Quite a few years back, when I was in my forties, I was at Hot Topic shopping for a Halloween costume. I was in the dressing room and the young women were bringing me in different clothes to try on. We were actually having a blast, laughing and pulling an outfit together. At one point, I said, “Sometimes, I wish I were young again because I really like a lot of the clothes that are in style now, but then I remind myself that I would never want to be in my twenties again.” She looked at me in a strange way.
A few minutes later, she came back into the dressing room and she said, “You said something before that I find odd. You said, ‘I would never want to be young again’, why did you say that? I thought all old people wished that they were young again.” I was in my forties at the time, and I thought to myself, hey wait a minute, I am not old! However, to this young 20-something year old woman, I was obviously ancient. I replied, “Oh no, my twenties were the hardest years of my life. I spent a lot of time wishing my childhood had been different; blaming my parents in so many ways for my perceived weaknesses. I spent a lot of time feeling lost and confused. I made a lot of bad decisions. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted. It was an excruciating time, filled with self- doubt, fear, and regret. I would never want to go through that again.” She walked away, looking a little bit more confused.
She returned once again and asked, “So when did you figure out who you were and what you wanted; when did you stop feeling confused?” I hesitated, thought about it for a moment and I said, “You don’t figure it out, because it doesn’t matter. At some point, you just say screw it; this IS who I am.” We spoke for a while before I left and I felt her pain; I really did.
I saw her a few years later at Starbucks, I did not recognize her but she came up to me and refreshed my memory. She told me that our conversation that day changed her life and she gave me a big hug.
I think about this encounter often. When I look back at who I was in my twenties, I realize that I had to walk through all the pain and confusion as an exercise, in order to release myself from my childhood. A childhood that was, unfortunately, full of dysfunction and pain. It was an exercise in relinquishing the definition of my life; as it existed before I was set free to create my own world. Sometimes, I hardly recognize the person I was 35 years ago. She is a stranger; someone I once knew.
When we are at a crossroad, a place between where we are and where we want to be, it is a moment of growth. We redefine who we are continuously throughout our lives. Learning to get comfortable with the concept of our own evolution gives us wings and frees us from the fear of uncertainty and doubt. It allows us to embrace the notion that we are all perfectly imperfect. It allows us to wrap our arms around the fact that we will indeed explore many versions of “who we are” throughout our lives.
Learning to accept ourselves exactly as we are, in each chapter of our biography, is the most powerful gift that life can offer. We are all entitled to live a life filled with self-love and self-acceptance.
I think the most important lesson that I have learned in the past 59 years of my life is this: If you allow yourself to be who you are, without any self-judgment or doubt, you will attract people into your life that will support you and lift you higher. When you fill your world with people that allow you to evolve and explore different aspects of self- expression, your journey becomes one of power, beauty, and continual growth.
We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times
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