The Girl I Used to Be

Psalm 38:9 O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you.

My mother made the decision recently to move from the home I lived in from age 12 to 31 (with some occasional alternate living situations at college, Connecticut and York). To facilitate that move, I needed to remove the boxes of my things that were in the attic and barn. In all, that was about 25-28 plastic tubs and cardboard boxes of varying sizes. Each contained remnants from particular stages of my life- childhood, adolescence, college, and young adulthood. I was well aware that the volume wouldn’t be prudent to transport back to Ohio, I must reduce it down to the space available in my vehicle- a sedan. Going in, I knew it would be a lesson in letting go and knowing what really counts.

I only had a day, really. One day to go back in time through the magic of pictures and objects. To remember the awkward little girl longing to be pretty and popular, while living in a constant whirlwind of anger and fear at home. To linger in the space of a time when I was shining on the outside but dull on the inside, with loving friends and loads of self-induced drama. To watch myself stumble blindly through the consequences of my own choices that led me to jobs, people and zip codes without as much as a second thought.

And so I worked: a few spare minutes for the photos and souvenir glasses from my college student government formals, dressed to the nines with friends I now only see on Facebook. A minute to ponder if I should keep the letters I received from a friend of a friend who was my army pen pal. No romance there- although we flirted with it occasionally, more a port in the harbor for two people who needed a friend to talk to and the joy of a letter received. Time to ponder everything from the occasional report card from elementary school to college papers to artifacts from singledom- mugs bemoaning the lack of good men and warnings to all who “choose to mess with me”. There were crafts and hobby paraphernalia galore- much of which I would have liked to keep but simply could not.

It’s interesting to go back in time with wisdom in one’s eyes. As I looked at elementary report cards, I could see when our home was in chaos- because the teacher reported it unknowingly when she talked about uncontrolled emotions and other tell tale signs. When I read my diary, I felt a twinge for the little girl writing about fear, loneliness and disparity of power. I came across lots of my own writing- vignettes I chose to save for future incorporation into a larger volume. I was, and am, always walking the tightrope between creative and mundane, ebullient and pensive, powerful and weak. I wish I had appreciated the smooth, beautiful skin of my youth, as I now appreciate the journey navigating past perilous seas of bad choices, emotional immaturity and untapped potential.

In a multitude of ways, I am very much the girl I used to be: spirited, emotional and full of longing; but I have the gift of time, which has created a soft place for reflection, consideration and love. It is a gift to know oneself, outside and in, and to appreciate the journey; making peace with what will never be, all the while championing what was and will never be again. It was a rocky path, that cut my feet and more than once left me crying on the side of the road, but it was full of growth and unbelievable experiences. Well worth the trip.

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