I’m sat in my living room, the doors to the garden open wide, early on a Saturday morning. I hear the distant noise of a young girl talking to her parents in a garden not so far away.
I’ve been thinking for the last few weeks after reading an article about growing and learning – what would I tell my younger self? It’s probably also been brought on by my current daily habit to prune my social media history. Was I really that person? Was that me? It certainly isn’t me today?
Last weekend I was at my mothers house and I flicked through a photo album with my partner – some photos of me as a child. Those early years when you don’t really remember – I couldn’t remember the time as a baby in Stockport but I have vivid memories of my Grans garden and my cousins who now live in Canada.
With age comes wisdom. Or is it experience? If you repeat the same mistakes over and over again maybe it’s neither experience or wisdom. I often wonder when we protect our children too much from experience they only have our word it will be a bad idea – they can never see, feel and hear the consequences. And if we protect people from things, especially the consequences, it breeds arrogance. People need to make mistakes to learn.
We have to have those learning experiences – we have to go through the pain and the euphoria, we have to put in the hard work, often we have to fight for our lives, and sometimes we need to let things wash over us.
So what would I tell my younger self? That awkward, geeky child I was back then.
Speak up, and specifically about the sexual abuse at the hands of my paternal grandfather, and do this early. It took me to my mid twenties to share this with my parents. The shame, the guilt, and fear. I don’t know if anyone is brave enough or articulate enough at such a young age (4-12) to be able to say something, I left it too long, but eventually I had the wisdom from experience to avoid the despicable man but never said anything.
You’re smart. I never realised this until much later. I wasn’t academic. My mind was preoccupied with other things (like abuse) and identity issues. I felt different to other children. Would I have been diagnosed with ADHD or autism today – who knows? I know I eventually developed the skills to mask or overcome them if I did (do?). I always felt like I was better than what I appeared to be – success isn’t measured in qualifications, it’s measured in the lives you change and good you do, while at the same time protecting yourself with enough friendships (and material things) to be happy.
Fight. At school I was bullied. I was always more scared of my parent’s reaction than anyone else’s. The words, kicks and punches in school hurt physically and mentally – but I was always told (by my parents) not to get into fights in any circumstances from their words and role-modelling (not just physical) and avoid conflict. I needed to learn earlier it’s OK to fight to defend yourself – I never did until much later in life. Conflict is OK.
I wonder if these three bits of advice would have served me better – reduced my pain, increased my joy – but would they have made me the happy, loved, successful, thriving woman I am today?
Maybe they would have got me here sooner? Maybe? Or maybe they wouldn’t have got me here at all?