Beyond the Shame Mountains
Sometimes, despite the pesky pride, you need to sit down and write a letter to your ten year old self. To be transparent, I’ve cringed away from this assignment in the past. When I was 22, a therapist asked me to give it a go. She suggested I look at some photos of myself at age 10. To aid the writing and remind me.
I found a few photos and then closed my notebook and capped my pen. I felt weird. Like I swallowed one too many watermelon seeds. The round-faced girl in the photo embarrassed me. Shame. I felt a slow-sword-stab to the stomach kind of sadness. I knew that girl in the photo was innocent. But at that time, I didn’t know how to love her. The shame double-downed. This split, this abandonment of self didn’t feel right. But I couldn’t see anything beyond the Shame Mountains.
Now I’m 30. I gave the writing prompt another go. The words leap-frogged out. I knew what to say. I felt a warm first-sip-of-hot-chocolate kind of love. Turns out there is a lush green forest just beyond the Shame Mountains. Under the canopy of tall trees I felt something quite revelatory: Hope.
Dear 10 year old Megan,
You are in fourth grade. You’re in Mr. Boone’s 4th/5th combo class to be exact. Get used to being the youngest in the group. It’s awesome. You will discover that your wisdom surpasses your age. You are quiet and an observer. Which will help you learn from those older than you. You will learn so much and our life is incredibly rich. Why? Because we have a super power: our self-awareness. At 30 years old I’m making progress at putting this self-awareness to task. But for you, and for now, just keep noticing.
Look, we are different. Not in a super obvious way. But we feel our feelings on a profound level. Which will be put to use when you start writing. You are special. It’s hard to accept or even want that at 10 years old. You want to fit in…well…let’s be honest, you want to be invisible. Your physical body is beginning to change. If I could help you or guide you through one thing it would be this: your body is not your enemy. Your weight does not define you. I know you feel so uncomfortable in it. I know. Hold on and with grace. Because a body fluctuates. And you are so, so much more than what the scale says. You are an artist, a writer, an empath, a good friend, a kind person, a good citizen of the world. I love you just the way you are right in this 10 year old moment. I hope you can feel it.
Take a moment to notice your streak of curiosity and bravery. Before starting 4th grade you never saw an iguana. But Mr. Boone asked if you wanted to hold the iguana and your curiosity beat out your fear. You are a bad-ass.
Someday soon, I truly believe, I will reunite with you. 10 year old Megan. This is the age of eating juicy watermelon in your bathing suit. Before the world seeps in. I’m working everyday to get back to you. So we can combine wisdom. Leave our freckled cheeks without makeup and jump in the pool. Lay out on the grass, laughing until our faces turn red. I will show you how capable we are to do adult things. You will show me how much love we had for the world since day one.
Next year you are going to have the urge to cut your own bangs a week before 5th grade graduation. I would say ‘DON’T!”…but this is one of many experiments and experiences that will build character. Plus, this will be the last year you obsessively use butterfly clips. So let that freak flag fly. Besides, this is our small penance to pay. We eventually stop trying to straighten, suck in, cover up. We stop trying to be something else. We see a bra for what it really is -> material for the bonfire. And girrrrrl – that’s the moment the magic begins.
It takes a minute to fully embrace the natural curls. But then one day you let out some wild. Fiery-free curls let loose. You upgrade from butterfly clips to real daisies just-plucked. For a while you will use make up and cardigans to cover up. This is because suddenly the world has something to say about your fair features and “fat arms”. Listen, you’re going to have a lot of word-wounds for a while. Follow your instinct and keep using your own words to build others up.
One day you will wear sundresses with no sleeves. Tennis shoes on your feet and no make up on your face. You will strip down at a nude beach and eat a sandwich before jumping into the waves. Yes, you grow up to be G D mermaid who eats carbs. Hallelujah!
So keep that chin up. You will one day turn 30 and feel passionate about the idea of creating space for other girls and women to be their own kind of beautiful.
P.S. When Brandon makes a stupid comment about your butt being too big for your shorts – punch him. Any boy who disrespects something as magnificent as a big butt in shorts deserves a firm and fast-fist awakening.
P.P.S. Don’t repeat any of the curse words in this letter. Grandma is not fronting. She will wash your mouth out with soup. And that shit is gross.