In twenty-four days I will be thirty-four years old. Something about birthdays make me reflective and contemplative. It could be the frailty of life or the volatile nature in which mine began. The combination of both reasons is likely the source. Over the past few years I have weathered storms that made my backbone prove it was reinforced with the prayers of my grandmother. Yet, I have also learned what goes into the love I need to make my heart beat full bodied. As I survey my life I am grateful for all that I have loved, lost, gained, and survived. I know now that everything we experience comes to teach us something. Sometimes that knowledge is for us and other times it is for us to share with someone going through something we have survived. We never know when our story will be all the hope someone has to hold on too. There are times I wish I could go back and be my own rescue. I wish I could go back to the place where I was scared and alone and tell myself that I will not die there. As a part of my birthday tradition I write a letter to myself. This is a practice that I do often in as a means of reflection and observation. There is no better way to see how far you have come than to face where you have been. I would encourage you to try this practice. Pick a point in your life and write a letter from the person you are today to the person you were then. Once the letter is complete read it aloud in your own voice, then sit a while with what you feel as a result. There will be times you celebrate your elevation. But there will also be times you find something you need to go back and reclaim. Both instances deserve honor and recognition. The following letter is one that I wrote to the 2011 version of myself.
You think moving to Alexandria was a mistake. It was not a mistake. During the nine months you are here you will learn things about yourself that only your birth place can teach you. I recognize you are afraid because Baton Rouge holds so much of who you believe you are as a woman. You will become someone different but that doesn’t mean worse. You will grow here and the loneliness you are feeling right now is only a growing pain. You need this silence so you can find things within yourself that you don’t know are there yet. Some of them are good but some of them need work. It’s ok to need work, everyone does. Your family will become even more important to you than they are right now. I know you are mad at your father but you shouldn’t be. When he says I love you this weekend, say I love you too. Don’t say it because you have too but because you mean it. You are his everything. You always will be his everything. A lot of things are going to happen to you in the next few months that you will not understand. You will not be prepared. You can not be prepared. I know you don’t know how to let people take care of you yet, its one of the things this place has come to teach you. When your friends ask you if you are ok, say no. Do not lie to them because covered wounds heal slower and more painfully. The next year will remind you that you are a Phoenix. You will feel your heart crack open inside your chest you will break but you will not die here; no matter how bad you might want too. You are made to recreate yourself when you’re sad and weary. You will survive just like you always have survived. Remember God always provides.
The guy you are in love with will break your heart, again. The next time you will leave for good. You will actually move to another state. You will bury yourself in your work. You will convince yourself that you don’t want to ever love again. That is only fear talking. There will be men who want to love you. You will not be ready. Don’t use them as distractions from your isolation or else you will break their hearts with your bare words and indifferent actions. Say you are sorry when it happens. The apology is not for you. It is for the person who braved the hurricane in your mouth to love you in spite of you. It is for the casualty you wounded in your war with yourself. But, don’t worry you will heal and so will they. You will meet a man that restarts your heart. He will be everything you whispered to God in the midnight hour. He will be everything you are too afraid to want. You will smile for real again. You will love for again.
Take care of your body. Never stop running. Taking care of your body is just as important as taking care of your mind. When you gain weight and don’t recognize yourself fight for the image of yourself that you love. Don’t allow anyone to turn you against your reflection. Tell anyone who attacks your appearance that this body is not up for discussion. Learn to defend your self love with the words beautiful and body. All the things you have gone through and will go through are not just for you. You will learn how to turn your life lessons into road maps for other people. You will do for them what others have done for you. Don’t be afraid to show your scars when the time arrives. It is necessary. The woman that you have become in these five years is one that you have dreamed about. She is not perfect but she is in tune with who she is and the universe around her. You will build a pretty amazing life. Live it fully and without hesitation. Live every moment in the moment. I love you and soon you will love you too.