It was more than weird to be able to return to “who I was” 34 years ago. In fact, it was a bit daunting. Who wants to see themselves as the “vulnerable” one, the one who has still so many lessons to learn, the one who is naive to the world? When I think of myself at 19 – I see a young girl with a very small vision of the world. I think I was too self-absorbed to even consider looking beyond my immediate needs. Was I “flaky”? Yeah – maybe. Was I a “free- spirit”? Maybe. Definitely – I was naive.
I do not want to go back there – 34 years ago. I was afraid of things I had not encountered. Moreover, I was afraid to process things that had happened to me. That was even more scary. I shut out the world. I buried my ghosts. I closed the doors to my emotions. I simply – carried on. I lacked confidence, self-esteem, self-respect. Life had hit me hard. I don’t think I showed it. It’s hard to remember.
“You seem to have become more comfortable with yourself, Stacey”, my friend Kim said to me. It had been 34 years since we had seen each other. We had been neighbours in residence first year university. How did she know I was not comfortable with myself? How had I acted to lead her to think that way? Oh…. I did not like this looking back. Oh – I did not like that she knew me as a 19 year old and not my 53 year old self. I did not like that the “me” of 34 years ago would still have a face and a place in her mind. Within less than 24 hours, though, that 19 year old aged into the person I am today. Thank God.
I like who I am today. I have fought to be “me”. I have faced my ghosts. I have faced tragedy and trauma. I have multiple battle wounds to show for it. I am proud of those wounds and I know they have healed because I dealt with them. Gone is the child. Gone is the naive girl. Gone is the flaky teen with the inward view.
I am woman hear me roar. Oh, if Helen Reddy could hear me now. “I know too much to go back and pretend….” Wow. What a powerful song. I have heard it so many times. I have made fun of it so many times. And now – it just seems to resonate. Funny how one must be “ready” , or in this case “Reddy” to hear something before one can register the message.
I’ve done too much.
I’ve fought too hard.
I’ve faced fears. I’ve stood up to bullies. I’ve felt fear and acted anyway.
I still don’t do roller-coasters.
I am not the same woman as I was at 19. I am not “light”. I am seasoned. I am a tough old bird with wrinkles and bags and sags. I have earned every one of them. I do NOT want to go back. And – although it still remains a scary beast – I would not trade cancer for youth. Cancer has forced me to face death, or at least the threat of death. There are lessons in that. Life has taught me to reflect, to process, and to act. And then – move on.
What would Colleen have read into “my story” had I been the woman walking by the window in which she sat? Would my story have been apparent? Is anyone’s story apparent? Oh, what we miss when fail to ask. Oh, what we miss when we fail to see.
I was once a picture book. I had no words.
I grew into a chapter book. I had “events”. I had some mystery.
I am now a novel. I have an introduction, a story-line, and am now putting the pieces together. It is not yet time to conclude. There are still many pieces to resolve. There are still too many injustices to address before I finalize my ending. But I like where I’ve been – and I like how my plot has unfolded. And like the old weather -forecasting expression goes, “I may have come in like a lamb – but I will go out like a lion”.
“I am woman. Hear me roar. Yes I’m wise – but it’s wisdom born of pain. Yes I’ve paid the price, but look how much I’ve gained. ”
Thanks, Colleen for today’s inspiration. Thanks Helen Reddy, for today’s words of wisdom.