• Meg Gaertner

To the Girl I Was, Am, and Will Be

New Year, New You!

Isn’t that the idea behind every New Year’s resolution? To shed off one’s old skin and put on a new face, a new body (as long as you meet your diet and exercise goals, of course), new habits, because the only thing that can get you the future life you dream of is change?

And yet, all I can think of now is the past.

Blame the movie EIGHTH GRADE (2018), which I cringed, cried, and laughed over.

Blame every visit to my childhood home, with its boxes of memories laid out for me to decide which to keep and which to throw away.

Blame the upcoming full moon in Leo, the total lunar eclipse.

Blame my recent birthday. I turned 29, so forget the New Year—how about a new decade? Maybe I’m already starting to decompress the past ten years in order to make way for the next.

In any case, the past.

I’ve had mixed feelings about the past. I’ve had many regrets, from the extremely petty—when that boy in seventh grade complimented my hair style, why didn’t I believe him?—to the life-changing—why did I ignore all of the red flags and get caught up in an emotionally abusive relationship?

A reoccurring fantasy of mine is to go back to middle school or high school or college as I am now, without the memories, but with the self-awareness. What would I have done differently? Who would I have been? How would I have acted?

But recently, I’ve been trying to take a more objective view of the past. Rather than trusting my memory, what will I find when I look at actual mementos and pictures from those times?

And my god, has my memory been a liar.

Middle-school memorabilia shows that I was pretty awesome. For an eighth-grader, I was pretty confident. I had really good friends, and we laughed a ton. I was on good terms with everyone in my class. I was completely oblivious about boys or class drama. I just kind of unthinkingly did my own thing. And I was happy.

Old Facebook photos from high school tell pretty much the same story. For a long time after high school, I had this idea that I was a complete introvert who spent the vast majority of my time reading and daydreaming and doing homework on my own. Well, yeah, okay, this was true. But it’s also true that I did crew and the school musicals. I had really good friends, and we laughed a ton. I was on good terms with loads of classmates. I was still oblivious about boys and just starting to become more aware of social drama. I may look back and regret now that I hadn’t spent more time with friends outside of class. But I had a good time in high school, good people around me, a good community. And I was happy.

Old Facebook college photos? My god, do they show me having fun. They show a vibrant, laughing girl, surrounded by best friends, by people who cared for her. Yes, she was still oblivious and inept in many ways. But she was happy. No. She was having the time of her life.

And I completely forgot all of this.

Words cannot express the anger I have toward my first boyfriend for wasting three years of my life, for convincing me that I was friendless, that my college years meant nothing, that my family relations didn’t matter. What a violation. What a raping of the mind, to have convinced me that I was alone and nothing without him. This whole time, I’ve been looking back with only regrets, as if I came into being fully formed only after breaking up with that black hole of a man.

But isn’t this the bittersweet nature of growing up? The only way I could have gotten to where I am now is by living the experiences I’ve lived, including being in that relationship. And yet, being where I am now, it’s so easy to look back and think of all the things I would have done differently, the things I wasn’t wise enough or self-aware enough to see.

I’m sure right now I’m missing things that in a few years I’ll look back and recognize. The past is the foundation for the present. It can’t be changed, no matter how we wish. We grow wiser, but never wise enough to see it all. All we can do is our best in each and every moment.

I forgive my younger self for not knowing more, not being as wise or self-aware or experienced as I am now. I forgive my current self for not being as wise or self-aware or experienced as my older self will be.

And the certainty I’ve come to, that I can always hold on to: I’ve had a good life, and I have always tried my best.

After the black hole, I became more introspective, more self-aware, more determined to figure myself out, as if I were a clockwork being of gears and moving pieces to be dismantled, the separate parts observed and then put back together in the correct order, if only I had the blueprint for my design.

But what I remember now is that I was always laughing. I was always confident, as best I could be, always doing my own thing, always fun-loving and interested and courageous. I know who I am, who I was before I forgot. Moreover, I know who I want to be—I want to be who I’ve always been.

New Year? Forever me.

#reflection #womanawakening

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