realize where you are headed you will set him (and yourself) free. Just remember he wasn’t your first or even your greatest love. The best is yet to come.
-The Best Friend: Despite your best efforts, you will not be able to “save” him from the pain he will insist on inflicting on you. Again….it’s really not about you. But trust me, 27 year old you will still have to deal with the fallout that he inflicted.
-The Friend with Benefits: Enjoy this connection. You will battle. You will wear each other thin. But you will have so much fun doing it. He will go off and try to be “good” with others, but inevitably he always comes back to you.
I know there are so many others you have questions about…but truly you have so many more who will enter your life. Husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers, teachers, soul mates, friends, projects, chosen family, brief encounters and so much more…even fans and followers. Some overlap with each other, some do not. Savor each connection and view each person you encounter as worthy of your limitless love and compassion.
With love, on this, our anniversary day….