A Letter to my 13 year old Self
If there was one thing I could tell you when you were 13 years old it would be this – drug taking is not rebellious; it is not just ‘experimentation’; it’s not really even defiance – it’s just compliant. It is one of many things in this world that is engineered to keep you from your power and your beauty. You are not the first person to think that smoking a cigarette is cool and you won’t be the last. You are not a rebel. You are walking a well-trodden path paved by all the other bright kids and teens who thought they were breaking the rules, only to play right into them. But I know there is more to it than that. I know that your bravado is just that and I know that you miss yourself. You miss the easy way you were with yourself when you were a kid, before the onset of all this intensity. And for the time being and for many years to come, the thick smoke in your lungs will make you feel for a moment that you are full. At the top of the drag there will be a split second, a fleeting moment where you feel there is an end to the empty feelings; the vague but persistent anxiousness; and you will feel at peace. Of course, and you already know this, it is then that you have to breathe the smoke out again, and your predicament will be the same as it was before.
But rewind a few months. Your body was always telling you this would not work – when you fought your burning throat and constricted lungs to teach yourself how to ‘properly inhale’. And months later when you taught yourself to pull a bong, trained yourself in the resilience to not crumple into yourself in a corner, red-eyed and paranoid (and often failed), your body was speaking to you loudly and you silenced it with more of the same. And you could pretend that you were a rebel but in fact it was the opposite. It wasn’t rebellion so much as a wanting to fit in. But fit in to what? Whose mould didn’t you fit? And what did you have to forego in order for you to cut yourself down to comply? What courage did you let slip and what love would you have walked with, had you not become a paper-cut out of all the other lost girls?
Consider that perhaps ‘rebellious’ is the girl in year 9 who you called ‘straight and boring’, who said no to drugs and sex-without-love without questioning that it was her right to be honoured and truly cared for; who refused to cave to the pressure of popularity and notoriety. Perhaps rebellion would have been to speak what you truly felt and allow those to fall away who inevitably would. Remember when at 16 years old you decided to quit pot, and all your smoking buddies stopped knowing how to be around you? Well, that was an act of rebellion. In a world that glorifies self-harm as a badge of defiance, loving and honouring yourself is rebellion. And the world eagerly awaits more true rebels to step up.
What would I say to my 20 year old self?
Beware of apparent ‘opposites’ and knee-jerk redirection. Rebellion is not burying your self in books and striving to write the best essay and get the best mark – that’s just another form of compliance. In fact, you may just find you do more damage to your lungs with the dusty book than with the cigarette. You may find yourself more strung out and anti-social from overdoing it with study than you did when you were sitting stoned in a corner. Don’t let yourself be duped again.
No employer is ever going to ask you what grade you got on your 2nd year Media Studies mid-year assessment. Learn what you need to know but don’t abandon yourself in the process. Never forget that the greatest teacher in the world will not be found in any lecture hall or University. The greatest teacher in the world is your own body. Listen intently to it. If you actually listen to the rhythms it is asking you to honour, you will most certainly find freedom. Cut the excuses and the overriding. Your body is always asking to be loved. When it is tired and wants to go to bed, when it tells you that alcohol leaves it sick, when it tells you that to pull the all-nighter hurts and that the fleeting elation of a good mark is just that, it is sending you a message. STOP. Say no to false highs – from the highs of driven academic achievement to the highs of ‘recreational’ drugs. Know that there is no difference. But know there is a different way; know that there IS a way to be with yourself beyond the constant ‘pursuit of happiness’ and / or relief. There is a way to honour yourself and be the full you in all that you do without compromise. There is a way to know love without substituting it for good grades, because the love is already there – in you. Not in any accolade, or in any box you ticked, or in any thing that you did or will do. It’s right there already in you.