Thursday, 15 August 2013

A letter to my teenage self

Tonight I opened a couple of very old diaries, and found myself reading the words of my 10, 12 and 14 year old self. And there, mixed within the naivete and childhood chatter of what I'd done that day, who my friends were and what we'd had for dinner, were a couple of themes which have stayed with me throughout my life, namely food and love. So this is my letter back to me.

My darling girl,

This is me, reaching back over the years to share my thoughts and feelings after reading your diaries. 

I love that at age ten you were so excited to win a colouring contest, and still remember the t-shirt you won. Seeing the way your writing changed as you grew older, the flourishes you started to use when signing your name, the snippets of French as you started doing that at school. The joy and the wonder was beautiful to read.

But I was so sad to see your words at age 12, that said how much you wanted a boyfriend, but couldn't get one because you were fat. To see the weight charts creep into your diary, particularly when you really weren't fat at all. 

Then the obsession over that one boy when you were 14. The way your day was made better or worse by whether you saw him on the bus, and whether he (joy! bliss!) sat next to you.

The ups and downs with friends, learning how to navigate the waters of relationships across both sexes.

My heart ached to realise how early it started... the looking to outside to validate the inside. I was honestly shocked and more than a little saddened to read your words and feel your pain, even if it was couched in as positive a way as your little heart could make it.

If I could talk to you now I'd ask you to spend less time worrying whether that boy liked you, and consider whether you liked yourself. To ignore the little voice that said "you're fat" and choose instead to cherish and nurture your growing body. To learn to marvel and appreciate the way that doors were opening in your life, and see the bright and shiny future ahead of you.

And here I am, thirty years on, and still struggling with these very same issues. So this is really a letter to me, here and now as well.

My heart is aching a little tonight, and my mind is still turning over my childhood words. I know I've blanked out much of my childhood, so reading my own words was more than a trip down memory lane, it was the reopening of doors I had slammed shut a long time ago.

But the first step in moving forward is acceptance of where you are, and where you've come from. So for my childhood self I ask you to remember this...

You are beautiful. Your heart is a magical and special treasure which will bring joy and love into so many people's lives. You are enough.