Dear High School Kris,
I used to resent you. I didn’t understand who you were. You were definitely not who I am today. But now I know you were who you needed to be to survive. You were a hunk of marble, and most of the time you merely ran your hand along the surface because your subconscious was protecting you from some painful stuff. And when you did dare take a chisel to stone, you showed almost no one what you found. But you know what? You were a heck of a lot of fun. People called you a breath of fresh air. You loved making people laugh, and just loved people. I didn’t use to understand you, but I do now. You were strong in a way I couldn’t see before.
Dear College Kris,
I wish I could give you a hug. I always tell people if I had to relive one period of my life, it would be college. But man, what a hard time it was. You unknowingly dealt with the onset of a major mental illness. You had your heart broken. And you finally came to face what your subconscious had hidden from you all those years in grade school. Trauma from events in high school caught up with you, and you learned what PTSD is like. You had days where you couldn’t get out of bed, and nights when you couldn’t get in. You got amazing grades some semesters, and terrible ones others. But through all that, you started to find yourself. You started to find me. You embraced another version of you, different from who you’d been in high school. A quieter, more contemplative you. And more timid (but I’m working on that now). You took the hunk of marble and finally started chipping away to find the work of art inside. You didn’t know a lot about sculpting at first, but you’ve gained some proficiency over time.
Dear Thirty-Four Year Old Kris,
Okay, I’m cheating because I’m you. I turn 35 next month. I’ve come so far in the 10-20 years since those iterations of myself. I’ve become a wife and a mother. I’ve rediscovered writing and my love of epic fantasy. I’ve learned the name for the darkness that has always followed me. And so many, many other things have happened. Wonderful things, terrible things, things that are neither, that are merely parts of our everyday lives. Recently a friend asked if I feel like my hair is the essence of who I am. I didn’t hesitate in answering YES. I am more me than I ever have been–I don’t feel like I’ve changed, but that I’ve chiseled away the parts that aren’t me. That doesn’t mean I’m done. I still have so much to learn–about the world, about myself. But a few things I’ve gleaned: I only care if people think I’m loving, kind, and smart (and that last one is negotiable); I’m happiest letting my freak flag fly; and to give my past selves grace. I’ve learned a lot from them. They were a big part of who I am today. And who I am today is a big part of who I’ll be when I’m 40, 50, and beyond.
I’m still chiseling, but I’ll get there some day.