[this is a summer re-post series re-post]
Three years ago I was going through the end of a 29-year marriage, and it was one of the most horrible experiences of my life (including the month my daughter spent a month in intensive care after she’d been born.)
In order to try to figure out what I needed to do next, one of the things I did was write a letter to my twelve-year-old self. I realize not everybody likes writing to help figure things out like I do – I also have journal-ed on and off over the years – but it’s a cool exercise to go through if you’re inclined.
It help me clarify what was important to me, what my healthy boundaries might look like, and it help me centre on that passion thing everybody is always talking about. I’m sharing it here on the chance that it might help somebody else write their own letter and make their own decisions. Not that it has to be as dramatic as my situation, but maybe it’ll help…
Letter to My 12-Year-Old Self
You’re a pretty cool kid. You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re creative. You have empathy and heart and love in buckets.
Find the people who like you for who you are, who push you, think deeply, and know how to love, laugh, and trust despite having been hurt. They’re awkward, geeky, often quiet, sometimes weird and occasionally fucked up. They are wicked cool, and so are you. You and they will create the future.
Don’t put up with other’s who disrespect you. You don’t have to like people that don’t like you.
You are not responsible for (or control) anybody else’s happiness. You can care for somebody, you can love them, you can want them to be happy. But you can’t make somebody happy, or fix them, or take away their hurt. You can be there for them. It’s like sharing a meal with somebody. You can keep them company, but you can’t chew and swallow their food for them.
Learn to say difficult things with as much thought and compassion as you can. People who deserve to know deserve to know the truth. They deserve to make informed choices for themselves. Just like you.
Nobody else is responsible for (or controls) your happiness. How you feel and what you decide to do about it is your choice. Nobody else’s. You get to choose how you feel. It doesn’t just happen.
Trying to escape your feelings doesn’t work. They will always be there. The longer you ignore them the more rancid they become. Turn and face them, work through them, and move on.
Learn to listen with your whole body, soul, and mind. Ask questions. Seek to understand. Listening is not the same as agreeing. Don’t confuse the two.
You like being right, but that isn’t always the most important thing. Learn the difference and why it matters.
Shitty things will sometimes happen for no good reason. Learn what you can from them and then move on.
Work with your hands when you can – it’s part of who you are. Learn as much as you can – it’s part of who you are. Create and contribute – it’s part of who you are. This is your joy.