Oh, the lessons I have learned over the years.
We know all the sayings about lessons learned. Such as “hind site is 20/20” or “if only I knew that ahead of time” or “this is what I would have done differently had I known”. I am sure you have numerous other’s that you can add to these examples.
This post is a letter I am writing to my younger self. You can see the featured image for this post is a young lady on her graduation day. With the look of excitement and anticipation behind her eyes. She is eighteen years old, with the her whole life ahead of her. New adventures to be had. Unknown joy and unforeseen heartache hidden behind a line not yet crossed.
To: My Younger Self
Vicky, I am here to tell you that life is really fucking hard. You started university with all the best and grandest intentions to make not only your life better, but also the lives of others. You wanted so much to be worth something. You wanted to be somebody. This is a dream of many and you were by no means much different from other’s in that regard.
You will struggle with your identity. In university you hope that you do not stand out as a native person. You do not want people to know that you are receiving funding to attend university strictly for the fact that you are First Nations. The most important thing for you at this time is to look and act like you belong, regardless of the color of your skin. There is success with you blending in with the majority. Or at least this is what you have led yourself to believe. Another one of your dreams is to see your Gramps meet and hold his great-grandchild. He is your world. He is your anchor. He is your lighthouse. This is the man who you compare all other men to. You get this wish. Your Gramps meets his great-granddaughter! Seeing his immediate connection with your daughter as he holds her for the first time will be one of the best moments of your life. It cannot get better than that. The retched truth is you lose your Gramps suddenly a year after your daughter is born. And you won’t even be with him when he takes his last breath. All you can hope for is that he was comfortable and at peace. And you hope like hell that he knew deep within himself that you loved him more than anyone else in this world.
Your life changes at this point. Your heart breaks and the jagged edges of what remain will continue to tear you from the inside out for many years. The next 6 months of your life are spent in your home. You do not see anyone except your daughter and husband. Nothing that anyone will say can make any bit of difference for you.
I need to wrap up the history. I will cut the story here. Sufice to say your life starts to take a very different course. You take a path that is nothing like what you imagined your journey would look like.
Let me first touch on your preoccupation with avoiding who you are. You are a First Nations woman. This is something to be proud of girl. Your ancestral history is beautiful. Like everything in this life there are tainted bits. Things that have stained the purity of what once was. Vicky, this is one of the lessons I have learned. Stains are inevitable. What matters is how you choose to deal with them. Learn to look at the broader picture. Your skin color, your ethnicity is not yours. It belongs to every ancestor that has gone before you. You are one part of a whole. Embrace the unity of what it means to belong to a tribe! You will get there one day. There will come a point when you reach the sad realization that you are overwhelmed at the thought of learning about who you are as a First Nations person. It is a tragedy that anyone should feel this way. To look at your heritage and not know where to begin. Having to ask yourself am I able to learn all of this? We should never know this fear and confusion. We should know who we are, we should just know our customs and traditions because they are engrained in our entire being. That is how it should be for all nations of world.
In terms of the darkness you feel engulfed in, you are strong enough to come through to the other side. It is going to take many years, but the light does get brighter. Your anger and hate and fear do become dimmer. You will acknowledge that you are your own worst enemy. The wounds that ripped you open from your past will begin to heal.
You will come to see what authentic contentment looks like and you will know that it is not a fake construct of your mind to numb and bury the darkness.
I am thirty-eight years old now. As I look into the eyes of the younger me, I get it. I can allow myself to forgive that young girl.