Lately, I’ve been revisiting my beliefs about the metaphysical universe. Other lives and alternate timelines, the Jeremy Bearimy of earth, and whether all of it consoled or scared me. See, we tend to focus on the existence of a happier self. We assume we are on one of the worst timelines, and the galaxy is grander for our other self.
But this isn’t about that.
This is about this life and this world, and the people I’ve already been. In the book I’m currently reading, a character says, “Seeing the past is simple magic. Seeing the present or the future—that is not.” I mostly agree.
I’ve written letters to my past and future selves before. You can read some of them on this blog. So when today’s prompt was about that, I felt strongly about doing something different this time. Remembering my last journal entry about meeting my inner child, I decided to meet her on purpose in my meditation.
I tried to record it as best as I could remember.
She is 11 or 12 years old, in my favorite childhood chapel where I once struck a deal with God. She had most of her baby fat, an ugly pink polo with ugly patterns, and jeans that didn’t fit right. I knew she was just learning about insecurity. She looked at me with a neutral expression, seemingly knowing how old I was and why I was here.
“Are you married?” was her first question.
I laughed. This was definitely the chapel I remember. “I’m not,” I reply. I knew the point of this meeting was for her to ask her questions, but I couldn’t help it. I took in the sight of her, the cluelessness. “My god, you’re just eleven. I thought I was so big.”
She didn’t respond to that. Instead, she said, “Nice hair.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a writer, but in advertising.”
“Not journalism?” She sounded more wistful than surprised. Was she disappointed?
“No, unfortunately. They don’t pay very well and we… we need the money.”
I don’t think she knew what to make of that. She was an excellent saver for her age—hardly ever wanted anything material. Her next question was: “Are you happy?”
I start to cry a little. “No,” I said, almost apologetically. I felt apologetic, and guilty. “No, I can’t say we are. We have depression.”
“Why?” she still sounded neutral, almost matter-of-fact. “Did something happen?”
“Nothing big or bad happened, not really. I think…” I thought about this carefully. “I think you and I always felt very attuned to sadness and it went too far.”
“Should I do something? You know, to stop it?”
“I don’t see why you should.”
We seemed to understand each other. She wasn’t afraid for herself, she thought for an innocent moment that she could still save me from the past. By being better-behaved, or working harder, or just anything. But that was never on her shoulders.
“Are you happy?” she asked again, but it felt like something else. It felt like she was asking me if I was still capable of happy feelings, despite the depression.
“I think I am.”
She seemed okay with that, as there was a short pause and I was the one who spoke again.
“Is there anything you want to ask our future self? I won’t be able to answer.”
“What age did you get married?”
I laughed at the phrasing. This child… honestly.
“What’s your job now? Did you ever publish a book? Are you feeling any better now? What’s the meaning of life?” That one felt a little like teasing. “Is school really important?” She looked me deeply in the eyes and I felt like she was talking to me again. “What else should I do?”
I took a deep breath and talked without thinking. “Do your best. Your real best that you know you can do. Study hard in school, not for school but for the discipline and the sharp mind it will give you. Care about people. Try to keep them in your life. Don’t be so selfish.” I paused. “Be brave. Go after what you want.”
I sensed her satisfaction. It was odd how much we want our clunky, innocent eleven-year-old versions to be proud of us.
Last question. “Will you visit me again?”
I felt a little lighter. “I think I will.”
“The Isolation Journals” is a 30-day quarantine creativity project. It was created by the brilliant Suleika Jaouad for the challenging occasion that is COVID-19. A different journaling prompt lands in my inbox every day for the month of April, each one from a different writer, artist, musician or thinker.
In Jaouad’s own words, “The goal of this is not to write the next King Lear or to churn out publishable masterpieces. It’s an opportunity to pause, take a few moments to exhale and reflect, and to expand our creativity as a community during this extremely challenging time.”
Entries are written first in my offline journal and then backposted to the blog as the date it was composed. Read all series posts from the beginning.
Today’s prompt is from academic, writer and lecturer Rachel Cargle.