January 23, 2024

Try Being Gentle with Your Earlier Selves

Lifestyle & Pop Culture

I’m writing a book right now. It’s a lot. The last trade book I wrote was in 2018 (came out April 2020…excellent timing!!). I had, truly, an entirely different life.

Anyway, I am deeeeeeeply examining all the systems and hierarchies and sub-cultures and biases that built me (easy breezy), and I’m doing so through memories and moments and snapshots…

  • 11-year-old Jen being called domineering by her teacher
  • 13-year-old Jen in the first class of True Love Waits
  • 18-year-old Jen sitting across from her parents with a budget on a legal pad explaining why she should get married

One recurring feeling is, surprisingly, a sense of compassion for the young versions of me. Current me wants to pull my hair out and wail at the absurdity of so much of it, the doomed-ness, the naivety and foolishness and limitations, but I can honestly say I was doing the absolute best I knew at the time.

I was earnest. I thought whatever I had was whatever there was, or at least was the right thing, or the good thing, or the true thing, or the faithful thing.

Who among us can’t look backward and realize how far we’ve come or how much we’ve learned or how deeply we’ve changed? This is how growth works, and there is no fast forward button; it is a function of time.

If you are tempted to disparage the earlier versions of yourself, berating her for not knowing or doing better, could you try being gentle with her instead?

She was probably doing the best she could with what she knew. She got you to where you are today, and that counts for something. She ran her leg of the race. Be proud of her for trying her best and going as far as she was able. She was probably handed some harmful narratives that take most of us a lifetime to dismantle, so good on her for surviving those.

Sending so much love to the young versions of you today, dear ones. Proud of them for getting you here. Let us be tender with our earlier selves, like wiser older sisters, like nurturing aunts, like good, good mothers.

“i hope
when you come home to yourself
there are flowers lining the front porch
that were left from all the women
you were before”

When the Waves Come

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