I was having a conversation with my aunt the other day and it suddenly took a turn for the worst. I’m kidding. We somehow ended up talking about the future and that can be the worst or the best, depending on the day. She talked about the importance of having one’s own family someday and I replied with my negative views on having and raising children. My reason? “I was a horrible child, auntie! Don’t you remember? I was the worrrsst! I don’t think I’d be able to go through what I put Mom and Dad through. I tell you, those people are saints!”
I don’t remember how the conversation ended, but hours later, the words still rang in my ear: “I was a horrible child!” It’s true I was a very sensitive child. I was often moody, brooding over all the things that were wrong in the world, in my life, in my mind. I was very idealistic and therefore was disappointed very often. I had my head in the clouds and lost things frequently. I was calm but my emotional outbursts seemed to be explosive (and memorable) and I was as stubborn as they come. Years later, I would only come to look at that period in my life through the lens of an observer, a critical observer. I found compassion for my parents and all the people who took part in raising me and all I could focus on was the pain I caused them.
I concluded, therefore, that I was a horrible child and I would not, in the future, subject the world to a replica of that…of me.
Hours after that conversation though, the words I spoke seemed to burn a hole through my chest. Horrible child? The worst? The younger version of me had issues, but…she’s a survivor.
She survived trauma quietly, silently for decades and taught herself to be resilient. She worked hard in school and was often at the top of her class. She was an amazing storyteller, weaving together fiction and real life into tales that held entire classrooms captivated. She had the confidence to speak and perform in front of a crowd, a gift many of her peers did not possess.
I’m proud of her.
They say that every few years, we become someone else. I’m not sure they’re wrong. I know in ten or twenty years from now, I’ll look back at the 26-year old version of me and I’ll be tempted to hold her in contempt, disappointed in her for all the opportunities she missed and ashamed at all the mistakes she made.Yet, I hope that I can also remember all the things that this version has survived and give her a break.