Friday, June 14, 2013

Looking Back

On our six-month anniversary, I gave my boyfriend a four-leaf clover that I had found and laminated when I was 13. I collected a lot of four-leaf clovers back in 8th grade - we used to have a ton of them in my backyard. I even found two five-leaf clovers. I gave some of them to family members at the time, and the rest I kept in an envelope along with some other things that were special to me. At some point before my sixth-month anniversary with Eric, I opened this envelope to show him the four-leaf clovers, along with the other items. One of these other items was my collection of  "confidence cards," note cards with drawings that represented things I had done that took confidence or that someone told me I couldn't do. Eric asked me to go through the cards and explain what each one meant, so I did. It meant a lot to me that Eric asked, that he wanted to know about this part of my life. I knew at that moment that he was getting a four-leaf clover.

After I decided to give Eric a four-leaf clover, I began to wonder why I hadn't given out more of them. I gave them to my family back when I found them, but once that stage of life was over, once I stopped searching my backyard, it didn't feel right to give them out anymore. I think the reason was that my four-leaf clover collection is very connected to a particular time in my life. After my grandpa died in 7th grade, all the relational bullying and not fitting in at school started to hurt worse than it had before. I made a beaded necklace that I wore under my shirt where no one could see it and pretended that it had magical powers that would ward off evil. When I learned what a placebo was, I cut sugar cubes into small pieces, about the size of a pill, and would take one and pretend that it would cure anything that was wrong. I wore a rubber band around my wrist because a teacher I liked wore a rubber band around her wrist, so it made me feel connected to her. I made my confidence cards. And I collected four-leaf clovers. The first time I found a four-leaf clover was about 4 months after my grandpa died, and I found it on the first try. The first time that I ever looked for a four-leaf clover in my whole life, it was right there. And I felt like that meant something.

I didn't think I would feel so nervous showing someone my middle-school envelope because it was all stuff from my past. All the things I drew on my confidence cards were things that would be no big deal for me to do now. But I realize that that's exactly why I was nervous. Some adults like to say that things won't matter ten years later, that you'll forget everything, that you'll look back and laugh at what you used to do. Some people want to bond over how "silly" we used to be. I'm not like that. I'm not a new person just because I'm older - I am the same person I was the day I was born. And if someone makes fun of something I did in middle school, they're not insulting some no-longer-existent 13-year-old; they're insulting me. Sure, those events from the confidence cards may be no big deal to me now, but I understand how big of a deal they were back then. By calling them "stupid" or "silly," I would not only be putting myself down, but I would be making it more acceptable to call other people's behavior silly simply because they're younger than me.  The fact that something is not happening now doesn't change the fact that it was happening before. The fact that some things are no big deal now doesn't change the fact that they mattered a lot at the time. I don't forget what it's like to be 14 when I turn 15. I'm not going to be one of those adults who doesn't get it or who looks back and thinks that nothing was what I made it out to be at the time. I am lucky to have all these records so that I can remember my middle-school mindset so well. It's easy to invalidate younger people if you invalidate your own feelings from that time, or say that everything was fine because you turned out okay. By respecting your former self, you'll also respect and value the experiences of people younger than you.

Some people tell me that one day I'll look back at college and laugh about everything, and it bothers them that I've said that I don't do that. I expect I'll have the same feelings when I look back on my college records as I did when I reopened that envelope from middle school. I value my former feelings. And that's a good thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment