I’ve been trying to figure out how to start this blog post. Usually when I write I have an idea of what I want to say, and then I sit down at my computer, and some introduction will come to me and then a segue, and before I know it, the whole thing is written, and I have really no idea exactly how. That’s why I don’t really take credit for my writing – I don’t feel like it’s something I do. I feel like I just sit here and type out the words that flow through my head. My fingers are just a conduit.
But that’s not happening tonight. Tonight, I honestly have no idea where to begin. I don’t know how to tell the story I want to tell.
So maybe I’ll just try to jump in.
I was sitting here tonight playing mindless games and letting my mind wander. (This, incidentally, is not something that happens often as I have four little girls who try to fill my every waking moment with words and conversations.)
But tonight I got the chance. And because I like to do things temperately and moderately, I decided to go through my entire life and decide what things I would change and what I wouldn’t.
And I realized that in terms of decisions I made, there aren’t a whole lot that I would change. Sure I would have changed my undergrad major and I would have perhaps cut out a few people who really shouldn’t have been there and I would probably completely erase a few incidents completely from memory completely.
But overall, I’m pretty happy with the things that led me to where I am. Yes I would do many things differently now, but if we find ourselves at 39 wanting to make the same deacons we did at 19, then I think perhaps there’s a problem.
So if I wouldn’t change much over the last twenty years then why was I getting so anxious thinking back? Even as I’m typing this, I can feel a lump in my throat and the panic rising through my fingers as I type. What was scaring me so much?
And I thought back to about ten years ago. I was so deep into anxiety that I would stay up until the sun came out because I was worried about lying in bed and letting thoughts run through my head. I was sitting in a therapist’s office, and he said to me, “Amanda, you are okay.”
And I laughed.
And he said it again. “You are okay.”
And I laughed again and looked away.
And he said it one more time. And then he said that he knows I don’t believe that. But he said he hoped that one day I would look back on that moment and I would finally believe it.
I am okay.
That sentence still gives me troubles. It still makes me question myself. It still makes me uncertain of my place in the world.
But it’s nothing like it was back then.
So if I could look back and tell the me of twenty years ago anything, that is what I would tell her. I would tell her that she is okay.
I would tell her that she deserves her place in the world. That she doesn’t have to shrink herself. That she doesn’t have the let the utterly suffocating insecurity win. I would tell her that she can stand up for herself. And I would tell her that she is worth being stood up for.
I would tell her that it is okay to go out and touch the world. It’s okay to make a mark and make a wave. I would tell her that it’s okay to dip her toe in the water – she’s not going to disrupt the workings of the universe.
I would tell her not to listen when someone says respect is earned. That’s bullshit. Respect isn’t earned. Respect is the barest of minimums that we owe to each other.
And if someone doesn’t treat us with respect? Well that’s their problem not ours. It doesn’t mean we are worthless. A person’s actions reflect back on themselves, not those unfortunate enough to share space with them.
I would tell her that we are all loved. So deeply loved. Even her. And that she deserves love even when she doesn’t think she does.
And I would tell her to open her eyes. The world is a wonderful place. It’s full of so much hope and tenderness and beauty. And it belongs to her just as much as anyone else.
Yes, there is hate in the world, I would tell her. But don’t bring it in. Don’t allow the hate of others to eat away inside of you. People will judge and condemn and dislike. And that’s fine. Their opinion of you is theirs alone, and they have every right to it. But it doesn’t define you. It can’t.
And so I realized that that insecurity, that soul crushing doubt that led to so many decisions was the catalyst to the anxiety I was feeling tonight.
I wasn’t regretting decisions. I was regretting the motives and the feelings behind them.
And as I sit here and write this out, I’m realizing that those doubts are fading – they are becoming a thing of the past.
Because right now, in this house, I have four little girls who look to me to figure out how to be a woman in this world. I couldn’t make the decision against insecurity way back when because I didn’t know there was a decision to be made.
But now I do. And now I can choose differently.
How about you? What would you tell the you of twenty years ago? If you could grab her by the shoulders and look into her eyes and make her understand one single thing, what would it be?
I would love to hear if you would like to share.