My 45th birthday is in any day now and, although it is not one of those “round number” birthdays, I feel to be right in the middle of somewhere or something. Perhaps because I really see myself reaching 90, more so than reaching 100 (or shall I dream bigger?) Perhaps, there is some shift happening as I do feel like being at a cross-roads right now.
So, I borrowed an idea from a friend – to write to my younger self. Why? Because it could be a useful way of release, self-forgiveness, reflection, way to help myself move on from anything in the past that still may have a hold on me, to cherish that child in me… and, who knows, perhaps some insight might be useful to someone else too.
You may wonder why would anyone openly want to share such personal and possibly even vulnerable stuff, however, the idea is hardly new and has been used forever as a way to connect, with ourselves and others. When I am open for deep reflection – the insights are enriching and give strength. When shared, the feeling is amplified. And I am certainly inspired by those who have courage to do the same. We all seek human connection and it is exactly through stories that we connect.
I looked forward to doing it for myself for some time now and it has proven to be a very powerful exercise right before the day I was born, 45 years ago in, what truly was to me, the land of milk and honey. I feel lighter and unburdened.
I was not sure how exactly to go about it, so, deep breath and here we go, in a way that makes sense to me…
My dear 7-year-old self, I wish to jump straight to you. I have so much love for you. As the only child, loved and protected by your parents, you were so looking forward to starting school, making friends, learning. I cherish the innocence all children have at that age. Your parents may have made it harder for you as they protected you so well, there was hardly a raised voice in our household. Your older parents dedicated their life to you as you came after long 15 years of their marriage without children, after they almost gave up on having any. So, you were precious to our dear mum and dad and they gave you all their love. What a blessing you were to them and them to you.
And then you started school and started learning about the world outside of the comfort of your home.
So, I wish to talk to you about what happened at school that day in the very first grade. It was your favourite arts class and you were about to do something super cool and exciting. However, no one was paying attention as teacher was explaining what to do, everyone was shouting and you were at the back of the class, not particularly tall for your age, trying desperately to see as well as hear. You felt you will miss it completely, so, in a frustration, you shouted begging everyone to be quiet. Immediately, there was a silence, then someone mockingly repeated your words, then laughter, then someone else begged in the high pitched voice imitating you, then the whole class laughed even more. Everyone looked at you laughing and, like that wasn’t enough, whenever you were seen on a break that day, you were being mocked about it and laughed at. You wanted Earth to swallow you. You felt shame. Kids were cruel and unkind, only the way kids can be.
My dear child, this small incident is something still stuck in your mind even at the age of 45. It really is so silly, but it is what it is, it meant something more to you than it really was and you felt hurt. You have never been laughed at before, of course you would feel hurt. I remember the feeling so well, still. This was the point when something changed within you, when your confidence took a dive. So, to avoid being judged, you avoided raising hand in class, although you were an excellent student, conscientious and hard-working, now with a need to be invisible.
Well, it was impossible to be invisible. If you were quiet, they would still judge you for being too quiet or by what you wore (or what your parents even wore), did, music you listened to. If your socks were the wrong colour you can rest assured someone would be talking about it and, if more agree – your school cred is finished (and I do not think this is even an exaggeration!) Ah, school life! So precious and so cruel at times. Certainly prepares you for life! We all need a dose of it to toughen up. School does what loving parents certainly could never subject you to.
But, let me tell you now – do not let the politics of school life phase you. Everyone is trying to navigate their way through it, otherwise, there would never be a “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (Ooops, you would not know anything about it yet, but, wait until you have kids – you will realise then that school life is not a smooth sailing for many!) Do not let anything stop you from speaking your mind and standing up. Choose your fights, but speak your beautiful mind as it has not been taught to insult, hurt, belittle, shame, so, world is a more beautiful place because of the way you see it. If only world could borrow your glasses.
My dear 8-year-old self, when your mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and you came to suddenly realise that you may lose her, I really want to give you a big and long hug, I know it is worrying and you are terrified. But, your father has got you! He is there to make you feel safe during your mum’s treatment and recovery, he is your and your mum’s true rock. What will be will be. None of us knows how long we have got, concept that may be hard for an 8-year-old to comprehend, but if I learnt anything from that experience is to never miss an opportunity to let your loved ones know that you love them, give hugs, love deeply, give kisses, be kind, smile… all that, often. Sometimes, we need to be reminded how fragile life can be.
By the way, mum is a survivor and she will be celebrating your 45th birthday with you, no worries.
My dear teenage self, you are still beautiful. Trust me on this. Instead of being hurt by being branded as “different” because you are more quiet and have unique interests – embrace it. Being healthy and respecting and loving your body comes naturally to you and just this single fact will, trust me, serve you so well later on! You also have courage and seek adventure even if alone – you decide to jump out of a plane, you go away with scouts and sleep in the forest, you love nature as well as helping your parents in your garden, you get up early in the summer to watch the sun rise on the empty banks of the beautiful river Vrbas with not a single soul around you, you read a lot – from Jane Eyre to even a newly discovered personal development starting with The Power of Positive Thinking (this will blow your mind at a time and it will save you later!), you ride your bike until you get scared how far you are from home, but the feeling of the wind in your hair and on your face is exciting and pretty priceless and what you are imagining freedom to be, you take long hikes in the nearby forests and get lost and then find your way back without panic (I think some remember one particular hike like that and might not have forgiven you yet as it WAS scary, but you got them home safely, so, all is well!).
You have a kind heart, you enjoy spending time with the elderly, rescue abandoned dogs, write and read poetry, paint, you simply adore Michael Jackson (and some mock you for that too – don’t they know man is a genius (well, they will, later on)!) because message from his songs about love, equality and peace resonates so well with you. You are so well-connected to your essence despite feeling misunderstood at times. Everyone is misunderstood at times, that is OK. Just stay your course, your sails are set right!
All that beauty, and yet, you feel so sad at times because of the silly “third grade” remarks. Now, as you are older, you know they only come from jealousy, but forgive them a lot sooner. Forgive right NOW. You must know that some do not have a bike, some are not even allowed one, some do not have a health conscious mum to teach them the love of nourishing themselves, some are not allowed dogs, some live in such small space that they can not fit in a dog, some are not allowed freedom to just go, without supervision, into the nature, climb hills, jump out of the plane or travel with scouts, some miss one parent… Some get punishment or even beatings for slightest errors (while your parents sat you down one day, after they saw you kissing a boy (which was a “Mother Earth, swallow me right now” moment!) and told you to come to them first if anything bad happens eluding at pregnancy – oh, how embarrassed you were, but, I can tell you now – this was radical at a time and perhaps even now), so no wonder when they see your supportive parents trusting you so much, they feel slight envy.
Mostly, it is just a misdirected resentment and anger. Only hurt (or hurting) people hurt others. Children do not know yet how to deal with those emotions. They may even admire you as they wished the same freedoms for themselves. Feel for them and know from every cell of your being – you have a very happy, carefree childhood. The best you can do is share your dog walks, share bike rides, invite someone to nature walks with you or to play in your garden with you… Some will, some won’t. So what!
Also know one thing – these will still be the best years of your life. The age of innocence, excitement, first loves, discoveries, adventure, freedom you will probably never have quite the same again.
My message to you is to never, ever try to fit in. Instead, seek to belong. First to yourself, the rest will follow.
You are always brave enough somehow to “do you”, but, do it more convincingly rather than being so split all the time: doing your own thing and then crying yourself to sleep because you felt sad for not having company. Although, I applaud you for picking yourself up the next day and doing your thing again. Just be more unapologetic about your choices. Always be yourself and love yourself just the way you are. It WILL attract the right people in your life because you love human connection, but you know instinctively that only what is authentic is real. And those few special bonds that you create during your teenage years will love you for exactly who you are as they believe in you and your character.
I can tell you that you will have strong friendships from those early years still at this age, over three decades later, and let’s hope they continue until the very end. Cherish them dearly, they are the family you choose…
Follow your own dreams and do not seek approval. You are enough. All you need is already within you. What other people think does not really matter. The earlier you learn this, the easier it will get and luckier you will get too. It is one of the closest things to being truly free. Being free from the good opinions of others. And from allowing opinions of others to define you. You are not your accomplishments or lack of them. Your past does not define you either. What closest to you think does not matter either. The only thing that matters is what you think of it yourself. “It” being your decisions, your choices, your plans, your goals, your results. If it gives YOU peace – You are good. If it doesn’t, forgive yourself, move on, change something…
My dear young adult, I am so proud of you, again. Despite the war and hardship, you always knew that love is the way, the only way, the answer. Build bridges. Forgive. Some things can never be forgotten and you do not have to forget. No one can ask that of you. But do forgive. So you can move on. You will be hurt, but, again, forgive. Otherwise, those that hurt you, win. Only hurt people hurt others, mainly out of fear, shame, anger. You are not one of them. You were born out of love, not fear or anger.
In your early twenties, you will move from being called “different” to “strange”. Quite uninventive as life itself can be very strange and yet we are meant to embrace it. Try not to sweat it, you WILL find your tribe. Those that love all that was unusual about you. Continue with your art, meditation classes, reading and seeing beauty in unexpected – this will save you from hate that will be an easy choice because of what is going on in your life. Again, forgive them, they do not know any differently. Let others find their fate. Your only job is to find your happy place and be part of the solution as that is the only way to help the world heal and be a better place.
You will lose people you love, some indefinitely. Remember the good times, stay with the feeling of love for them because love is eternal. Tell stories about them, that is how they are kept alive.
You will come to understand that the best way to live a life is not to be attached to your past and to feel no fear about the future either. To imagine it the way we want it then to let go and surrender as we live in each moment to the full, with joy in our heart, taking relevant actions with authenticity and intention in order to create the reality we desire. But it is easier said than done, so, keep reminding yourself of this when you lose your balance. “Expectations are limitations”, our meditations teacher back in our 20s used to say, his words still echo in my mind. So, give up controlling the outcome.
Your heart will be broken. It is inevitable. And not the end of the world as your young heart may think. It is all part of the greater design. We can not appreciate light without knowing darkness. Trust that good that is meant for you will come. Stay open to love and you WILL find true love who will love you for all who you are. And who you are not. You are worthy of true love.
Always tell the truth. Even if it hurts. And always with kindness. You owe the world your honesty if you want the world to grow.
People will turn their backs at you for no apparent reason. Do not dwell on it for too long, it is exhausting, as you know. Move on. And, again, forgive. Fast! Because people have their own reasons why they do what they do. Their own logic, their own unique understanding and view of the world. Allow them to make their own decisions. Do not try to convince. The sooner you learn that convincing creates resistance and you are always on the losing end, the better relationships you will cultivate and people will stay for longer. Indeed, it is more important to be kind than to be right. Because kindness always wins. Trying to be right is a tiresome, losing game.
Choose your words wisely when emotions are high. Words can hurt like a sword and sometimes there is no going back because you can never take back some words. Choose them carefully.
When challenged, breathe and smile. Do not take it personally. Seek to understand. Ask questions. Questions are the answers. Ask more questions before coming to conclusions, do not assume. This will eliminate defensiveness and might help build a (better) relationship or prevent losing some.
Do not gossip. Ever. For any reason. Resist the temptation. Because you will be tempted to blame others for things that happen. Know one thing – negative things you say about others only reflects negatively on you. Beauty is in the eyes of beholder. And so is everything else. Whatever you recognise in others – lives in you. So, only try to see the good in people. Because everyone has something good in them. Again, seek to understand. Take responsibility. Always. Learn from it rather than judge. What other side decides to do (and why) is none of your business. Your character is built upon how YOU respond. I wish I knew this early on.
Another thing about gossip – do not allow others gossiping in front of you. Let them know your boundaries. If they gossip about others, they can easily gossip about you too. They will, trust me.
Trust your feeling when around people as everything is energy. If it does not feel right, you could be picking something up. Choose different company. Do not force friendships. It must feel right for both parties.
Respect other people’s boundaries, however, make sure you define yours too. You will be respected more (by the right people), while others will take advantage if you are not clear about boundaries.
Never stop learning. And reading. It will help you understand yourself. Because the true power is in understanding yourself.
If faced with decision-making – dig deep… Seek answers that give you peace and you will not go wrong. If it does not feel right, do not do it! If in doubt, seek advice, but do not feel obliged to take advice.
When making a decision – do not seek approval for the decisions you make. It is a prison. You know it. Get out! Quick! Trust your own gut and do what is right for you and put the blinkers on. Boy, you will achieve incredible things if you find the courage to follow this advice. I have just realised I already wrote about the approval… obviously it is important to you. Take notes as I am writing from a personal experience. 🙂
Teach your future children kindness. World needs more kind people. Saying that, your children will be your own reflection in many ways, so, work hard on becoming the best version of you and the rest will fall into place, including the closest to you.
The secret is in the feeling, so seek joy and contentment in all you do. The bliss point.
Always give your best. It is the best remedy for dissapointment. Knowing that we, at least, did our best.
Travel More. It is the best feeling ever.
Also, talk about your feelings. Always get things off your chest. It is good for your mental health as well as for your soul. Choose wisely who to share your feelings with, though.
Believe in yourself. Believe you can. Only then things can happen. Whether you believe you can or you can not – you will be right, because belief is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone smarter than me figured this out.
Do not be afraid to ask closest to you how they see you. Just in case it highlights a blind spot you are not aware of.
Do not be intimidated by the people who are better than you. Seek them. Learn from them. That is how you grow!
Show enthusiasm in whatever you do.
Be fascinated by life. That is how you do not miss the beauty on the way. It is too easy to be just frustrated and angry.
Never give up on what you believe in or on those who you love.
Have an open mind and believe in impossible. Because “those who do not believe in magic will never find it”!
Build trust. It is the highest currency in life and in any relationship. Once broken, it does not mend easily. Be impeccable with your word and do what you say you would do.
My dear younger self, there is so much more, but, let’s leave it for another time. May I just remind you to always be your beautiful, kind self that life has not worn out, but polished into a diamond.
You will make mistakes, but forgive yourself, you are not your mistakes, you are a beautiful soul on a journey of personal discovery who wants to do good in the world and make the world a happier and more beautiful place. This has always been your intention. Stay a dreamer, but do not forget to be a doer too. You want to leave this world a better place, so have courage to be soft and vulnerable and yet strong and unapologetic in sharing your message so others can relate and be inspired.
Be brave and then even braver. You will need a lot of courage. You proved to be so resilient, but you will need more courage to make a true difference. Don’t hold back. Build momentum. Stay the course. You KNOW what to do, but remember that the difference is in the DOING! You’ve got this!
I love you and I am grateful for all the good in my life that you created and all the lessons you learnt on the way, even those learnt hard way, because there is no such thing as a success without struggle!
Looking forward to the future lessons and blessings with you as I now make peace and let go of the past!
Happy birthday 🙂
Your older (and now slightly wiser) self, thanks to you x