The Struggle is Gift (and other things I wish I could tell my younger self)

1

December 6, 2016 by Katia

Hey, you.

Young Katia in a pretty typical state

Young Katia in a pretty typical state

Remember being twelve years-old and having wise thoughts? Somehow traveling outside of your country for the first time, visiting your mother’s homeland and meeting people who up until then were very concrete abstracts in your family’s stories seemed to unleash that wisdom onto the pages of your notepad. It’s weird to be so precise about something like thoughts, but I know that you will always remember exactly two of them. The discovery of the white lie and the personal revelation concerning its inherently contradictory nature and that other thought, a less clearly defined memory obstructed by time, that one had to do with the disputable benefits of experience. It went something like:

experience

At forty I can argue with that premise, but let’s not forget that I’m talking to YOU and from that standpoint me addressing you is completely pointless. Perhaps we should approach this differently. I’m a time traveler. I have the experience that comes with maturity, any self-aware maturity, but I also have the experience of being YOU. I know how you think and understand why you act.

I also have the experience of being a mother. Looking at them is often seeing myself through a magnifying glass. I know what needs to be adjusted to make them happier and the same can be applied to me, because we’re so similar in a lot of ways.

I hope you’ve heard enough to trust me. Now listen. I’m going to make your life easier.

You’re going to get into a lot of stupid situations because you aim to be polite and want to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings at all costs. What you don’t know yet is that hurt is inherent to some situations. In these situations hurt is just a matter of when not if. Think about it this way: you have the power to deliver a quicker and less painful hurt instead of a delayed one preceded by confusion. They will survive.

In twenty something years you’ll hear Ariana Huffington quoting Mark Twain: I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened. Even before that (but still in what you’ll consider a very long time from now) you’ll hear Doctor Phil use a new verb: catastrophize. On both occasions you’ll feel one step closer to understanding yourself. There. I’ve saved you twenty years. You’re a bright cookie, you know what to do.

This one is going to sound like something only a grownup would say, but you’ve got to trust me. Sometimes the kind of day you’re going to have is a decision. We have no control over events but we have control over how we feel about them. It took me more than thirty years to perfect this practice and just a few weeks ago I pushed a major calendar-based worry back, deciding to honour my worry the next day, on the actual day the worrisome event was about to take place.

Most importantly perhaps: you DO know what you want to do. What you want to do has nothing to do with the questions “how practical/realistic/probable is it?”. In fact, it has nothing to do with your brain. Your brain’s input on this is mostly irrelevant. You’ve always known. It’s that thing that you’ve always practiced different forms of, whether it was typing short humoresques about family friends on your grandmother’s type writer or sending a perfectly-crafted “reply all” at work and eagerly awaiting responses recognizing your effort. It’s reading novels through a comparison lens or obsessively scanning the subway car for posters of new book releases or relentlessly staring at other people’s books on the same subway car until a glimpse of the name of the author or the title of the book or at least one of the chapters reveals its Googalable self. You’ve always known, stop playing those games now (ga-ga-games now, Jordan K.) You won’t marry him, by the way, but you wouldn’t really surprise you if I told you it’s another taurus, right?

I feel like I have to impart all the wisdom on you before we separate (“all the” is a thing we say in the 2010’s. “A thing” is another thing we say.) but I can’t think of anything significant. Oh yeah, Guns N’ Roses are still cool (your kids think so too), so is George Michael (you’ll get to watch him live, BTW. I KNOW!!!). If you ever get a chance to catch Prince playing do it. Your face looks fine, really. Your children are amazing. Don’t worry so much. Worrying doesn’t actually help you control things. Releasing the worry does. Breathe, meditate, work out, write, take pictures, notice, give yourself permission, don’t compare, don’t justify (people who don’t know you might think you’re complaining), you’ll eventually stop drinking Coke – might as well do it now. Whenever you think about calling your grandmas, do it. Your separation from your mom is only temporary. Your dad is cool. You’ll learn so much from your husband and kids. Declutter, it’ll help you breathe. You’re not feeling that right now, but later in life you’ll feel guilty for spending too much in front of the TV. Don’t. TV shows, how you’ve watched them, when and with whom are part of who you are, just like movies, books, music and visual art.

One last thought before I’m all done grown-upping. Some things won’t come easy, it’ll be the big and important things in life: immigration, children, discovering what you want to do in life. Struggling to get there will make you question your luck. Don’t. You’re incredibly lucky. Not just despite but also because you’ve struggled. You will continue to believe in signs as a grownup and you will have gained some (valuable, yes) experience struggling. At one point, once you’re faced with a struggle, it’ll just serve as a reminder of the significance of the subject at hand and a reminder that you’re strong. Shy doesn’t mean feeble. Vulnerable and easily thrown off doesn’t equal weak.

One chilly day years from now you’ll stand in a park in Toronto with your husband and two sons and watch salmon fish jumping upstream. Holding your breath not knowing if you’re watching something tragic or exhilarating. It’ll look like they’re flying. Attempting the same thing over and over again. Stubborn and strong. I just thought you should know.

struggle

***

This post was a Netflix StreamTeam post dedicated to the topic of writing a letter to your young self – letters of empowerment written by women to women. Some of my personal favourite strong women on Netflix are Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, Pam Beesly-Halpert from The Office (and yes, I do consider her strong, I’d love to write about that separately), Donna and Jessica on Suits and of course Lorelei and Emily Gilmore (yes, I did say Emily Gilmore) who made a comeback this month on Netflix. Which strong female characters are your favourite ones?

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One thought on “The Struggle is Gift (and other things I wish I could tell my younger self)

  1. larva225 says:

    Loved this post! Someone on Facebook asked recently about what strong fictional female character I’d choose. I answered Lagertha from Vikings, but upon reflection I may have to change that. The problem I find is that most of the characters are one-dimensional, tending to focus on one often-cartoonish quality about women.

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