I came across a photo that was used in my old passport earlier today. The photos was taken July 1989 just before I was set to finish high school and head to Senegal, West Africa. I showed it to my youngest daughter, who thought it was a photograph of her older sister (genetics) and was shocked to find out that it was in fact a photograph of me, 25 years ago. I have been thinking about that person a lot lately – the me back then who was anxious to finish school, defer university for a year in order to live in a house made of mud in a village with no running water or electricity and explore a place that no one I knew personally had ever visited before. What I would say to this girl?
By the time I was nineteen I had gone through a lot – and leaving was a way of escaping from a difficult situation that I was living in. I had to leave people behind that I loved. It was heart breaking in that sense, but I was also going on a big adventure – one that would forever change me.
I have done a lot in the past twenty five years. There was a lot that happened around me, that I don’t think I could have known that would happen when I was that age, and honestly, it was probably better that way. I went to Senegal, survived having malaria and a few other scary moments. I came home and went to university, got my diploma, had a number of full-time and part time jobs, got married, had two children – both of which have grown up and are getting ready to go off to university themselves, I became divorced, wrote seven novels, published two books of poetry and two photography books, have gone (and still am going through) a health scare with cancer and taught myself how to play guitar. Ok I am still learning how to play my guitar but I have learned the chords at least. But what would I tell this girl with the oversized glasses that she didn’t need to have in the first place?
I would tell her to keep being brave. Listen more to your heart than to what others around you are saying. Life is meant to be lived, and anyone who brings you down for doing that has their own problems – those problems are not yours – don’t allow anyone else’s problems to be yours. Stand up and let your voice be heard. Be fearless. Laugh when you feel like laughing. Cry when you feel like crying. Love who you love. Live for what you believe in, and not according the ideas that someone else has of who you are. Give yourself time to heal, be kind to yourself, and remember it is ok to not be the rock for everyone. Share how you see the world. Share what you write, what you photograph, what you draw, what you create. All of that is not yours to hold on to. Be yourself. You are enough.
I wonder what I will want to tell myself another twenty five years from now? I guess I will just have to wait and see.