I have been going through old things lately in an attempt to try to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. While cleaning out my storage room this weekend I came across an old blue folder. I knew exactly what it was when I saw it. That cheap, tattered folder contained so much of the beginning of my story, in my own words. It was more than just a journal, it included writings, poems, letters to God, letters to people, and the start of a book. (I’m next level nerd. How did I have any friends?) Within the pages are the inner ramblings of a fourteen to seventeen year old girl. I got a cup of coffee, went up to my room, and decided I would go back in time, so I started reading. Lord help me. (And Praise God no one else knew what this thing was so they never read it.
Surprise, I discovered something. So much of that girl who wrote those words was identifiable to me today. Yikes. You get slapped with a twilight zone like reality when you read your own heart 25 years later. I think that my years have blended together so much that I forget certain things. My hair is a different color, I’d give anything to have that body back, sure, I’ve gained experience and maturity, but at the core that girl is still in there somewhere. It kind of took my breath away because I recognized certain parts of this person so much, and other parts I understood but felt like it was worlds away.
Three other people kept bubbling to the surface as I read more and more; each one of my kids. The three teenagers living in my home are, or will be, experiencing similar life situations as I was then. They are the same ages that I was when I was writing all of these things. How have we gotten here so quickly? At that age I felt like I had a lot of answers, yet when I look at them right now I truthfully don’t really look at them that way. (Which is going to change, it just took this to make me see it.) How could they possibly be feeling the things, or experiencing the things that I did, now? Also, holy crap, they COULD possibly be feeling these things or experiencing these things right now. I think that I discount a lot of their current situations based on their ages, or the false notion that they aren’t there yet. Wherever ‘there’ is. I want to to think that some of their opinions will change or that maybe they aren’t ready for this, that or the other thing. (Like driving an hour and a half away from home and back to a party without your parents ever knowing. I was reminded of that one. If my kids did that I would freak out.) I don’t give them the weight that their feelings deserve in certain situations, because I can barely see them living outside of our walls, let alone having adult-like feelings or experiences that will help shape them for their futures. I wonder if my parents felt that way about me? Most likely yes, but I always felt like they allowed me to make my own choices, even if they were wrong. (And I had some doozies!!!) I need to keep being reminded of that while navigating these years, especially with the older two.
As I read through my own words I realized that each of the people that I mentioned in those pages means or meant something special to me. They were significant. Most of them are still in my life today in some way, shape or form. Every page I read impacted me so much because each page was covered in raw emotion and details of silly experiences that had faded for me over time. I felt it all over again. I went from laughing, to crying, and feeling utterly embarrassed about writing this all down… and at points I felt all of these at the same time. Every doubt and fear that I struggled with then, at times, are roadblocks for me now, which was rather insightful. I found myself at one point relating to the younger me, like a daughter, wanting to explain that it would get better, just give it some time. The passions, the hopes, the dreams within the text are at the core of who I still am. I also realized that the path that I find myself on now, in large part, was birthed out of those formative years of my life. I recognized, in a way that I never really processed through, that I discovered big parts of myself at that time of my life and that I was gathering necessary tools that would propel me onward. Each step in that moment in time formed the beginning of what I consider to be my life’s path now. That girl, to a large extent, still exists inside of me, her last name just changed.
As I finished reading, I sat quietly. Several thoughts were floating through my head. One of the biggest things was gratitude for people. Within my writings I kept articulating how thankful I was for special people in my life. Even at that age I recognized how important people were. Other people will enter our paths, some for a piece of time and others for a lifetime. The imprint that one person makes on your life may have different significance to their own story than it does to yours, but it’s still part of each others stories, and we should be thankful for that. I also really evaluated where I am with my kids, and who I can be going into this next stage of their lives. For most of us parents our children will always be a huge part of our path. The best chapters in our life’s journey. We can’t keep them on our own path forever, though. They have to have the ability and permission to create their own. We have to allow them to feel, to fail, to be independent, to struggle, and most importantly to be exactly who they are, not who and what we tell them they should be. I read about so many mistakes that I had forgotten over the years because time has a way of working things out. What I realized within my writings, knowing the outcome of much of what I was writing about, I failed, got bruised, bumped, bitten AND I got up, succeeded, persevered and prospered. I needed to have tasted all of those elements in order to come to the place where I am today.
Our path’s, despite our very best intentions, should never be confused as our children’s path. Who they are is already there. The foundation is poured. All of these experiences that in some ways mirror my own, and in others is so different than mine, is helping to shape and mold them into their future selves, one brick at a time. I had forgotten the significance and magnitude of my memories until I read through them, in my own words. I, of course, see them so much more clearly from where I sit now and I’m mostly thankful I experienced each of them. (Even the hard ones gave me wisdom for situations and feelings in my future.) I realized this weekend that I have to stop holding my kids pens in a misguided attempt to ‘help’ them write the pages of their story, or spare them from writing something wrong. It’s time for me to hand that pen over… and let them fill the folder with their own words.