When I feel stuck, I often ask people what advice they would like to give to themselves when they were my age. “If you could go back in time and talk to a younger version of yourself, what would you say? What do you wish you had known?
I posed this question on facebook once, and the responses I received were astounding – travel, know that you are already enough, trust the unfolding of life. Smile more. Forgive faster. And a slew of other poetic whispers that deserve to be made into a collage and radiated to the world.
Listening to the guidance of people we respect is a nourishing way to foster our humility and make us feel less alone. By soaking in the I-wish-I-had-knowns of others, we open our hearts to receive guidance from people who have walked this part of the path already.
Last week, Elizabeth Gilbert turned this question on its head and asked readers on her facebook page: what advice would your younger self give to you? She posted a picture of herself at age 19 and wrote a beautiful short essay of what guidance the lost woman in the picture has to offer – her reflection is worth reading (linked above) if you have a few minutes to warm your soul.
When I read her post, the idea of learning from a vision of my past overwhelmed me – which past self would I even start with if I was going to ask for guidance? We go through so many lifetimes in the blink of a few years on this planet, so many kaleidoscopic viewpoints and experiences and hopes rush through us at any given point in time.
Would I ask for advice from the ten-year-old version of Me who brought “How to Write A Damn Good Novel” to school and worried about getting in trouble for the title? The teenager? The college student? The child daydreaming of crystals and healing potions, back when I still had my eyelashes?
The Universe swooped down in a cascade of synchronicity – a few hours after I started thinking about this exercise and pondering where to begin, my friend Sara posted this photo to facebook that I had never seen before:
I was thirteen years old, hugging my friend in a bustling hallway at my junior high school. I knew this was the picture I was supposed to meditate on. Even in some of my most painful years, my giant smile reveals that I was still enveloped by so many things to laugh about.
Zoom in closer. I was smiling, but I also had no eyelashes – the trichotillomania monster must have been winning at that moment. I was hugging my friend, but really I was clinging to her frantically as if she were a life buoy. As if one change in the tide would send me careening away. I was wild and glowing, I was desperate and lost and floundering – but my god, did I hold on.
Kelsey, Kelsey… age 13… what could you possibly teach me? What would you say if you saw me now?
When I got quiet and listened, this is the advice that came through:
Stop bobbing around in other people’s expectations of you, and focus on the hot pink lotus flower that is glowing in your heart. You are You – always, devastatingly You, and every time you try to sweep your Youness under the rug you end up ruined. You aren’t broken or inadequate when your business casual has one too many sequins, when your dancing is “too expressive,” when you still daydream about darkness after all this time.
Foster your empathy and intuition, even if you get burned a few times along the way. Take action faster. Don’t hope that enduring something or someone for one more year will somehow bring joy to a dead situation .
And lastly… don’t lament yourself and your life for being “boring” just because you have a Real Job and stability. Remember that in my chaos of grief and adolescence and mental illness, you once would have given anything to have that sense of centeredness.
I had no idea that my younger self had so much to say, her essence reverberating beyond the pixels on a social media website. We have so much to teach ourselves, so many lessons brimming within us that are only waiting for us to tap into their wisdom. I would love to see friends, loved ones, and readers on this page from all walks of life take part in this exercise too.
Having a photograph might help you focus, but the picture is ultimately optional – the goal is to clear your mind with a few deep breaths and ask what your younger self is willing to teach you. If you dare to take the plunge and write down what that person has to say, I invite you to:
*Share your younger Self’s advice to you in the comments section of this blog post
*Share your findings from this exercise on my facebook page www.facebook.com/kelseynic, or share it on your own facebook page to inspire your loved ones and get a similar conversation going. (If we aren’t facebook friends, I would still love to read it!)
* Write it in a journal that no one else will ever see, if that’s more your style. Burn the pages. Pretend this exercise never happened, but silently take the lessons to heart.
*E-mail your writing to me confidentially – firstname.lastname@example.org – and I will gladly send you positive feedback and support in your pursuit of self exploration.
Love & Sequins & Dusty Old Photos,